By Anna-Leigh Firth

Many judges wish they knew more about mental health.

That was one of takeaways from our monthly one-question survey, which earlier this month asked NJC alumni to choose among 13 potential new courses. The one that received the most votes, 328, was When Mental Health Is an Issue in a Case.

“There is no judge for whom mental health problems have not been an issue,” commented one judge, anonymously, as was most often the case among those who added comments with their votes. “It only takes one case of this type to realize you’re not as well-equipped to handle it as you’d like.”

The second most popular choice was Judicial Discipline: How a Lapse in Judgement Could Cost You (278 votes) followed closely by Effective Sentencing: The Latest Research (271).

Respondents could vote for as many of the proposed courses as they liked (a total of 6,396 votes were cast by 533 judges). They could also vote “other” and suggest courses, as 49 judges did (see below).

Here are the vote totals for the other courses listed in the survey:

  • Is There a Role for Compassion in Judging? (242)
  • Modern Approaches to Presiding over Civil Matters (230)
  • Judging Plea Bargains (222)
  • Retirement for Judges (192)
  • Peacemaking, Family Mediation and Other Alternatives for Resolving Disputes (149)
  • Know Your Power: State Constitution Interpretation (144)
  • Record-Sealing Decisions and Considering the Public Interest (143)
  • Land Issues and the Dormant Commerce Clause (33)
  • Oil and Gas Law: An Introduction (25)

It’s important to note that the results were likely affected by the types of judges who chose to participate in the survey. For example, Judging Plea Bargains probably did not interest judges who do not deal with plea bargains.

Below are the suggestions we received for other potential new courses. Hyperlinks connect to existing courses that cover some or all of the suggested subject matter.

Kentucky Circuit Court Judge Joe Castlen Davies recommended a seminar on creating new processes to increase efficiency and public accessibility within the civil judicial system.

North Carolina District Court Judge T. M. Anderson said any mental health course should include sections on understanding mental illness and practical ways to interact with mentally ill people in the workplace; how to train court staff and justice partners to collaborate; and how to maintain the idealism of the judicial profession after years of being submerged in the day-to-day reality of negative conflict.

In case you missed the survey, feel free to comment on these potential courses or submit any additional suggestions by emailing njc-communications@judges.org.

*Each month the College emails an informal, non-scientific one-question survey to its more than 12,000 judicial alumni in the United States and abroad. The results, summarized in the NJC’s Judicial Edge Today, are not intended to be characterized as conclusive research findings.