s I stood at my stand-up desk, read-
ing an on-line article about a study
promoting the benefits of sitting, I
became aware of shadowy figures
pacing and lurking outside my office
door. Members of our staff had gathered there
in a manner that resembled gang mem-
bers in a dark alley. I realized then that
it was that time again – the time when
Texas Center staff become cool toward
me. The time when my attempts at ca-
sual conversation with them fall flat. You
guessed it -- it’s the time when the deadline for submitting
In Chambers, Letter from the CEO
has passed without my compliance. So,
let’s get this done.
EQ vs IQ
I’m going out on a limb, here, but I’m coming to the conclusion
that successful judging has more to do with people skills than either innate
intelligence or even legal knowledge. The more I think about it, both observing
others and reflecting on my own performance over my years on the Bench,
the more I believe that a brilliant person without the ability to interact nicely
with people can be an unproductive judge, while a basically competent but not
scholarly, yet nice, person can be a success on the Bench.
Which leads me to some questions:
Can you teach niceness to someone not
so disposed? And, can you teach either common sense or good judgment to
folks seemingly equipped with neither?
Actually, I think it can be done, if the individual sees the value in making changes. I certainly think I was
better equipped to deal with folks the longer I served on the Bench, and perhaps, the more I matured. I also
learned that I needed to be the same person both on and off of the Bench. For instance, it was not a good
thing for me to be a docket tyrant on the Bench and a pleasant fellow when off. The point was made to me
when, in my early years, a lawyer told me he sure enjoyed visiting with me – when I was off the Bench. I
proceeded to address the issue, learning to be the same person wherever I was. It was good for everybody I
think. I know it was for me.
Whether it involves prodding cases to resolution, ruling on trial objections or simply communicating with
parties, lawyers or staff, I think it’s more important to behave in an agreeable fashion than to simply know
and apply the law and principles of caseflow management. In my opinion, the successful judge should also
have a basic fondness for people.
It also helps to have a sense of humor.
Judges deal with very serious matters – even tragic ones,
but the successful judge, to enjoy the job to
the fullest, should learn to recognize amusing things when they’re encountered. In my top desk drawer is a
By Judge Mark D. Atkinson, CEO