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When lawyers or judges need help
You are the managing partner of a major law firm in a large metropolitan area. One day, a junior associate informs you that a senior associate has a serious cocaine and alcohol problem. The information is credible, detailed, and alarming; it also points to the potential for trust fund violations or other misconduct associated with substance use. What do you, the managing partner, need to do?
A profound change occurs as a lawyer becomes a judge. He or she gradually loses the empathy and collegiality of most lawyers. While the judicial career is deeply satisfying and rewarding, it also includes the accumulation of feelings of guardedness, isolation, and vulnerability, all of which are kept hidden behind the public persona. Therefore, when placed in a mixed treatment or recovery group, judges, for both objective and subjective reasons, feel too vulnerable to participate. If questioned, they are not likely to offer reasons beyond the obvious: their political vulnerability and right to privacy. Rarely will a judge even agree to be interviewed for such a treatment referral. The reaction brings on the fear of loss of privacy and the specter of shame, of being found unworthy of the title and office, and of public humiliation. As a result, most judges in medical, emotional, family, or career difficulties soldier on without help, turn to other judges for advice, or seek help totally outside the system.
A. Morrison, Shame and the Psychology of the Self, in P. Stepansky and A Goldberg, (eds.) Kohut's Legacy: Contributions to self pshychology (Hillsdale, N.J: The Analytic Press, 1992)
When media attention focuses on a judge in such circumstances, harsh reactions issue from legislators and op-ed writers, with negative reflections on the entire court and judiciary. Clearly this problem area has wide repercussions of public shaming.
I.M Zimmerman, Isolation in the judicial career, 36 CT. REV. 4 (2000).
Judges are subject to a wide range of physical and emotional problems and stresses but often don’t get the help they need. A “wellness initiative” in the courts could help overcome the unique barriers they face in obtaining assistance.
I.M. Zimmerman, Dealing with professional stress, 31 B. B.J. 39 (1987)
I.M Zimmerman, Helping Judges in Distress, JUDICATURE Volume 90, Number 1 July-August 2006
Another area in which judges occasionally seek help is organizational and collegial conflict. This is an intensely private area of concern. The issues range from pure personality clashes with a colleague or appellate panel, to power struggles with the administrative office or the presiding judge. Gossip may appear in local bar publications, and can be quite nasty. To obtain assistance and calm guidance in these circumstances is invaluable, and discretion is absolutely essential
I.M Zimmerman, Isolation in the judicial career, 36 CT. REV. 4 (2000)
Marital and family issues
When a judge experiences marital and family conflicts, the size of his or her community matters. In smaller and rural communities, judges have little or no privacy outside of their homes. A judge in a one-judge court is especially vulnerable. In larger or metropolitan jurisdictions, the media are interested in publicizing what may be occurring in the life of the judge and the court. In a divorce proceeding, judges, in my experience, tend to appease the spouse in contested custody and financial matters to minimize public scrutiny. These are severe stresses on the equanimity and working ability of the judge and his or her staff. The hidden posttraumatic consequences may continue for a considerable period. The children of judges face challenges at school and on the playground that are remarkably similar to those of the offspring of the clergy. Often these children are held to a higher standard by teachers and coaches. Peer pressure may involve them in delinquent behavior. In the rebellious teenage years, a judge’s child may engage in problem behavior to embarrass the parents.
Sleeping judges 'need help not sacking'
Judges, politicians and senior managers who doze off on the job should be treated with sympathy, not condemnation, says a leading sleep expert.
An international review has analysed cases in which judges were criticised for so-called "judicial sleepiness", usually caused by the obstructive breathing condition, sleep apnoea.
Author Professor Ron Grunstein, head of sleep and circadian research at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, particularly condemned an Australian case in which a New South Wales District Court judge was forced to retire after media reports of his sleeping habits.
Judge Ian Dodd was stood down on medical grounds in 2005 despite the fact the sleepiness condition could be reversed with appropriate treatment.
"If treated sleep apnoea patients are not fit to be judges then does that extend to politicians and senior company executives?" Prof Grunstein wrote in the latest issue of the US journal Sleep.
"Because if that's the case there will be a lot of people out of a job."
Prof Grunstein argues that occupational sleepiness in white-collar workplaces such as courtrooms and hospitals is a serious issue and not uncommon.
The specialist examined 15 cases of judicial sleepiness, including the Dodd case and others involving The Hague War Crimes Tribunal and US Supreme Court.
He condemned Judge Dodd's dismissal and said the cancellation of his licence set a "dangerous precedent" for the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority in managing people with sleep disorders.
Prof Grunstein said active monitoring of sleepiness and screening for sleep disorders should be encouraged so the condition can be treated, allowing people to work safely and effectively.
"Clearly judicial sleepiness threatens the integrity of the judicial system and there would seem to be a need to develop preventative or monitoring strategies in judicial systems to prevent it occurring," he said.
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