JLAP Understands the Special Challenges that Judges Face

When it comes to identifying and addressing mental health issues, be it for oneself or for a judicial peer, judges face unique challenges that can present formidable barriers to obtaining help.

judgesBy the very nature of a judge’s work, it is often difficult for others to detect that a mental health problem is brewing. Judges work in isolation and mental health problems are shielded the view by peers and the practitioners that appear before them. Appellate judges are even more removed from direct view the profession and the public. Very few people witness a judge’s behavior all day and every day.

Thus, early intervention is less likely by peers and colleagues because they may not have sufficient contact with the judge to notice an issue until it has become chronic.

In addition, and compared to other members of the profession, it is also harder for a judge to seek self-help even when he or she has independently recognized that a mental health problem may need attention. As elected public figures, judges may perceive that admitting or addressing a problem may adversely impact their political and professional reputation. As such, it is often the case that problems are not addressed early on.

Paradoxically, by delaying action to protect one’s reputation while hoping the mental health issue will attenuate or resolve on its own, it places the judge at even greater peril. Delay, defer and denial tactics are ineffective against progressive diseases such as alcoholism, addiction, or depression. Proper diagnosis and treatment are required to arrest these diseases.

Without clinical intervention, it is more likely than not that over time things will only get worse and therefore the potential increases for additional consequences and greater harm to one’s reputation. Early intervention is the key to saving lives and ending any further potential for irreparable damage to a career on the bench.

At the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, Inc., the professional staff is keenly attuned to the special needs of judges. All aspects of assistance, from interventions to selecting assessment and treatment centers if indicated, are geared toward respecting the status of judges as public figures.

And while judges are not special at all when it comes to being susceptible, like anyone else, to contracting diseases and then being diagnosed and treated for them, judges most certainly do have special needs as public figures who must be assured that services will be rendered with the utmost discretion.

No matter what the mental health issue, JLAP has the skill and expertise to render totally discrete and reliable assistance to judges in need. Whether the call to JLAP emanates from a concerned staff member, colleague, peer, or a judge in trouble and reaching out on their own for self-help, JLAP is ready to facilitate confidential assistance.

Judges who need assistance because of alcoholism, substance abuse, addiction or mental health issues may reach other judges, who are in recovery or who have gone through treatment, by calling a helpline sponsored by the American Bar Association. Judges who have volunteered to be a personal resource to other judges throughout the United States and Canada are uniquely positioned to share their experiences, strengths and hope.Both judges in need of help and those interested in serving as a peer-to-peer volunteer should call (800) 219-6474 during business hours (Central Standard Time).All information is confidential and protected by statute.The National Judges’ Assistance helpline is a service of the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs Judicial Assistance Initiative and administered by the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program.