Expert Pitch

"Angry judges" scholar available to discuss judicial temperament

4-Oct-2018 1:05 PM EDT, by Vanderbilt University

Newswise — More than a thousand law professors have signed a letter in today’s New York Times stating that Judge Brett Kavanaugh lacks the temperament to serve effectively on the Supreme Court. But what is judicial temperament and how do you measure it?

Vanderbilt law professor Terry Maroney is one of very few scholars of judicial temperament in the country and has studied how anger impacts judges. In forthcoming research—the first study in academic literature to explicitly consider the issue of judicial temperament in depth—she incorporates a psychological approach in order to help pin down the emotional qualities and behavioral qualities a judge should possess. She is available to discuss from a nonpartisan perspective what we mean by judicial temperament, how we might go about defining it and which issues raised in Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing are relevant to the discussion.

  • Anger isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Maroney says anger can be a good thing for judges to express—judges are human, after all—but to be effective it must be wielded righteously, not aggressively, and it must be appropriate to the context. Read about her research on angry judges: https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2013/01/09/angry-judge-good-judge/
  • Temperament is a combination of emotion and behavior: Maroney says judicial temperament is not just a laundry list of positive qualities—compassion, empathy, kindness—but also a question of stress management and emotional regulation. She says it’s important to know whether the judge has a pattern of outbursts or belligerence under stress, or whether an incident is just a one-off.
  • What this means for the Kavanaugh debate: Maroney says the key to evaluating Kavanaugh’s temperament is deciding whether the anger he expressed during the hearing was appropriate to the context and whether it is indicative of a troubling pattern.

Maroney is an experienced broadcast interviewer. Vanderbilt has a 24/7 satellite broadcast studio and can support ISDN radio interviews:https://news.vanderbilt.edu/resources/vustar/ 

Please contact Vanderbilt's Office of Strategic Communications at 615-322-NEWS (Option 1) to be connected to her. 

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