Judges walk the line between humility and hubris. While they are comfortable making big decisions and passing judgments that affect everyone from members of their own families to international political leaders, they do so with the care of scholars and historians, and rely on precedent and analyses before making any decisions.
In this way, they have the quality of the sage, who has to discard personal biases and pettiness to evaluate larger issues and higher truths. They are a combination of authoritative and humble—focused on listening for small details while thinking about the meaning of a decision in the larger scheme of things. More than umpires and less than gods, Judges must apply lofty views to down-to-earth problems.
King Solomon remains the icon for the archetype, with his high standards, sense of balance, and ability to extract truths from the duplicitous. But throughout history, Judges including Thomas Danforth, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Marshall, William Joseph Brennan, Jr., and others have impacted daily life by determining the direction in which a society will go in terms of personal freedoms and political rights.
In this era of heated conversation, when judgments are often passed without thought and American Idol judges and Judge Judy preside on TV, our venerable Supreme Court Justices include several women who must maintain cool heads that are full of complex and opposing precedents. Like their predecessor Sandra Day O’Connor, Elena Kagan, and Sonya Satomayor present a dignified detachment from political ideology.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Benjamin Cardozo, Lance Ito, William Rehnquist
Judges are great listeners. Ethics and morals are their strong suits as well, and because of their adherence to the highest internal codes, they can offer more answers than most, seeing clearer solutions when others cannot.
Sitting above others while passing judgment, whether literally or figuratively, can make Judges arrogant and also methodical in ways that drag out simple decisions
Current events, history, legal doctrine
- Judgment at Nuremberg by Abby Mann
- Law and Psychiatry by William O. Douglas
- How Judges Think by Rodhard A. Posner
- Laughing at the Gods: Great Judges and How They Made the Common Law by Allan C. Hutchinson
“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr.