Isolation in the Judicial Career

Isaiah M. Zimmerman, Isolation in the Judicial Career, 36 CT. REV. 4 (2000)
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Dr. Zimmerman writes that in his twenty years of working as a consultant or psychotherapist with state and federal judges, approximately 70% of judges that he has interviewed spontaneously have expressed that they feel isolation. The demanding workload contributes significantly to this isolation, as the average judge works evenings and weekends. They have limited time for family, friends, community service, and engaging in other interests. In addition, the Code of Judicial Conduct requirement to maintain an appearance of fairness contributes to the isolation. Judges explain they keep their distance at social and professional gatherings and are careful about their comments. The role of judge itself contributes to the isolation, as well. Once one becomes a judge, “former lawyer colleagues immediately begin to show deference,” and this barrier between judges and lawyers is reinforced by the formalities of the courtroom and wearing of robes. Over time, judges can experience greater difficulty shedding their “robes” even in close personal settings. Another result is a reduction in “honest and robust dialogue” that furthers the isolation. These systemic factors that contribute to isolation are exacerbated by the fact that a majority of judges tend toward introversion, thus making it even a greater challenge to avoid isolation. All of this combines to create greater interpersonal isolation, resulting in a “withdrawal from intellectual and community involvement.”

Although “isolation is an inherent part of the role judges must play in society,” judges can take measures to mitigate the isolation by doing the following:

  • “Aggressively holding on to old and childhood friends. We all need witnesses to our stages of life.”
  • Maintaining a supportive group of family and friends with whom they you can share an open and “honest mutual appraisal and dialogue.”
  • Engaging in activities that are unrelated to the “legal and judicial world” and form friendships with people not related to these fields.
  • Learning and practicing stress management.
  • “Periodically serving as a mentor to a new judge.”