When the Helper Needs Help
Like everyone else, judges sometimes encounter problems with stress, depression, alcohol and other drugs, and balancing work and family. Although these problems can take a heavy toll, judges are often reluctant to seek assistance for themselves because of fear, embarrassment, denial, and even hopelessness. Judges’ problems are also more likely to go unnoticed and unaddressed by others due to the insular nature of their work, leaving them untreated and at greater risk for serious professional and personal consequences.
One Judge Helping Another
Judicial staff and fellow judges are often in the best position to identify problems, but how to turn these concerns into helpful intervention can be intimidating and confusing. NMLAP can offer trained volunteer judges to provide concerned persons with important support and increase the effectiveness of the intervention.
Through NMJLAP, judges may access confidential, judicial peer support and professional services at no cost for:
- alcohol and other drug abuse.
Professional assessments, information, and referrals are also provided at no cost to judges and family members concerned with issues such as:
- marital and family relationships,
- chronic stress,
- eating disorders,
- balancing work and family.
Ensuring Confidentiality and Effective Court Operations
To encourage early involvement with the NMJLAP program and its peer volunteers,
the New Mexico Supreme Court adopted order 05-8110 in May 2005, which states, “communications made to a member, staff, or authorized agent of the Lawyers Assistance Program, and any proceedings and records of the Lawyers Assistance Program, are privileged as hereinafter described. The privilege shall apply in any court, Disciplinary Board, Board of Bar Examiners, or Judicial Standards Commission proceeding.”
The Supreme Court “further ordered that a judge or justice requiring or seeking
confidential healthcare for an extended period of time shall confer, in confidence, with the Chief Judge of their district and the Chief Justice to ensure that adequate arrangements are made for the orderly management of their docket during their
Peer Advisor Model
One judge helping another creates a powerful relationship that can have a tremendous impact on the healing process. A judge who has “been there” can ease the initial fears and provide unique support and direction. Call the Judges Helpline at 1-888-502-1289 for more information and referrals to peer advisors.
Promoting Positive Change
One of every 10 legal professionals will deal with an addiction problem (alcohol, other drugs, food, gambling, food) during their career — and some studies put it as high as 20 percent. An additional 33% of professionals will experience either short-term or chronic symptoms of depression or stress.
Judges occupy a unique and powerful force within the legal profession. Judges are also in a position to observe what others may not — the lawyer in action and the lawyer who may be impaired. This is particularly important given the high number of attorneys engaged in sole practice situations where warning signs are likely to be unseen and unchecked. By working collaboratively with NMJLAP, judges can bring about positive change in the lives and careers of lawyers in crisis.
Resources Tailored for Members of the Bench
Who Takes Care of Those Who Take Care: A video presentation for judges by the NM Supreme Court and NMJLAP.
Articles from the July-August 2006 issue of Judicature: (PDF)
- Helping Judges in Distress: Page 10
- The Harder they Fall: A Hand Up for Impaired Judges: Page 16
- Addressing Disability and Promoting Wellness in the Federal Courts: Page 26
- The Worst Kept Secret in the Courthouse: Page 30