We've had State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly grab Justice Ann Walsh Bradley by the neck. We've had Justice Michael Gableman and Justice Rebecca Bradley leave oral arguments early to speak at a political gathering. And now we have the revelations of R. Bradley's college rantings.
These type of activities do not fit neatly into the American Bar Association's idea of judicial temperament.
Among the qualities which comprise judicial temperament are patience, open-mindedness, courtesy, tact, firmness, understanding, compassion and humility. Because the judicial temperament requires an ability to deal with counsel, jurors, witnesses and parties calmly and courteously, and the willingness to hear and consider the views of all sides. It requires the ability to be even-tempered, yet firm; open-minded, yet willing and able to reach a decision; confident, yet not egocentric. Because of the range of topics and issues with which a judge may be required to deal, judicial temperament requires a willingness and ability to assimilate data outside the judge's own experience. It requires, moreover, an even disposition, buttressed by a keen sense of justice which creates an intellectual serenity in the approach to complex decisions, and forbearance under provocation. Judicial temperament also implies a mature sense of proportion; reverence for the law, but appreciation that the role of law is not static and unchanging; understanding of the judge's important role in the judicial process, yet recognition that the administration of justice and the rights of the parties transcend the judge's personal desires. Judicial temperament is typified by recognition that there must be compassion as the judge deals with matters put before him or her.
Factors which indicate a lack of judicial temperament are also identifiable and understandable. Judicial temperament thus implies an absence of arrogance, impatience, pomposity, loquacity, irascibility, arbitrariness or tyranny. Judicial temperament is a quality which is not easily identifiable, but which does not wholly evade discovery. Its absence can usually be fairly ascertained.
Maybe the ABA meant everywhere but Wisconsin.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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