American Judges Association



Kevin S. Burke

Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 47, Issue 3, page 51


Copyright © 2011 American Judges Association. Used by permission.


If every court achieved 99.9 percent quality for litigants, should we be satisfied? In other endeavors, if 99.9 percent was the standard of excellence, the IRS would lose two million documents this year, 3,056 copies of tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal would be missing one of three sections, and 12 babies would be given to the wrong parents each day. For those industries, 99.9 percent is not good enough and it cannot be acceptable for courts either. Judicial excellence is a mindset. It must be an obsession or, as Aristotle said, “Quality is not an act. It is a habit.”

Today being a judge is a 24/7 job. Judges are viewed as leaders in our community. We are, in a sense, role models in an era where it is very difficult to be a role model. The political rhetoric of our time has become so heated and polarized that trust and confidence in courts is jeopardized. The high-spending judicial races of some states are problematic but, lest anyone become complacent, even in Canada there are instances of political figures rather unfairly criticizing courts.