The Judicial Misconduct Dictionary: Moving to the Middle

Phrase for the day:

Moving to the middle.

Moving to the middle:  this is my own phrase to explain the process whereby a lawyer becomes a judge.  A lawyer is an advocate.  And an advocate is rewarded for urging the merits of one side of a controversy.

In order to move from advocate to judge, a lawyer needs to learn to move to the middle.  This isn’t a political phrase meaning middle-of-the-road as between conservative and liberal.  Rather, it is meant to articulate the essence of judging:  to sit as Solomon, to hear both sides, having loyalty to neither, and to decide from the middle of the controversy.

What I’ve found in over 20 years of observing judges, is that some lawyer-advocates move to the middle with extreme ease and even panache.  They grasp fairly early on in their judicial career what it means to ‘sit in the middle.’  This is truly a talent to be admired.  And the judicial aptitude of those judges is nearly instantly apparent to experienced lawyers.

I use ‘moving to the middle’ because it describes a process.  No one expects any human being to learn a new job instantly.  But at some point, to be a good judge, this needs to be accomplished.

Unfortunately, there are those judges who don’t seem to get that they need to shed their lawyer skin, and ‘move to the middle.’  There are those lawyers who don robes, but are never able to move from advocate to judge.  They continue to advocate for one of the sides in the controversy; they cannot stop being lawyers.

In the context of judicial misconduct, failing to move to the middle can signal a host of ethics issues, and I’ll use the phrase when discussing those issues.