Are you Fit for the Bench?

By Hon. Suzette Carlisle

Reports of violence against judges have surfaced in a number of states, including Nevada, Georgia, Washington, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Connecticut, Missouri and Illinois.  In 2006, a threat was made in an internet chat room against Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg claiming they would “not live another week” if they continued to threaten constitutional freedoms.

Violence against judges is not limited to the courthouse.  A federal judge’s family was gunned down at home by a man who had appeared before the judge at one time.  A Pennsylvania study of 1,112 judges found 52 percent of those interviewed had experienced one or more threatening communications.

Also, judges experience the cumulative effect of stressful cases.  Judges make decisions that dramatically affect people’s lives every day.  Some judges work with heavy caseloads for long periods, staff shortages, long hours, traumatic cases, and in some cases limited support for administrative and security matters.  During elections and legislative sessions, stress may increase for both elected and appointed judges.

On January 12, 2016, the NJC addressed these issues through a powerful webinar entitled “Fit for the Bench.” For sixty minutes, three experts shared life-changing ways in which judges can improve their lifestyle through stress management, healthier eating habits, and increased physical activity.

Dr. Steven Haymon defined stress as: “a state of mental and emotional tension, forces or pressures that affect people’s lives.  It can come from resistance, obstacles to goals, and challenges to life’s situations.”  Stress can be bad or good.  To relieve stress, Dr. Haymon suggested many options, including:

  1. Cardio exercise;
  2. Strength training;
  3. Long and short term vacations, completely unplugged from phones, email, and computer;
  4. Set healthy boundaries; and
  5. Reduce caffeine.

Mrs. Suzanne Klaus recommended five steps to healthy nutrition:

  1. Make at least half your plate veggies;
  2. Make a quarter of your plate protein;
  3. Have a healthy fat with every meals;
  4. Listen to your hunger signals before, during and after you eat; and
  5. Drink half your weight in ounces of water each day.

Mr. Kevin O’Leary designed a workout program exclusively for judges involved with the NJC.  Mr. O’Leary recommends five exercise tips for overall improvement:

  1. Stretch!  Yoga is great!
  2. Utilize deep tissue massage with a foam roller and tennis ball.
  3. Get proper amounts of sleep.
  4. Utilize bodyweight exercises in combination with external weights.
  5. Learn how to breathe in coordination with your exercise movements.

For beginner-intermediate level exercises that require little equipment, go to, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click the link ‘Fit for the Bench.’

Most of these recommendations are not new but they are important to judicial well-being and well worth being reminded of.  Many participants found the webinar to be helpful and we hope you will find these tips helpful too.   For more information, go to


Ed Vogel & Sean Whaley, Manhunt for Reno Pawnshop Owner Continues, LAS Vegas REVIEW-JOURNAL, June 14, 2006 at A!., Shalia Dewan, Suspect Kills 3, including Judge, at Atlanta Courthouse, N.Y. Times, Mar 12, 2005 at A1.

Abdon M. Pallasch & Natasha Korecki, “I’ll do my own justice,” Ross Told One Judge, Chicago Sun-Times, Mar. 11, 2005, at 18.

See Donald J. Harris Vilence in the Judicial Workplace; One State’s Experience, ANNAL AM. ACAD. OF POL., AND SOC.SCI. 38(July 2001) [hereinafter Harris, Violence in the Judicial Workplace].

Dr. Steven Haymon holds a B.A. in Education, M.S.W in Social Work, and an Ed.D. in Educational Psychology. He has written five books on stress management.

Mrs. Suzanne Klaus is a registered dietician, personal trainer, owner of Forward Fitness, a fitness studio located in St. Louis, MO.  She holds a Level 2 Certificate of Training in Weight Management.

Mr. Kevin O’Leary, is a certified personal trainer, and owner of I AM Training a fitness located in St. Charles, MO.

NJC News