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The Inner Work of Judging

a mindfulness-based educational program for judicial officers 

Judge's Gavel on Books

Education for Judicial Officers

We support judicial officers by offering continuing judicial education with a little different flavor.  We don't just suggest "being mindful" or practicing mindfulness.  We actually operationalize what that means by infusing all of our judicial education-- whether one-on-one or in a group-- with practices that support embodied present-moment awareness, aka "mindfulness."

Our newest offering is a six-month cohort program, The Inner Work of Judging.  This is a culmination of what we have learned so far about supporting judicial officers in balancing the challenges and demands of the important work they do each day.  

 

A few additional benefits of the program: 

  • Approved for 9 Ethics CJE hours in Indiana

  • 1:1 Coaching Sessions with a Thought Kitchen Mindful Life and Work Coach 

  • Access to other Thought Kitchen Offerings (think Gentle Yoga, Guided Meditation, Chillshop...) 

  

Whether you are a judicial officer looking for a different kind of CJE program, or you are an administrator in a position to impact CJE in your jurisdiction, we are here to support you. 
 

Keep reading to learn more about the program and the outcomes from the first cohort. 
 

“You have helped me turn my life around from the depths of despair and reclaim my life. I still have work to do, but the quality of my life is so much better.” 

“I have begun a journey of self-awareness that will help me better relate to litigants and peers and benefit me as a judge beyond knowledge of the law.”  

“There are a limited number of people who do what we do, have the same stressors, and deal with the same unreasonable people. It sometimes feels like you're on an island, but now my island is more than one person.” 

“This program is fantastic. I have already recommended it to colleagues, and so many say that this is an area in their profession in which they are lacking.” 

“This has been a wonderful experience, and I would highly recommend to colleagues, especially those feeling overwhelmed and/or jaded.” 

What Cohort 1 Had To Say

Program Outcomes

We are pleased to report  the outcomes of our first cohort. Using the ProQOL and Effects of Stress Scale from the 2019 Survey of Stress and Resiliency in the US Judiciary, we tracked metrics such as participants' level of burnout, compassion satisfaction, and  secondary traumatic stress.  
 
Impact of Inner Work of Judging:  

  • All participants showed a decrease in secondary traumatic stress 

  • Significant decrease in feelings of burnout 

  • Increased time for family and leisure

Illustrated Waves

Ready to Join Us?

Now accepting applications for our Inner Work of Judging 2024 Cohorts!

Inner Work of Judging

Quarter 1

Application Deadline:
3/15/2024 at 5pm Eastern

Inner Work of Judging

Quarter 2

Application Deadline:
4/30/2024 at 5pm Eastern

Please use the link below to provide some important information by filling out a program discovery form, and we'll reach out to connect with you.

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The Inner Work of Judging

Course Outline

We've asked what's hard about being a judicial officer and what you love.

 

We've heard you say you could benefit from these things but don't know how to start:

  • Giving and receiving peer support

  • Taking care of your physical well-being

  • Practicing meditation and other mindfulness activities

  • Staying connected to hobbies and other interests

Each month, cohort members receive:

  • A 90-minute group CJE session via Zoom

  • Topics include:

    • Operationalizing judicial demeanor/temperament

    • Signature and situational strengths and how they impact judging

    • Guiding values and how they impact judging

    • Emotional intelligence/emotional regulation

    • Clear communication and boundaries

    • Intentional scheduling

  • Access to a 60-minute 1:1 coaching session with a Thought Kitchen team member on one of the above topics

  • Access to an online group to communicate with other cohort members between sessions

  • Access to Thought Kitchen offerings such as gentle yoga, guided meditation, sound bath meditation, and others

Program Learning Objectives & Specifics

Traditional judicial education has focused mainly on the “substantive” aspects of judging, such as procedure, statutes, and case law, with little focus on the emotional/human relations aspects of judging.  As Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor wrote in My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, “Most of us think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, but we are actually feeling creatures that think.”  Ignoring this reality is unkind to judicial officers and detrimental to their professional conduct, especially in the area of judicial demeanor as set forth in the Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.2, 2.2, and 2.8.

 

Thought Kitchen’s work is grounded in the belief that addressing the emotional experience of judging results in judicial officers who are not only healthier and happier, but who also make better decisions and behave in a way that is more aligned with the Model Code of Judicial Conduct.  This belief is supported by a growing body of research led by professor and scholar of judicial temperament, Terry Maroney of Vanderbilt University.  The course materials also include discussion of 2017’s The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change, published by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being as well as 2020’s Stress and Resiliency in the U.S. Judiciary, published in Journal of the Professional Lawyer.

Learning Objectives By Session

Each session is 90 minutes long.  Participants are expected to attend all sessions and to prepare by reading or listening to materials provided ahead of time on the chosen topic.  Each session follows this structure:

 

  • check-in with questions about the prior session and/or preparation materials (approximately 15 minutes),

  • presentation and active discussion of topic (approximately 60 minutes), and

  • wrap-up with questions and discussion of how participants can incorporate the topic into their work in meaningful and concrete ways (approximately 15 minutes).  

 

Between sessions, participants have access to peer support, individual coaching, and mindfulness-based practices to enhance their learning. 

Session 1: Introduction to Judicial Temperament

Professor Terry Maroney of Vanderbilt University contends that there are two traditional ways of defining “judicial temperament.” The first is to set out a laundry list of desirable traits—compassion, decisiveness, open-mindedness, courtesy, patience—without saying how, if at all, the things on that list impact judging. The other approach treats judicial temperament as some undefinable quality that a person either has or lacks. Neither approach is particularly helpful in cultivating, selecting, or supporting judges who make sound decisions and behave ethically. This session introduces Maroney’s psycho-legal theory of judicial temperament and examines how operationalizing judicial temperament makes it possible to cultivate traits that are correlated with judicial behavior that is in line with the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, especially in the area of judicial demeanor as set forth in the Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.2, 2.2, and 2.8.

Session 2: Signature and Situational Strengths and Core Values

Character strengths are capacities for thinking, feeling, and behaving; they are positive personality traits that can be developed. The 24 VIA character strengths are universal, and everyone expresses all 24 in varying degrees. Signature strengths are those strengths that are core to a person’s identity and values, while situational strengths are those that a person can draw on when needed and may require more energy and intentionality. Values are either present in or absent from the choices people make every day. Clarifying one or two core values creates a filter for decision making. Utilizing the work of Dr. Brené Brown, participants identify one or two core values and operationalize them. This session includes building embodied present moment awareness so participants can identify when they are operating within or outside of their strengths and values and how that impacts judicial behavior and decision-making. Participants will identify how their strengths and values interact with and align with the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, especially in the area of judicial demeanor as set forth in the Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.2, 2.2, and 2.8. They will name behaviors which embody those values, as well as warning sign behaviors that signal when they aren’t aligned with their values. They will also identify support people who will hold them accountable for staying within their values and in compliance with ethical judicial conduct.

Session 3: Emotional Intelligence and Judicial Behavior

When emotions arise more quickly than they can be processed, they can impact brain function and drive behavior, impacting cognitive abilities, decision-making powers, and interpersonal skills. This session explores abilities that are traditionally seen as “soft skills,” such as emotional regulation, connection, authenticity, empathy, and communication, and how the expression (or lack of expression) of these skills impacts judicial behavior, especially in the area of judicial demeanor as set forth in the Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.2, 2.2, and 2.8.

Session 4: Clear Communication and Boundaries

Clear communication is essential to building and maintaining trust, and it is at the core of ethical behavior. Kim Scott’s Radical (Compassionate) Candor framework sets forth a guide to being clear and kind, specific and sincere. Setting boundaries and having difficult conversations is at the core of judicial responsibility, and these duties can be fulfilled in a way that is respectful. Setting boundaries can be defined as clearly stating what’s okay and what’s not okay, and why. Boundaries are there to protect both parties and can be viewed as guardrails that assist a person in staying within their values. Failing to set, communicate, or maintain clear boundaries can lead to repetition of difficult situations or issues, resentment, anger, and burnout. This session will provide participants with a clearer understanding of how to communicate and actively manage boundaries, as well as how clear boundaries support behavior that is consistent with the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, especially in the area of judicial demeanor as set forth in the Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.2, 2.2, and 2.8.

Session 5: Intentional Scheduling

Intentional scheduling is a practice that includes protecting time for the “must-do” items, knowing how and when to say “no,” scheduling breaks and specific time to review email, the queue, etc. It also includes being mindful about fueling and moving the body to build and strengthen stress resilience. A final component of intentional scheduling is learning to notice when emotions are high (either your own or those of others), energy is low, or other situations that call for flexibility (and perhaps deviating from the set schedule) before problematic behavior arises. This session will provide participants with a better understanding of how to manage both their time and energy in a way that allows them to fulfill their responsibilities as a judicial officer while maintaining demeanor that is consistent with their values and the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, especially in the area of judicial demeanor as set forth in the Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.2, 2.2, and 2.8.

Session 6: Putting it All Together

This session is a time to review the content of prior sessions, answer any questions, and discuss how everything that was covered fits together. It includes a review of the ethics concepts and professional obligations covered during the program. Participants leave the final session with a plan that includes: * Signature strengths and behaviors that exhibit them. * Situational strengths and the impact tapping into them has on energy and emotional state, as well as the impact on judicial conduct, especially with respect to Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.2, 2.2, and 2.8. * Guiding values, behaviors that exhibit them, warning behaviors that are outside of them, and precipitating emotions that can be identified before warning behaviors occur. * Identifying a trusted person(s) who can serve as an accountability partner. * How to strengthen and tap into emotional intelligence skills to support behavior that is consistent with the Model Code of Judicial Conduct. * How to communicate with others, including litigants, court staff, and attorneys, in a way that is both clear and kind that supports conduct in accordance with Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.2, 2.2, and 2.8. * How to identify what boundaries are non-negotiable to support guiding values and behavior in line with the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, and how to communicate and actively manage those boundaries. * How to be more intentional about setting and managing time and energy to support improved professional conduct.

Faculty

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does this program cost?

The current tuition for this program is $3,000/participant. Some jurisdictions have tuition reimbursement programs for which this program may qualify. We can also arrange direct billing to a court agency.

Why do you call this The Inner Work of Judging

Rhonda Magee, a mentor, teacher and writer that we deeply admire, wrote The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness. As we have worked with Rhonda’s book and developed the materials for this program, we realized that what we’re offering is a guide to developing and supporting the inner work that is needed for judicial officers to live more easeful lives. Jill discussed this with Rhonda, who graciously supported us calling our program The Inner Work of Judging.

How does the cohort meet?

Currently, the cohort meets for the monthly 90-minute sessions online via Zoom.

How are the materials delivered to participants?

Participants are onboarded into a specially curated section of our website, which includes a module for each of the six sessions where the materials are available to access. Each module includes the materials that participants need to review before the session, as well as additional materials in case participants want to take a deeper dive into any of the subjects covered.

What kind of peer support is available to cohort members?

We utilize a private online group so that participants can engage with each other and the material between the monthly Zoom meetings. In addition, participants can share contact information with each other to be in contact in whatever way they agree to outside of the private online group.

Why do you have an application for this program?

We want to ensure that everyone has the best experience possible over the course of the six months we work together. To that end, we ask questions on the application about scheduling needs, accessibility needs, as well as outline the time commitment, group agreements, and expectations of cohort members so that everyone is clear about what is expected. In addition, we’ve heard that the work might be inaccessible to some participants if certain people were there, too. We ask about this on the application so that there are no surprises for any of the participants. All of us have difficult people in our lives, and everyone should have the time and space to do this kind of work. That doesn’t mean that everyone should do this work together in the same cohort.

What are Group Agreements?

In order to build the brave container for much of the work we do, including The Inner Work of Judging, we utilize Group Agreements, which provide the framework for how we work together. We include them as part of the application process, and we affirm that each member of the group agrees to abide by them throughout the program.

Do you collect any data about outcomes associated with the program?

Yes, we do. Before the first session, we ask each participant to take the ProQOL as well as a survey that is a shortened version of the questions that were asked in the Stress and Resiliency in the U.S. Judiciary study. This provides a baseline for each participant. We ask each participant to take both questionnaires after the sixth session in order to measure growth during the course of the program. Although we have facilitated this program one-on-one with judicial officers, we are currently facilitating the first cohort (July-December 2023). Although it will be a small sample size, we plan to report data at the conclusion of this cohort.

Why do you include private coaching sessions in the program?

We include private coaching sessions in the program as another support for participants. The 90 minutes in each monthly session go by quickly, and the private coaching session offers each participant the opportunity to ask questions, share their experiences, or ask for support related to operationalizing the content of each session. Participants are invited to use as many of the six sessions as they’d like during the six months we work together. We trust that they are in the best position to know what’s supportive to them.

Why do you include mindfulness-based practices in the program?

Mindfulness-based practices are included because the formal on-the-cushion or on-the-chair practices of meditation, gentle yoga, sound meditation, and handheld labyrinth meditation (to name a few) build present moment awareness muscle that is brought to bear in our everyday lives off the cushion or chair. As we like to say, we bring our life to our practice and our practice to our life. Giving participants access to the mindfulness-based practices that we offer is part of developing the sense of embodied present moment awareness they’ll need to operationalize the practices of emotional intelligence, utilizing strengths and values, setting and maintaining boundaries, and compassionate candor to support their well-being on the bench and off. As with private coaching sessions, participants are invited to engage with mindfulness-based practices, or not, during the six months we work together. They know best what is supportive to them.

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