Chris Newbold:

Hello, Well-Being friends. Welcome to the Path to Well-Being in Law podcast, an initiative of the Institute for Well-Being in Law. I’m your co-host, Chris Newbold, executive vice-president of ALPS Malpractice Insurance. As you know, our goal here on the podcast is to introduce you to though† leaders doing meaningful work in the well-being space within the legal profession and in the process, build and nurture a national network of well-being advocates intent on creating a culture shift within the profession. I’m very excited to be welcomed by my co-host, Bree Buchanan. Bree, how are you today?

Bree Buchanan:

I’m doing great, Chris. It’s great to be back with you. We’ve taken a little break.

Chris Newbold:

It is. We are heading into the holidays here. Bree, I think you and I have been on almost a three-month hiatus from the podcast, but that does not mean that we have not been busy and active on the well-being front. I thought we’d take a couple minutes here in the beginning, just to talk about some of the things, Bree, that are happening at the national level, particularly with respect to the Institute for Well-Being and Law.

Bree Buchanan:

Absolutely, Chris. Yeah, the absence of us from the podcast actually indicates that we’ve been very busy in the kitchen cooking up and creating this new national think tank. So over the past couple of months, we have done amazing things. We’ve constituted and oriented a 21-member advisory board of some of the best minds around the country and the well-being movement. We’ve also opened up applications for our committee structure and God, we had so much interest. It was amazing that there were actually people that we had to turn away, and we now have over 110 people on our committees. So we have really filled out the people that are working on this movement and it’s exciting to have so many new folks on board and a little scary, too.

Chris Newbold:

Yeah. I think it’s fair to say that, again, as the topic of well-being continues to take on, it’s been in the national forefront for quite a while, but I think one of the things as leaders that we’ve been looking to do is to welcome more leaders and ambassadors into the movement. Boy, I know it was heartwarming for me to see the level of individuals out there around the country and oftentimes, worldwide, who are saying, “I want to be a part of this. I want to engage in it.” When you put out a call for volunteers to join the movement, the fact that we had over 100 responses certainly, to me, indicated that, again, there are folks that really want to work on this issue and we are certainly, encouraging both them to do that and for us to continue to join the movement and there’s lots of different ways to be able to do that.

Bree Buchanan:

Yeah. Absolutely. Another thing that’s an indicator of what’s going on our first annual conference, which is going to be virtual, is coming-

Chris Newbold:

Yeah. Big deal, huh? Big deal.

Bree Buchanan:

It is January 19th through the 21st, three days, three tracks, pricing, so people can pick a day or pick the whole thing. Again, just like with the committees, we put out the RFP and we got so many people wanting to be a presenter at the conference. I know it was incredibly difficult to choose, and so I think that bodes well also just for the quality of what we’re going to end up having. So if people are listening to this, please go check out our website at lawyerwellbeing.net and register because it’s coming up. By the time you’re hearing this, it’s around the corner.

Chris Newbold:

Yeah. Let’s say that one more time, so lawyerwellbeing.net. I think that is really the welcoming mat to the movement. Again, there’s still opportunities in there to fill out and join the movement to learn more about news and resources going on around the country. The conference that’s coming up in January, many of the folks and listeners of this podcast are also very actively involved in Well-Being Week in Law, which was another great success back in May. So as we, Bree and I very much take pride in the fact that we’re a little bit facilitating and being dot connectors of the movement. I think that is the glue that still keeps this movement together.

Bree Buchanan:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Chris Newbold:

So, well, let’s get into the podcast today. Today, I want to circle back to the influence of research and scholarship in the real realm of well-being. We’re really excited to welcome Professor Terry Maroney from Vanderbilt University, who specifically has explored, I’m super excited to be able to hear about the intersection of law, emotion and the judiciary, which I don’t think we’ve had a conversation about those particular intersections. Bree, would you be so kind to introduce Professor Maroney to the listeners?

Bree Buchanan:

Absolutely. I’ve worked with Terry on a variety projects in the past, so I have the honor of also a part of her introduction is saying that she’s a friend and a colleague. So the official introduction is that Terry Maroney is a professor of law and a professor of medicine, health, and society, and the Robert S. and Teresa L. Reder Chair of Law at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. She’s been a fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and she researches the interaction of emotion and law with a focus on the role of emotion and judicial experience and behavior, which I just find fascinating. As a leader in state and federal judicial education on these topics, she graduated from Oberlin College and NYU School of Law, summa cum laude; clerked for Honorable Amalya Kearse of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and was a litigator at the and are Urban Justice Center and at Global Firm, WilmerHale. So Terry, welcome. So glad you’re here with us today.

Terry Maroney:

Thank you. It’s really wonderful to be here.

Bree Buchanan:

So just before we get started, the idea of judges and their emotions and I think who is listening to this and those phrases who’s been in a courtroom, probably has a story to share about the emotional regulation or that lack thereof in the judiciary. But it’s not something you hear discussed, and so I’m delighted that we’re going to really talk about this today, but Terry, I’m going to start you off with a question that we start all of our guests off, just to give us its view and to our guests and their background. So are there, were there experiences in your life that’s really a driver of the passion you have for this work in general, and particularly, in the Well-Being and Law Movement?

Terry Maroney:

Absolutely. Before I became a lawyer, I was a social services professional, and also worked in community activism in New York City in the early ’90s, almost all around the HIV-Aids crisis at that time. Clearly, my passion for people and their experiences and what can make their lives better didn’t originate during that era of my life, but it certainly solidified during that era of my life. When I faced a bit of crossroads professionally, when I knew I’d reached a level where I wanted to go to grad school and pursue some different kind of work I really was choosing between, say, a public health career or a social work psychology career or law.

Terry Maroney:

Really, I could have gone in any those ways, so what I have done is I chose law, but I’ve circled my way back to all of those things. So I’ve managed to do them all at once in some way. So I was always very, very interested in psychology and counseling and what makes people tick, how I can, again, be an agent for positive change in people’s lives, and in communities then and after a very satisfying career as a litigator, and then also, as a law professor have found a way, I think, to weave all those interests together.

Chris Newbold:

Yeah. I enjoyed reading your career arc, which was law student to law clerk, law clerk to litigator, litigator supplemented with teaching and then to academia. I’m just curious what your reflections on that and the impact that you’re having, and from there, researching the judiciary, how did you get into that particular area?

Terry Maroney:

Yeah, those are all good questions. Again, the arc of one’s life always looks quite tidy and in the rear view mirror it never looks like that in the living of it. But I’ve described to you one crossroads I took, which result to me going into law at all. A second crossroads was once I was a number of years into my litigation career, I really needed to decide was that what I wanted to stay in for the foreseeable future, or did I want to move into academia? Pardon me, and I chose to go into academia for a number of reasons. One is that I found myself always being intrigued by the big issues and litigation provided me many wonderful opportunities to engage with big issues. I was very lucky in the kind of practice I had, but I found that that’s where I was happiest. I thought, “Well, if I go into academia, I can do that all the time.” I also love teaching and wanted to be able to build that into my day-to-day life, so that’s the choice I made.

Terry Maroney:

I have to say, just like my first choice was actually a difficult one, because there are aspects of legal practice that I quite miss, and I miss, again, the human element of it, the human stories. So that gets to how I got to researching the judiciary. So there’s a long story and there’s a short story. I shall endeavor to tell you the short story. When I was still in practice, I had the privilege of working on an insanely interesting case involving a white-collar criminal defendant, who, as we had discovered had suffered a very serious form of brain injury from a medical incident. This brain injury from this medical incident had seriously impaired some of the emotional processing aspects of her brain function. So she was cognitively and intellectually intact, but emotionally, extremely disabled in a way that actually directly contributed to the behavior for which she been [inaudible 00:11:35] a very small part of a very, very large Ponzi scheme, exactly the kind of scheme that somebody [inaudible 00:11:45]

Terry Maroney:

So working on that case, I became absolutely fascinated by the interaction at the psychological and at the neurological level between emotion and reason. I became very puzzled about why law, unlike the fields I had been in before, for example, psychology and social work, why law had this very entrenched, very strange idea that emotions and rationality are separable and opposing forces and that law existed for the purpose of privileging one at the expense of the other. I thought that was weird. I thought, to use a technical term, it didn’t match up with anything I knew about human behavior and human life and what creates a good and flourishing human life. The more I read about the science, I realized that I wasn’t alone in that, and if anything was alone, it was law that held onto this very irrational idea about the role of emotion.

Terry Maroney:

So when I went into academia, that was the first thing I started writing about and it’s like a minor hits of vein. I hit vein and I’ve literally just never left it, and as I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into it, just because it’s such an incredibly rich vein to say, “What are all the implications for the legal system, for legal theory, for legal practice of us believing some version of a big lie about the way humans function? What are all the implications of that?” That’s the work of many lifetimes for many people, I’m just doing my bit. As I continued on that vein, the bit that I found that has been the most personally satisfying has been judges that I realized that if there’s a big lie going around about emotion and reason being separable and emotion being the enemy of reason, nowhere is that stronger than with judges and judging. They are what historically have been thought of as the paragons of should be emotionless, or what I’ve called ‘the cultural script of judicial dispassion.’

Terry Maroney:

That’s a very definition of a good judge is a judge who has eradicated all emotions in the course of his or her work, and that just can’t be right. So there you go. That was the medium-size story, but again, I’ve hit that sub-vein probably about 10 years ago and, again, just never left it. It has led me into an incredibly satisfying research agenda, but even more importantly, into a very satisfying work with individual judges and with the judiciary, which has just really deepened my regard and affection for the profession and my commitment to trying to make them live happier, healthier lives. So, Bree, you’ll appreciate this, but shortly after the presentation that you and I were both a part of at a circuit court conference recently, a judge came up to me and said, “You know what? I’m glad we’re talking about this, because healthy judges make for healthy courts and healthy courts make for a healthy, fair society.” I said, “That’s it, in a nutshell. That’s my life. There you go.”

Chris Newbold:

There you go.

Terry Maroney:

Right? Really, I felt seen and heard. I said, “Exactly.”

Bree Buchanan:

Oh, wow.

Terry Maroney:

Yeah.

Bree Buchanan:

Yeah, and it is really meaningful. Just, again, going back to my days as a litigator, there were so many times when I was in the courtroom where I saw the exact opposite going on of what you would expect or would want. You just really have to worry about the impact that it has on people, the litigants, who were there and saying, “This is what the civil justice or the criminal justice system is about.” But I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. Let’s continue laying things out here, Terry. Talk to us some more about the research you’ve conducted of the judiciary. What has been your [crosstalk 00:15:58]

Terry Maroney:

Absolutely. [crosstalk 00:15:59] Yeah. So for a long time, I was just trying to set the theoretical foundation and just trying to bring into legal theory the idea that is so prominent in virtually every other discipline these days, which is that you can’t understand human behavior without understanding emotion, and the end goal is not emotional eradication. That’s actually not a sensible or possible or productive target to aim for. So this big lie or the cultural script of dispassion is not something that, of course we can’t ever get there, but the trying to get there will do good things for us. The trying to get there actually does bad things for us. It does bad things for judges. It does bad things for the court. It does bad things for society because what I bring in my research and research of primarily from affective science and from the sociology of emotion shows is that the effort it takes for judges to try to divest themselves of a normal range of human emotion is itself, counterproductive.

Terry Maroney:

So I could have a much longer conversation with you about that, but the core message is the most important thing that judges can do is to notice, name, and understand their work-related emotions and not assume that they’re a bad thing. Assume that they’re a relevant and interesting thing that should be interrogated so you can decide what to do with them. Some you’re going to want to try to set aside some, you’re going to follow, some you’re going to try to morph in some way, again, much longer conversations, but that’s the core message. So what I have done in addition to just bringing in research, again, primarily from affective psychology and sociology and showing how it sheds light on judges and judging about how we should encourage judges to notice, name, and understand their emotions.

Terry Maroney:

In the more recent years, I’ve moved on from that theoretical foundation and started doing empirical research of my own, and that has two, well, I guess at this point, I should say three main prongs. So the largest prong is that for a number of years now, I have been conducting a national purposive sample qualitative interview study with federal judges, both districts, judges, and judges in the courts of appeal, where I go and I talk to a diversity of judges from all over the country with different geographies, different types of dockets, different number of years on the bench, a diversity in terms of gender, race, political party of the appointed president, et cetera, and just invite them to educate me about their work-related emotions; what they are, why they think they have them, what impact they think they have, but in a very biologic way, trying to get past the party line or generalities and get very, very specific like, “Let’s talk through an instance in which you are unhappy with how you handled a particular situation, for example.”

Terry Maroney:

So these are very deep, and I dare say, intimate conversations and I feel extremely privileged to have had so many of them. So that is prong number one, which is a serious qualitative deep dive, just into the mental maps that judges have of the kinds of emotional experiences they have at work, what they think they’re about, how they try to manage them and why, and what impact they have on them and their families. So that’s prong one. Prong two is more squarely about wellness, and I see these things as quite intertwined. In fact, I came to the wellness game a little late. I was very much about emotion and emotion regulation in judges. I found that I kept going to judicial conferences and being put in the wellness programming section of the conference. I’d be like, “No, no, no, I don’t do wellness work. I do high-level theoretical work about the interplay of cognition emotion.”

Terry Maroney:

Then after a few years of that, I was like, “Oh no, wait. I am doing all this work,” and that’s a good thing. So I’ll just give you one snippet about why I think this is such an important connection is I’ve focused for a long time on the ways in which judges try to regulate their emotions at work, which means why are they motivated to do so? How are they trying to do it? Are they using regulation strategies that have been shown to be productive to decision making or that cause undue cognitive load or are counterproductive, et cetera. It turns out that one of the biggest predictors of burnout, for example, in workers, and I think of judges as a species of worker, is basically how well or how poorly they do with their emotion regulation. So I’m drawing on work on the concept of emotional labor, for example. I started to see that all these things are intertwined.

Terry Maroney:

So if judges can notice, name, and understand their work related emotions and treat them with a curiosity and a value-neutral perspective that enables to figure out again, what are they about? Are they appropriate? What should I do with them? Why? If they can do that, not only is there judging better because it’s a factor that if unacknowledged could have impact that you’re not conscious of, right? It gives judges more tools with which to choose what they do and do not incorporate into their behavior and decision making. It allows emotion to enrich that decision making in some instances and it allows them to space and time to set them aside in others, if they can do that, in my view, then they’re at far lesser risk of some of the well-being impacts that we worry about such as burnout, compassion fatigue, right? People who are more granular with their emotions are better at emotion regulation. People who are more granular with their emotions have better health outcomes. These things are interconnected. They drink less when they’re upset. So again, I’ve stopped resisting the wellness pull.

Bree Buchanan:

Good. Good.

Terry Maroney:

Okay. I’ve forgotten, I lost track now. I’m in prong number two or three? It doesn’t really matter. Here’s the wellness prong. So what I’ve started doing most recently is literally to study the judicial wellness movement. I have had a small army of really wonderful research assistants and some great colleagues in the qualitative research core at Vanderbilt. We have been, basically, trying to figure out what is this quote/unquote movement? Why now? Why are we focusing on not just lawyer wellness, but specifically now judicial wellness? What do we think the problem is? Why do we think that and what are we trying to do about it and why? So we’ve literally just been scrubbing the internet for any and all evidence of pamphlets, conferences, articles, YouTube videos, judicial education seminars about judicial wellness and also interviewing judicial wellness leaders and are trying to figure out what is this movement? What’s it trying to do and why? And mapping that data onto wellness research to see if there are obvious gaps or areas of growth. So that’s been a lot of fun.

Bree Buchanan:

Wow. That’s fascinating. Awesome. Listen, I wanted to ask you, Terry, just a little bit digging down in the specific area around compassion fatigue, which is also known as secondary PTSD [crosstalk 00:24:43].

Terry Maroney:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), or secondary trauma. Yeah.

Bree Buchanan:

Yeah, in my work with a judiciary in education, et cetera, that seems to be a really big topic. Can you unpack that a little bit about a little bit what it is and what you are seeing within the judiciary these days?

Terry Maroney:

Yeah. Absolutely. I don’t want to make any grand claims about where the judiciary, in general, is with compassion fatigue, but I definitely believe it to be a problem for many, and a severe problem for some. So the way I think about it is very similar to what you just said, Bree. It’s a secondary form of trauma, it like a contact trauma and those sorts of things that I hear judges talk to me about that are relevant to this, I think are, for example, a lot of them talk about being exposed to really traumatic evidence. Think about the role of a judge. Let’s think for a moment about trial judges in cases at might involve traumatic evidence, which could be in a civil case, like with a gruesome injury, or it could be in a criminal case. For example, a lot of judges are exposed to direct evidence of extreme child sexual abuse and child pornography.

Terry Maroney:

So the role of a trial judge is to look at all that stuff and figure out what can and can’t go to the jury, and part of that determination is how traumatic is this going to be for the jury? Is it going to be so, so overwhelming that they can’t get whatever the intended informational value is out of it? Well, in order to make that determination, the judge has to look at it herself. Then she has to guess, based on her own level of shock and trauma, what the average juror’s level of shock and trauma is going to be. That’s just one example, but it’s a job that literally requires you to become traumatized so that you can do your job. That’s a really hard thing to put on normal human beings. So that’s just one example, but a lot of judges say the hardest thing about what they do, and this goes for trial and appellate judges is just being exposed to how broken the world is.

Terry Maroney:

They often say things like “I see people at their worst. I never hear a good story. Federal judges love doing naturalization ceremonies, because it’s such a happy day. State court judges love to do adoption, consent adoption because they finally get to do something good.” It can be a real grind. I hear judges say, “I basically process evictions all day and I can’t do anything about it.” So it’s that combination of requiring the judge to have emotionally difficult experiences. It’s being exposed to a very disproportionately negative account of human reality because most reasons why people are in court are not good reasons. Somebody’s usually very unhappy, and then the sense frustration that can be the nail in that coffin I think, and that, “I can’t really do anything about it. I can’t solve the problem of child pornography. I can just handle this one case. I can’t really solve the housing crisis. All I do is inflict pain by processing evictions and I have no choice.”

Terry Maroney:

So I think that’s the danger zone for judges is that if they’re getting those negative inputs without any opportunities to feel elevated or to feel a sense of agency, I think that’s when you get into compassion fatigue and that can just make people shut down. One judge who was interviewed by some colleagues of mine in Australia at one point said, “You have a choice of remaining open to it all, which you can’t do because then your emotions are essentially too raw at all times, or just growing a skin on you thick as a rhino,” and this judge’s words, in which case you can’t be a good judge because he lost the feeling for humanity. So there’s this feeling of a rock and hard place, and I’m interested in the third way, what’s not the rock and what’s not the hard place? How can you notice them even understand the things that are hard and process them and think about them and work through them in a way that allows you to be healthy and to do your job well, but also take care of yourself.

Chris Newbold:

All right. Let’s take a quick break right here. Terry, I think you’ve done a wonderful job setting the table about all the different areas that you’ve been involved with. I’d love to continue to drill down in the second half about where do we go and what you’ve found and what you advise, as we think about the confidence in the legal system is so important in terms of the wellness of our judges is to the public’s confidence and its effectiveness. I just love the work that you’re doing. I got to imagine that there’s not a lot of people doing what you do, which is, I think another really interesting part of-

Terry Maroney:

That is true. [crosstalk 00:30:15]

Chris Newbold:

… who you are and [crosstalk 00:30:15].

Terry Maroney:

I wish there were more. Maybe they’ll hear this podcast.

Chris Newbold:

That’s right. That’s right. So let’s take a quick break.

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Chris Newbold:

All right. Welcome back. We are joined by Professor Terry Maroney from Vanderbilt University, and we are exploring law and emotion and the judiciary. Terry, I want to pick up a little bit about just how you see your own personal role. Obviously, you’ve done a lot of work as you’ve done, you’re working to understand the forces that are affecting judicial effectiveness, and ultimately, confidence in the system. Do you see yourself as an insider or outsider to the wellness movement as you’ve observed? Do you see yourself as an advocate after you’ve conducted the research? Are you building the trail map to a better judicial outcome and a better way of going about the work from the bench? I just love the fact of what got you involved in this movement, that’s to help people. I certainly can see that the way that you’re going about it is a very interesting one, in which there can’t be many others in your space who are actually doing what you’re doing.

Terry Maroney:

Yes, that’s true. Again, I wasn’t joking when I said I hope some people join me after hearing this podcast, because we need more people in this strange, little world that I inhabit. But so to answer your question, though, Chris, can I just choose all of the above? There’s not a thing you said that I don’t identify with in some way. I am an insider to both the lawyer/judge Well-Being Movement, and I’m an insider, to some degree, within the judiciary because I think I’ve earned their trust and they’ve earned my respect. I work directly with courts and with judges on trying to strengthen capacity for judges to be able to notice, name, and understand their emotions and service of being better judges and more satisfied people.

Terry Maroney:

Sometimes, I’m a bit like an embedded anthropologist, but I think one benefit of being a scholar in addition to all those of other things, is I’m very, very committed to correct paths, which sounds perhaps a little opaque, so let me say what I mean. I do not want to be in a position of advocating well-being practices, for example, that are not productive in the way judges need them to be productive, or I’m not interested in forcing a particular account of how judges’ emotions ought to infuse their work and their work product. I think it’s very important to actually have that academic distance to follow the evidence and to follow the stories and try to see what’s true.

Terry Maroney:

I think that’s something that scholars can really bring to this field is saying, “Let’s not assume, for example,” I’ll pick a random example,” that conventional anger management sessions “work,” or that they’re going to work for judges with anger regulation problems in the way that will be most productive for them, and best for the courts, and best for public trust in the judiciary. Do we know that?” I don’t think we know that, so I would like to know that. I’d like to know what works, and in order to know what works you have to know what you’re aiming for, right? What do we see as the new model of the good judge if it’s not the person who’s divested of all emotion, but a person who is conscious of his or her emotions then uses them in certain ways and not in others?

Terry Maroney:

That’s a more complicated view, and it’s not completely obvious what it is. So I’m giving a long answer to a short-ish question, which is, “Who am I in these spaces?” I think I’m, I’m a fellow traveler. I think I’m an advocate for things that increase the public’s face in the courts, because the courts deserve it. I’m not interested in artificial inflation of their brand, but I am absolutely in favor of helping the public, see what it is that they do and what they do well and help them do it better. But I’m also just an academic who wants to make sure that we’re collectively not just following well worn paths, assuming that certain things are or are not true, certain things will or will not “help” in a certain way, just to bring that of discipline and some distance to it. So yes, all of the above.

Chris Newbold:

Yeah. But based upon your research, though, it certainly feels like you would be at the potential epicenter of also being helpful in writing the prescription. Is that fair to say?

Terry Maroney:

I hope that’s true. Again, this is where it’s an all of the above answer. I do you work specifically with courts to help them implement real changes and real things. I talk to real judges in groups about how, for example, to help their appellate court achieve a higher level of productive collegiality, which requires a lot of emotion regulation in a group, and avoiding toxic behavior patterns, et cetera. So not all academics make that journey into helping to write and implement the solution, but I do. Again, as long as I always can feel comfortable that I haven’t talked myself into something without adequate basis or that I’m not pushing an agenda without real things behind it, as long as I’m not crossing that line, I think that’s really, the best and highest use of that scholarly set of skills, the discipline and the distance. What are we all here on earth to do really, if not to try to help our fellow human beings do a better job for each other. Right?

Chris Newbold:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Terry Maroney:

So that is my somewhat grandiose hope for this research is that I have this little sticky note on my computer monitor that I scratched out a little while ago that said, “Strengthening democracy, one judge at a time.” It’s a little silly, but in some ways that that’s how I like to think of myself.

Bree Buchanan:

That’s wonderful. So when you’re talking to judges around the country, and it sounds like you do talk to them about what to do for themselves individually to support their staff, maybe the lawyers that come in their courts, what do you talk to them about and how are those messages received?

Terry Maroney:

So I definitely want to make clear that I’m not a therapist. I’m not a judge whisperer, and that’s not what I’m trying to do here, but I am somebody who sits at the center of a Venn diagram, that again, not that many people have, which is I really, really understand legal culture and I really, really understand courts and judging to some degree, and I understand affective science and sociology of emotion. So it’s translational, I guess, what I do. What I try to do when I’m working specifically with judges or with groups of judges, which is, of course, more are common, is try to take lessons, for example, about productive and non-productive forms of emotion regulation. For example, the difference between learning to think about things differently, which leads one to feel differently about them. That’s called cognitive appraisal.

Terry Maroney:

The difference between cognitive appraisal or reappraisal, which is a very high order, intellectually-challenging, but very productive emotion regulation. It tends to, again, buy a person a whole lot of perspective on what their emotion is about. It gives them room to work with. It helps them distinguish good reasons and bad reasons. It can elevate positive emotion, minimize negative emotion. It’s an all-around really great emotion regulation tool. Contrast that with suppression and denial, which is actually what we encourage judges to do through our cultural narrative, which are disasters. They don’t work very well. They don’t actually minimize the emotions you want and minimize, and they backfire and they eat up all sorts of your cognitive glue. One of my good friends, James Gross, an affective psychologist at Stanford once quipped, “Suppression and denial make you temporarily stupider,” and it’s true.

Terry Maroney:

We don’t want our judges to be the temporarily stupider, nor do they, right? They don’t either. So I think what I try to do at my core is I try to take these lessons from the sciences, including the social sciences and I translate them into the context that judges understand, which is the context of their daily work. So we try to work towards identifying moments of work- related emotion that they’re experiencing, identifying the kinds of emotion regulation tools that a person can throw at such a thing, educating them about what these different tools are, and giving them the data on, basically, what’s going to work out well for them in the long run and why, and how can they practice those things? Hopefully that gives a sense of what I do.

Chris Newbold:

Terry, what are you seeing in terms of judicial involvement in terms of leaning into the Well-Being and Law Movement? Are you seeing barriers, and if so, how do you think that we can overcome some of those and are there generational elements to that?

Terry Maroney:

Yeah, that’s a great question. Actually, it makes me realize it’s connected to the last part of your last question, which I didn’t quite answer, which is, how are these messages being received? So I think, in my experience, judges overwhelmingly have been very hungry for this kind of information and this kind of recognition. It’s a weird thing to walk through a very, very important job as a human being and yet, be treated as if you’re not really supposed to be a human being. I think it really stifles a lot of judges’ ability to interact productively with peers, to reach past the isolation inherent in the job. We’re not doing judges any favor by treating them as some like super beings that are supposed to pull off something that no ordinary human being can pull off.

Terry Maroney:

So judges, I have been very surprised, well, I’m not surprised anymore, when I started, I was very surprised just how excited they would get about it. It wasn’t particularly breaking down along any demographics, like judges that I might have predicted would not be open to the message have been open to the message, because it reflects the reality. Who doesn’t crave having their lived experience seen and recognized, and given the space to actually talk about it in a non-judgmental way and give tools to try to do a better job, be a better judge, be a happier person? So the reception has been great. That said, that’s the sunny part. That said, there are very real barriers. So I would not be telling the truth if I didn’t say that there’s also a very significant element of pushback. Though, again, I don’t personally experience a lot of it.

Terry Maroney:

The people who come to my workshops, for example, either choose to be there, so there are self-selected groups, or they’re forced to be there and they just don’t say anything about it, and they just walk out of the room and think, “Well, that was a lot of bunk, great?” So I’m often not exposed to the pushback personally, but judges tell me about it. So I’ll give you a couple for examples. Once I was doing a very small workshop with a particular court. So I was, basically, at a court retreat and I was doing an emotional granularity session, basically, and presenting data on the kinds of work-related emotional experiences that judges, have giving a lot of examples and stories, and it could get pretty sad. It’s like “Here are the things that are making people sad. Here’s what disgusts them. Here’s why they’re angry. This is when they feel hopeless,” et cetera.

Terry Maroney:

At one point in the granularity session, one of the judges, now keep in mind is this small group I think is fewer than 20 people, all of whom know each other very well, just shouts right in the middle of me saying something shouts, “What is the point of all of this?” Just yells it out. He just could not tolerate it for one single second. I took it in stride and I treated it as an interesting moment. I said, “You know what? That’s a good question. What is the point of this, folks?” What happened then, was what I thought was one of the best discussions that we could possibly have had, because the other judges were so mortified that he had done that, that they were like, “Here’s why this is important because we really need to notice what we’re feeling,” and they taught themselves what I was trying to teach them. So that was a very dramatic moment of pushback.

Terry Maroney:

More broadly, judges talk to me about, there are a lot of their judicial peers, well, I’ll tell you, one said to me once, “I would talk to you,” meaning me, this is in an interview, “I’ll tell you all these things, but I’m never going to tell the judge down the hall. I just wouldn’t do it. I don’t want to be perceived as weak or as squishy or as flawed,” or like, “I’ll talk to you, but I won’t talk to them.” That’s, I think, the deepest form of pushback is when you don’t feel like you can have honest, supportive conversations with your peers who are the only other humans on the planet who know what your job is like, right?

Bree Buchanan:

Right.

Terry Maroney:

That’s, I think, the deepest barrier that I’d like eventually to see completely dismantled.

Chris Newbold:

Yeah. Well, we certainly appreciate it. We just a couple minutes remaining, terry. Do you feel like the judiciary understands the impact and the role that they have had and can continue to have on this movement as a whole? Obviously, Bree was at the forefront of getting our report in front of The Conference of Chief Justices, which I think was-

Terry Maroney:

Right.

Chris Newbold:

A really big deal in terms of catapulting-

Terry Maroney:

It is.

Chris Newbold:

… this movement.

Terry Maroney:

Yep.

Chris Newbold:

Do think that they, as a collective group, understand how important this is to the future of the profession.?

Terry Maroney:

Yes and no. One, it’s hard to say anything about the judiciary as a whole, especially in a Federalist system like we have. We have so many different types of judges spread out and so many different types of judging. So I’m always slow to group together judges with wildly different jobs who work in wildly different places, and we’re talking tens and tens and tens of thousands of people. So that’s my huge caveat, as I would never say the judiciary block. That said, I have definitely seen change among both the state and the federal judiciary, that there is absolutely an increased awareness of, pardon me, the need for a wellness programming and the need for a broad range of wellness supports. I think that’s because of not just the amazing work that y’all have done with building up awareness of lawyer well-being, but also just pioneers within the judiciary.

Terry Maroney:

So I would be remiss. For example, not to call out the Wellness Committee of the U.S. Court of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit, which in the federal system is really the pinnacle of a court that got it early and leaned in early and has continued to do just terrific work and people look at them as a model, and that’s starting to proliferate. It hasn’t proliferated completely through the federal judiciary, of course not, but you don’t hear anybody making fun of it anymore, which you would have as recently as five, 10 years ago. On the state level, again, I have seen even more movement in this direction often as an outgrowth of what started as, say, a Lawyer Assistance Program, or a LAP, and is now a Judges and Lawyer’s Assistant Program, or a JLAP, which is a really important move.

Terry Maroney:

Again, there have been some states that have really been leaders in this space, some that are still catching up, but absolutely. I think, especially as public attention just continues to be focused on the courts, more and more court proceedings are being recorded. It’s so easy to find evidence of, for example, anger displayed by judges on YouTube. I wrote this article years ago called Angry Judges and had these research assistants who I basically said, “Go on the internet and find me salient examples of judges losing their temper.” We couldn’t even keep up with the volume of it, because our culture loves that stuff, and it’s terrible for the image of the judiciary, that we love that stuff. So I feel like there is more attention now to the human beings in these positions and a recognition that when they’re regulating their emotions poorly it has very negative impacts, not just on them, but also on justice and on the fairness of our court system.

Terry Maroney:

I think courts live in some fear of having such an incident within their system because, again, it’s obviously bad for the litigants, but it’s just bad, generally. I think there have also been quite a lot of cases, of course, have had to confront colleagues who are experiencing, say, severe cognitive decline, but aren’t realizing it and really shouldn’t be hearing cases anymore, but they are, it’s a very delicate situation. So yes, the short answer is yes, judges and judicial leaders see this and they want to make sure that judges are being given every single opportunity and encouragement to live the longest, happiest, healthiest lives they possibly can because their individual flourishing is crucial to the court flourishing, which is crucial to our societal flourishing. These things cannot be separated. The one grows from the other.

Chris Newbold:

Excellent. Excellent. Well, we’ve been joined today by professor Terry Maroney. Terry, we, again, thank you so much for your insights and your research and the work that you’re doing in the judicial environment. Obviously, when you go to work every day and your professional mission statement is, “Strengthening democracy one judge at a time,” that’s a pretty cool lifelong pursuit, for sure. So again, Terry, thanks for joining us. That wraps up a three-part series on the research and scholarship side of well-being, and I think Bree and I are talking about moving into the diversity, equity, and inclusion side of well-being as we head into the new year. So again, thanks everyone for joining us and thank you, Terry.

Terry Maroney:

Thank you so much for having me.

Chris Newbold:

All right. Thanks.

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