Our April Question of the Month asked judges what signs, quotes, totems, lucky charms, etc., they keep on their bench for inspiration or as a reminder to themselves.
Among the more than 250 judges who responded, the reminder mentioned most often was to be patient. Another popular directive was some form of “Keep your mouth shut” or, “Don’t say it!”
Family photos or other reminders of loved ones were among the most common objects.
Judge Alicia Yoko Blanco of the Los Angeles Superior Court said she keeps a sticky note from her daughter wishing her good luck in her new role as a judge.
“It reminds me to stay true to why I do this work, and to always act in a manner that will make my girls proud of me,” she said.
J. Randolph Ward, an administrative law judge in North Carolina, said he wears the same robe his father wore on the bench for 30 years.
“It reminds me, as he believed, that the dictates of the law are more important than the personal preferences of any individual, and that all judges should adhere to the law to the best of their ability.”
The late Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues to be a presence. Two judges said they have RBG figurines on their benches. One has a Ginsburg quote: “Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
No doubt many judges are familiar with the quote from Socrates that two judges said they keep on their benches. The philosopher said, “Four things belong to a judge: To hear courteously; to answer wisely; to consider soberly; and to decide impartially.”
Many judges said they keep religious and spiritual references at hand, including the Bible. The Bill of Rights can be found on some benches. Far more mundane material is also commonplace, such as a list of fines that can be added to jail sentences.
Some judges said that because judges rotate among the different courtrooms in their courthouse, they don’t keep anything personal on the bench.
One judge voiced a belief that it’s unprofessional to keep any kind of trinket on a judicial bench.
* 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 monthly Judicial Edge are not intended to be characterized as conclusive research findings.