American Judges Association Adopts White Paper on Implications of Science for Judging

This White Paper, MINDING THE COURT, should be read by all judges and those who appear in front of, or talk to (professionally or personally), judges. It focuses on the lessons of recent neuroscience and their implications for fair and effective judging.

The core take-away is in the recommendations:

Several techniques can help judges to be more mindful and aware of the decision- making process so that they make better decisions. First, focus on the higher purpose of the proceeding—hearing and properly deciding a case with a real impact on someone, not just processing a court docket. Second, formalize and critique heuristics used to make repetitive but important decisions. For example, a judge might consider what factors are leading to bail decisions or probation conditions: Are they based on accurate information? Third, be mindful and periodically “read the dials.” Are you tired? Is noise in the hallway a distraction? Is a break in order? Taking a break or engaging in even brief meditation can restore awareness and reduce stress. Fourth, decision aids, like checklists, can help. Doctors and pilots have shown that even well-trained professionals can improve performance by following checklists. Fifth, seek feedback and foster accountability. Judges often operate in isolation and without feedback. Competitive athletes improve performance through constant coaching and feedback, and judges can improve performance by getting objective feedback too.

These recommendations are based on analysis of heuristics (falling into unconscious patterns), implicit biases, mindfulness, fatigue/depleted resources.

The paper is by Dr. Pam Casey, and Judges Steven Leben and Kevin Burke.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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