American Judges Association


Date of this Version

April 2001


Published in Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 38:1 (2001), pp. 10-16. Copyright © 2001 National Center for State Courts. Used by permission. Online at


American culture certainly has a word for sadness. In fact, we have several words, depression, dejection, sorrow, melancholy, despondency, and even a few colloquial phrases: “the blues,” “down in the dumps.” Sadness is probably one of the mildest emotions that judges see in their courtroom. On any given day they might also see anger, frustration, fear, impatience, apathy, boredom, awe, respect, intimidation, perhaps even some of the more welcome emotions, such as happiness, relief, or even joy, and that is just when the judge is on the bench. The list could go on and on. Other aspects of judicial work open up areas where emotions play a part as well. In fact, any activity that draws on a personal perspective or requires one to relate to others will draw on emotional experience.
Judges’ awareness of these emotions, both their own and other people’s, can influence how well they manage themselves, the people before them, and the judicial process. It may even contribute to what sets a judge apart in the eyes of his or her constituency as a well-qualified judge, what builds public trust and confidence and respect for him or her as a leader in the community. This awareness and regulation of emotion is foundational to a set of leadership qualities most recently defined as emotional intelligence.

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