Judges Have Feelings, Too: Vandy Law Prof

A Vanderbilt law professor has attracted the ear of an important audience: federal judges. And the lesson she’s delivering may seem counterintuitive. She says while they’re expected to be impartial, good judges don’t ignore their emotions.

Running a court is stressful: You might have to decide how long to jail an accomplice in a robbery who’s also a single mom – emotional stuff.

Terry Maroney says when judges try to act detached by burying those emotions, they sometimes seem callous, or lash out. But they rarely discuss how to cope. That’s where Maroney’s work comes in.

“It’s one of those moments that an academic kind of dreams about.”

An article she wrote resonated with the head of the Federal Judicial Center. He invited her to discuss it with a couple hundred of his peers last fall.

“Soon I’m going to be doing a training with brand new federal judges, and try to instill in them before they start the job, ‘Hey, this is going to be an important aspect of your job and let’s think now about how you’re going to handle that.’”

Maroney will speak with a crop of 45 newly confirmed federal judges in Washington this week.

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