Like it or not, life is a whirlwind of change. Our society moves at a pace that far exceeds any other time in history and change is a reality we face each day. Change can be a very positive thing when it is implemented effectively, efficiently, and with encouragement. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen as often as it could or should. But regardless of how change is implemented; regardless of how we feel about it – change is here to stay.
For my first written communication with the members of NASJE, I wanted to address a reality I think many of us know deep within, but rarely stop and give it the consideration it deserves. I want to talk about being a judicial educator. More to the point, I want to share my thoughts on what a special profession we are a part of. In Austin I talked with the Fundamentals class about these topics. I wanted to extend my observations to a broader audience.
Independence Corrupted goes behind the trial bench and even into appellate chambers to dissect judicial decision-making in actual cases I judged – for ten years, alone, as a trial judge; for twelve years, with colleagues, as an appellate judge. The cases are page-turners, fascinating courtroom conflicts involving abortion protesters, abused children, murderers, sex predators, civil rights, health insurance, the insanity defense, multi-million dollar punitive damages, and more.
I’m not sure why I’m drawn so often to implicit bias sessions, but I seem to gravitate to them often at conferences. I found the recent NASJE Annual Conference session on the topic, taught by NASJE members Dana Bartocci of Minnesota, Cyrana Mott of Illinois, Jennifer Juhler of Iowa, and Joseph Sawyer of the National Judicial College, to be very impactful. What follows is my personal reaction to the session. I won’t try to recreate the entire session or to re-teach it but just highlight the parts that touched me and continue to stay with me.
At the recent 2018 NASJE Annual Conference in Austin, Judge Edward Spillane delivered a session on the humanity of litigants. Judge Spillane is the Presiding Judge for the College Station Municipal Court in Texas. He started his session by explaining that change in a court’s treatment of litigant too often occurs as a result of an unexpected, often catastrophic, series of events such as those in Ferguson, Missouri.