March 10, 2021
As the pandemic is entering its thirteenth month much of the focus has been on how to ensure judges and court staff get vaccinated and avoid issues related to the COVID-19 virus. That said, the pandemic has also put pressure and strain on the physical and mental wellbeing of these same people. In seeking to return to some form of normality, courts should be aware of the opportunities they have to address these health issues.
In terms of mental stresses associated with the pandemic, NCSC has produced Addressing the Mental Health and Well-Being of Judges and Court Employees. Released in January 2021, the piece was developed in collaboration with the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness and offers a variety of tips and resources from human resources and mental health professionals. At least seven states offer programs focused on judges and/or court employees to address their well-being. Additionally, a webinar focused on this topic was offered in June 2020 entitled Addressing Court Workplace Mental Health and Well-being in Tense Times. The recording of the webinar can be found here, while the webinar materials can be found here. Additionally, the Judicial Family Institute offers a guide for judges in distress.
Mental and physical fitness improve our personal and professional lives. This includes judges and court staff. To that end, several courts have launched innovative programs to keep judges and court staff fit. One example is from Dallas, Texas. There, two judges found that being elected to the bench coincided with a 40-pound weight gain. They chose to work together to help each other reach their fitness goals. In Massachusetts, the courts have launched a program that focuses on physical wellbeing, according to this NCSC Q&A session with Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey. In addition, the National Judicial College in 2015 offered an article for helping judges stay physically fit.
Technology to the Rescue?
In addition to the court-supported or sponsored efforts, technology may also help. These range from free apps such as the USDA's MyPlate App to free or paid commercial apps.