Be Well, 0221 WYBJ, Vol. 43 No. 1. 62

AuthorMaryt L. Fredrickson, Ninth Judicial District Court & 307 Yoga LLC Jackson, Wyoming
PositionVol. 43 1 Pg. 62

Be Well

Vol. 43 No. 1 Pg. 62

Wyoming Bar Journal

February, 2021

Wellness and the Gavel: Wellness in the Judiciary and the Judiciary’s Impact on Wellness

Maryt L. Fredrickson, Ninth Judicial District Court & 307 Yoga LLC Jackson, Wyoming

Wellness in the practice of law involves a host of players: attorneys, firm management, paralegals, law schools, support staff, bar associations, insurers, regulators, and judges. This month’s column looks at judges and wellness. The first topic is an overview of the unique wellness issues that judges face. The second topic is how judges can impact attorney wellness.

Wellness in the Judiciary

Some of the wellness issues judges face are consistent with those the practicing bar face. Some of the wellness issues are unique to judges. In December 2020, the results of a broad judicial wellness survey of 1,034 judges and justices were released.1 Thirty-seven sources of stress unique to the judiciary were identified. The top two sources of stress for judges were: the importance of decisions (79.7%) and heavy dockets (73.2%). Other top sources of stress were: unprepared attorneys (67.7%), self-represented litigants (62.5%), dealing with repeat parties without progress towards addressing the underlying issues (58.1%), lack of public awareness about the courts (55.5%), working without a break (53.5%), contentious family law issues (50.3%), and professional isolation (50.3%).

A judge’s anxiety and stress over difficult decisions is understandable. After all, it is judges who determine the outcome of a contested custody case that will impact a child for the rest of his life; determine prison sentences which impact a criminal defendant, families, victims, and communities; and determine the outcome of high-stakes financial disputes impacting someone’s fortune, whether large or small. The unusual stress of the family law cases, criminal cases, and abuse and neglect proceedings may also involve compassion fatigue or secondary trauma responses. Secondary trauma is the type of stress a lawyer, judge, or therapist feels when confronted with evidence of abuse, violence, loss, and other trauma, which the client experiences as primary trauma.

Docket-related stress is particularly unique to judges. There are no magic elves at night who run around the office signing orders during a trial week to keep all of the other cases moving along for litigants. Those magic...

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