Judges are Human
September 9, 2016
The title of this post “Judges are human” should not a major revelation. But it does serve as an object lesson as to how our legal system works.
An article in the ABA Journal reports that:
Juvenile judges in Louisiana imposed longer sentences in the week after an unexpected football loss by Louisiana State University, according to a working paper by two Louisiana State University economics professors.
The lesson is that while our system is supposed to be one of law, not people, it is enforced by people. Therefore, justice is tempered by all of the frailties which people possess: Biases, prejudices (the study shows even worse sentences for black juvenile defendants), sometimes lack of good judgement, sometimes lack of good intelligence and in the worst of circumstances (fortunately not where I practice) even corruption.
The vast majority of judges whom I’ve practiced before try very hard to do justice. They listen to the lawyers, try to understand the circumstances and fairly apply the law.
Yet, they are human. So their perceptions and abilities are necessarily colored by their personal attributes.
This is why good lawyers try so hard to settle cases. Sometimes, we may know of the individual proclivities of a judge. Often we do not. But we can never know of all of a judge’s individual perceptions – or for that matter, how they feel on an individual day.
Therefore, we try to convince clients to make their own decisions rather than rely on the mood of a judge on a certain day which may be influenced by outside factors such as how their favorite football team performed.