More people are involved in a divorce than just the couple. Lawyers and
the judge are involved, too. I've written about some of the biases
and barriers that parties bring to the litigation and about the pitfalls
and problems which lawyers bring. But tonight I write about judges'
judicial bias; the judge's point of view.
Judges are people too, they aren't a computer program or a math formula
(as much as I sometimes wish they were). They bring their own upbringing
and experience into judging, as do we all. It is difficult for any one
of us to set aside years of programming and tainted perception to make
less-fettered judgments. So is it also for our judges.
If a judge had a bad daddy experience, odds are greatly increased that
the judge will have a harsh view of dads and rule less than unbiasedly
against them. If a judge had a bad mommy experience, then mom's are
less likely to receive a fair shake in that court room.
But less obvious are the plentifiul, more nuanced experiences that taint
outcomes no less. A judge with a successful father and a less than accomplished
mother may also have a dampened view of women generally. A judge whose
father was a fine human being, but was absent most of the time so that
he could generate income may find it harder to perceive fathers in a care-taking
role. The opportunities for error are as endless as life's experience
and teaching itself.
Such is the challenge of being a judge. And here's the rub. It is hard
to envision anyone who is steeped in humility volunteering for the thankless
task of rendering judgments. Rather, a very strong ego is almost certainly
a requisite for having an interest in that job. And a very strong ego
is a significant impediment to self-critique, analysis, vigorous introspection.
In other words, it would be inherently difficult for judges to genuinely
question their own biases. When questioned, their most likely answer would
be, "who, me? Never."
If I had my druthers, judicial conferences would include classes on self
discovery, analysis, questioning a-priori concepts. I would also like
all judges to induldge in the luxury of some form of analysis. They need
their biases vigorously challeged, outside of the court room where they
aren't in charge. They need to exorcise their biases like professional
athletes exercise their bodies.
I suspect that much of the bad press given judges stems from their biases,
their inability to see facts for the blinders they wear everyday. That's
when bad judgments are made. That's when facts don't matter. That's
when good people get hurt.
Judges aren't bad people for making bad decisions, a certain percentage
of that comes with the territory. But judges flirt with
being bad people when they don't acknowledge that, as humans, they come with biases,
when they don't embrace that those biases are unwise and unwelcome
in a court of law where facts should reign, and when they don't actively
engage in learning to uncover, expose and minimize those biases.
In short, judges should value and seek enlightenment.
May it be so.