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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