Duke Law School wants to get judges back in the classroom.

The school announced this week that it will launch a master of laws program in judicial studies geared specifically to judges. Duke is also launching a new Center for Judicial Studies, which will support research on the judiciary.

A handful of other law schools have launched educational programs for judges, but Duke law professor Jack Knight, who will direct the center, said the new LL.M. is unique.

“To my knowledge, there is nothing quite like what we’re doing out there,” Knight said.

The LL.M. program will open during the summer of 2012 to 10 to 15 sitting judges. They will take intensive four- to six-week sessions over the course of two summers. The curriculum will include classes and seminars in which both judges and scholars look at the history of the judiciary and judicial decision-making. Participants will examine topics including judicial independence, bias, the selection process and use of specialized courts.

“We want to give judges an opportunity to come together with judges from other jurisdictions and countries to discuss common issues,” Knight said. “We’ll look at how different jurisdictions handle the same problems.”

The program will introduce judges to social science research on the judiciary. Some judges have been dismissive of such research, and bringing judges together with scholars may help to break down tensions between them and researchers, Knight said.

“As a former judge who is now part of a great academic law school, I see tremendous benefits in bringing together thoughtful judges and scholars to study judicial institutions in the light of academic research considered through the lens of day-to-day experience,” said Duke law Dean David Levi, a former chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The program was designed to be flexible, given that judges tend to be busy individuals, Knight said. Tuition is $16,992, although the school will provide scholarships and housing subsidies.

The Center for Judicial Studies will sponsor conferences, publications and education programs focused on the judiciary. It will promote research into the judiciary and look for ways to improve the functioning of the courts.

“It’s a bit of an experiment, but I think we have some good ideas about how to marry scholarly research and the judiciary,” Knight said.

Karen Sloan can be contacted at ksloan@alm.com.