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Reflections from the Bench: Procedural Fairness and Trauma: How do we avoid re-traumatizing our court users?

I have spent 29 years as a general jurisdiction trial court judge, primarily in the criminal and family courts. Every day on the bench I saw those who had been traumatized by the crimes, actions or neglect of others. I know my experience is not unusual. A 2016 Bureau of Justice Statistics report tells us that the majority of Americans will experience a violent crime at some point in their lives. One in four children will suffer abuse or neglect. That adds up to 3 million children per year. Simply put, it is an unusual day when someone who has experienced trauma is not in the courtroom.

January for divorces?

January has earned the nickname “Divorce Month” in legal circles because many couples wait until just after the holiday season to divorce. A study from the University of Washington from 2016, which looked at divorce filings from 2001-15 in the state of Washington, concluded that the number of filings increased in January, compared to December. Filings climbed from January to March, fell again, and rose to another peak in August.

How I spent my senior status

I was appointed to a state judicial position – Maricopa County AZ Superior Court Commissioner – in 1979, when I was 28, and have been a judicial officer of one stripe or another (Superior Court judge, federal magistrate judge, 9th Circuit judge) ever since. That’s 40 years on the bench. I’ve loved every minute of it (not counting court meetings), but when I became eligible for senior status in 2016, I decided I did not want to waste that unique opportunity. I don’t know of any other job, in or out of government, that allows a person to decide for himself how much he or she wants to continue to work, to draw full pay no matter what, to stay connected to colleagues and professional goings-on – and to still have plenty of time to pursue other interests.