Article excerpt

Some ideas are better than others, but approximately 10 years ago I had a good one: to do something about the abysmal fact that, near the end of the 20th century, with all its miraculous medical advances, there was available nowhere in the federal system any assistance such as counseling, or even a leave policy, to help judges deal with problems of stress, bereavement, illness, substance abuse, or other disabilities. Judges were apparently supposed to make judgments affecting the lives and liberty of others without being adversely affected by any of the problems that beset the rest of the human race.

With the full support of my predecessor, then Chief Judge Proctor Hug of Nevada, our Ninth Circuit Council established the "Disability Task Force" in 1999. Under the inspired leadership of the late District Judge Judith Keep of San Diego, the task force learned that federal judges are aging, that they suffer harmful effects of years of isolation, and that they want to keep their problems from becoming public knowledge. What was needed was a promise of confidential assistance. …