Help for a Fellow Judge

Concerned About Another Judge?

JCJ provides intervention assistance.

You have noticed that your colleague seems to be “off.” Perhaps they have become unreliable, erratic, isolated, more irritable, and/or their physical appearance has changed. They seem to lack focus, or they are calling off work at an increasing rate. Perhaps the quality of their work product is also declining. Call us to confidentially express your concerns; we can recommend resources and an approach that may assist your fellow judge.

Let JCJ staff assist you in formulating a thoughtful, collaborative and empowering approach that has the highest likelihood of successfully encouraging your colleague to accept assistance.

Your call to JCJ does not obligate you to take any action. We will answer your questions, provide free literature, and offer guidance. You may even choose to remain anonymous or to withhold the identity of the lawyer or judge in distress.

Why Should I Help a Fellow Judge in Distress?

Professionals struggling with mental health and substance use issues often do not seek help on their own; you can be the person who saves your colleague’s career and perhaps his or her life:

  • Mental health and substance use disorders cause biologic and structural changes in the brain that may prevent individuals from having insight into their own illness or its consequences.
  • Many fear that negative career consequences or damage to their reputation will occur if they seek help. In fact, by not seeking and receiving the assistance they need, their career and health will certainly suffer.
  • Because of their status in the legal profession and the community, judges may feel particularly isolated and mistakenly believe that they cannot safely confide in anyone, or that they should be able to solve their ‘problems’ themselves.

What is My Duty to Report? What About Confidentiality?

We are a self-regulating profession with a duty to promote the administration of justice and preserve the integrity of the organized Bench and Bar. Canon 2 of the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct indicates that “appropriate action” must be taken if impairment of a lawyer or judge is suspected. Such action may include referral to a lawyer or judicial assistance program (such as Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers or Judges Concerned for Judges):

Rule 2.14. Disability and Impairment

“A judge having a reasonable belief that the performance of a lawyer or another judge is impaired by drugs or alcohol, or by a mental, emotional, or physical condition, shall take appropriate action, which may include a confidential referral to a lawyer or judicial assistance program (emphasis added).

Comment:     (1) ‘‘Appropriate action’’ means action intended and reasonably likely to help the judge or lawyer in question address the problem and prevent harm to the justice system. Depending upon the circumstances, appropriate action may include but is not limited to speaking directly to the impaired person, notifying an individual with supervisory responsibility over the impaired person, or making a referral to an assistance program.

(2) Taking or initiating corrective action by way of referral to an assistance program may satisfy a judge’s responsibility under this Rule (emphasis added). Assistance programs have many approaches for offering help to impaired judges and lawyers, such as intervention, counseling, or referral to appropriate health care professionals. Depending upon the gravity of the conduct that has come to the judge’s attention, however, the judge may be required to take other action, such as reporting the impaired judge or lawyer to the appropriate authority, agency, or body. See Rule 2.15.”

Dangerous Myths that Keep People Sick

  • Judges are immune from mental health or substance use issues.
  • Addiction is a ‘moral’ issue.
  • It will get better eventually.
  • Just cheer up and get over it. He or she can ‘will’ themselves out of it.
  • It is none of my business. If their conduct does not affect me or my courtroom, it is not my problem.
  • If I approach my colleague, I will jeopardize my relationship with him or her.
  • We should not discuss these matters for fear of ruining my colleague’s reputation and career.

Do not sit idly by while a colleague’s struggles harm their health and professionalism.

The only ‘wrong’ thing you can do is nothing!