National Survey of Judges released at the 2019 ABA CoLAP National Conference for Lawyer Assistance Programs

Since the release of “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change,” LAPs, ABA entities and other interested individuals and organizations have worked at warp speed. One recommendation, a national survey of judges, has been in the works for over a year.  While we all know judges experience stress, limited data was available that identified the most significant sources of stress and their impact. “CoLAP’s National Judicial Stress and Resilience Survey: The Results Are In,” a plenary session at the annual ABA CoLAP Conference in Austin, released data for the first time that begins to tell this story.

Judges were introduced to the survey with this purpose: “This survey is designed to describe the experiences of US judges related to judicial stress and resiliency. It will identify general and unique sources of stress by judicial setting and the impact of stress on aspects of well-being. The survey will also identify how coping mechanisms, including resiliency practices, are employed to deal with stress. The results will help clarify areas for support and services, implications for stress management and resiliency skills, and serve as context for considering changes in early professional development and continuing education.”

Among the top sources of stress for judges were the impact of decisions, a heavy docket of cases, unprepared attorneys and self-represented litigants.  Nearly half of the judges identified exposure to trauma and horrific facts as a significant factor.  Effects include fatigue, distraction, negative and intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and health issues.  The good news is that many judges are engaged in efforts that benefit their overall health.  Individual connection and support were also important resilience factors.

Members of the ABA CoLAP Judicial Assistance Committee and others are synthesizing the results and preparing a written report which will provide greater detail and offer recommendations.   Read the preliminary report here.

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