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Judgment And Non-Judgment

Judgment is a bedrock principle of the legal profession-- judges hand down judgment most every day. More broadly, lawyers (from whose ranks most, if not all, judges come) render advice or counsel based on their understanding of the law, almost every hour of the day. So, how can a profession grounded in judgment, ever embrace the concept of non-judgment?

The answer is obvious to anyone who might give the matter a moment's thought. Even though judges are-- quite literally -- referred to as "judge", and even though they're asked to render what is-- again, literally-- referred to as "judgment", they are not expected to act in a judgmental manner. The same is true of lawyers in general, when they're asked to exercise their best judgment on behalf of a client.

The exercise of what we English-speaking people refer to as "judgment" has absolutely nothing to do with being judgmental-- quite to the contrary, being judgmental is complete anathema to the exercise (or rendering) of sound judgment. Being judgmental (either as a judge, or as a lawyer) is to fall prey to one's personal bias-- be it implicit bias, or explicit bias. That's why bias training is so important for judges in particular, and lawyers in general.

What, then, is legal judgment-- if not judgmental? An interesting answer has been suggested by a thoughtful young British academic, of whom I've become a fan-- his name is Joey Weber, and the answer he suggests is judgment by a different name: Discernment-- informed by another important quality that has a rich human history. Equanimity.

Discernment-- the act of distinguishing one thing from another-- is something we all do. It seems to have been genetically coded into human DNA, and it's an everyday fact of life. The important difference between discernment and judgmental differentiation is that the former is objective, and the latter is subjective.

So, where does the concept of equanimity come into the equation? That could be the topic of an entire other posting, and in fact, it will be the focus of my very next blog. In the meantime, just remember that being judgmental of others is not the same thing as holding people accountable to the rule of law.

Being judgy, is not part of discernment!


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