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Mindfulness training for judges


November 16, 2020

Amid the typical stresses associated with judicial proceedings, state courts have been required to operate amid a pandemic coupled with uncertainty as to when it will end. Now more than ever judges and court administrators should consider taking or offering training that focuses on mindfulness as a way to address potential stressors.

Mindfulness is defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us.” According to the Mayo Clinic examples of how to practice mindfulness include paying attention, living in the moment, accepting yourself, and focusing on your breathing. In the context of courts, several recent publications described ways to make use of these techniques.

Court Review’s Mindfulness Training for Judges: Mind Wandering and the Development of Cognitive Resilience tries to educate and support judges in improving their cognitive capacity and emotional well-being. The concept of mindfulness training took over twenty years to emerge on the judicial scene. As stated in the article: “[a] mindful state can be understood as a mental model characterized by attention to present moment experience without conceptual elaboration or emotional reactivity”. Main points include:

  • Mindfulness practices are intended to enhance the ability to sustain one’s focus on the task and be less likely to carry on an internal dialogue or become immersed in a charged emotional state.
  • This practice can be associated with clarity and is useful to judges because it can help in decision making. Stress can increase the frequency of mind wandering.
  • There is considerable evidence that training judges in mindfulness could lead to an improvement in their health, well-being, and cognitive functioning.

NCSC’s Pam Casey also discussed the concept in Mindfulness and the Courts. She stated the importance of state courts giving a more systematic and comprehensive approach by identifying, developing, and disseminating resources on mindfulness to take full advantage of its potential. According to Casey, “[m]indfulness exercises strengthen the mind as physical exercises strengthen the body.”

What type of training is your court giving to judges during these difficult times? Share your experiences with us and follow the National Center for State Courts on  FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Pinterest!

For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164.