How Judges Can Show Respect

I decided to discuss “How Judges Can Show Respect”  by Judge Victoria Pratt from Ted Talks Daily.  The podcast was recorded live at Ted NYC 2017.  The episode talks about what the judge calls “procedural justice.”  Procedural justice is the concept that says if people perceive they are treated fairly with dignity and respect they will obey the law.  If people see the justice system as a legitimate authority to impose rules and legislation they would follow them.  Procedural justice even says people would be satisfied with the judges rulings even if the judge rules against them if they are perceived that they were treated fairly with dignity and respect.

Judge Pratt says procedural justice begins with the way judges speak with court participants.  Judge Pratt says “being a judge is sometimes like having a reserved seat to a tragic reality show.  That has no commercial interruptions and no season finally.  People come before me handcuffed, drugs, sick, depressed, hungry and mentally ill.  When I saw that their need for help was greater than my fear of appearing vulnerable on the bench.  I realized that not only did I need to do something but that I could do something.”  Judge Pratt says the principles of procedural justice are “easy” and can be implemented tomorrow, the best thing is that it’s free!  People need an opportunity to speak, even if you aren’t going to let them speak.  Explain to the court participants what you are going and why you are doing it.  “I’m not letting you speak right now, you don’t have a attorney and I don’t want you to hurt your case.”

The next principle is neutrality.  Neutrality is paramount and the judge can not be perceived to be favoring one side over the other.  The judge needs to make a conscious decision not to say things like “my officer, my prosecutor, my defense attorney.”  Judge Pratt explains this is very challenging when we work in environments where you have people assigned to your courts and you have the same people coming in and out of your courts.

The next principle is understand.  It is critical that court participants understand the process, consequences of the process and what is expected of them.  Judge Pratt says “legalese is the language we use to confuse.”  Judge Pratt says many of the people which appear before her have little education and english is often their second language.  Judge Pratt say’s courts across the United State should speak plain english.  Judge Pratt uses the example asking “do you take psychotropic medication?” to “Do you the medication to clear your mind?”  Once people understand the question they can give you valuable information that allows the court to make manful decisions about the cases that are before them.

The final principle is respect.  Without respect, no other principles can work.  Respect can be as simple as “good afternoon sir” or “good morning ma’am.”  It’s also looking the person in the eye’s who standing before you, especially when your sentencing them.  The good thing about respect is that it’s contagious.  People seeing you being respectful to others and they input that respect to themselves.  People are judging you as you are judging them.

These four simple principles are can be implemented anywhere not just the court room.  Being kind and caring to others should be a every day task.  Altering listening to this podcast it made me thing back to what my mom would say “treat others the way you want to be treated.”


One comment

  1. This is so true, for anyone, but as you said particularly for a judge. These four concepts can maker break the relationship that the person being spoken to has with the law, as well as other people in their lives. This is increasingly difficult to find, but when it seems like the law is on our side, it can feel empowering and encourage people to do better. Everyone wants respect.

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