American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 54, Issue 2 (2018)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


The week had been one of those that make you question your choices in life. Monday, as always, started with my criminal docket. It was probably my attitude, but working through the 80 cases, one after another, had an impersonal, assembly-line feel to it. The day had started poorly with the People seeking to dismiss one case due to the defendant’s death—one of our more promising probationers. She had one of those rare personalities that shined through her orange scrubs and silvery shackles at the podium. Though she recited the clichés of change learned in countless hours of mandated therapy, she gave you the impression she could make it. Unfortunately, this time her demon was heroin and the dose was too high. The start to this day drew me back to an all-too-familiar ground, wondering why I do this, what the point is...

went through the rest of docket mechanically, guarding my reserves as much as possible. But then came one of my self-representeds late in the day. Usually intelligent, insightful, and engaging (if also aggravating), he had gotten it into his head on this day that he needed to speak his own version of legal latin while in the courtroom. I could not coast through that one and mustered what procedural fairness skills I could, struggling to decipher what he was trying to communicate and make him feel heard. After my third, “I’m sorry Mr. Jenson, I’m just not following you,” he growled in exasperation “officio juris ignorante.” Despite my mood, this had me fighting to control a smile. I acknowledged that I had understood him this time and that he may well be right.