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Work-Related Stress in

American Trial Judges

Tracy D. Eells and C. Robert Showalter
This study examines work-related stress among American trial judges using a
relational model of stress, which emphasizes an individual's appraisals in a person-
situation relationship. A representative sample of 88 judges completed three ques-
tionnaires addressing type and magnitude of specific work-related stressors, psy-
chological stress symptoms, and psychosocial moderators of stress. Factor analysis
revealed five types of stressors: case, litigating party, purposes and consequences
of decisions, conflicts between professional and personal values, and seriousness
of a criminal offense. The most stressful aspects of work relate to poorly prepared
or disrespectful counsel, exercising judicial management and discretion, and highly
emotional cases under public scrutiny. Correlational analyses show that stress is
associated with cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, including a possible
adverse impact on decision-making capacity. Results are discussed in terms of the
relational model of stress.

Researchers have established that stress effects of stress at work,I4-l6 including

can have an adverse impact on one's the professional ranks. Several profes-
physical and psychological sions have been examined, including
well-being6 ' This effect is moderated, physicians and nurses, l 7 pharmacists, l 7
however, by intervening psychosocial and business persons.I8 Very little is
variables, such as hardiness,"ype A known, however, about the nature and
and Type B personality styles,%ense of impact of work-related stress on judges.
humor,'0 social upp port,^ self- The burgeoning body of occupational
complexity12and coping.13 One result of stress research has identified several fea-
these findings is that behavioral scien- tures of the work environment that pro-
tists have increasingly studied adverse duce stress in workers. These include the
absence of control over one's workday,
Dr. Eells is assistant professor of psychiatry and behav- ambiguity about one's work responsibil-
ioral sciences, University of Louisville. Dr. Showalter is ities, role conflict, poor interpersonal re-
clinical associate professor of behavioral medicine and
psychiatry, University of Virginia School of Medicine, lationships, fear of job obsolescence.
and lecturer, University of Virginia School of Law. This lack ofjob security, and job content that
paper was presented at the 23rd annual meeting of the
American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, October lacks meaning and stimulation.13 How
16, 1992, Boston, MA. The authors express their appre- these general factors may apply to the
ciation to three anonymous reviewers for their helpful
comments. Address correspondence to Dr. Eells, De- specific activities of judges has not been
partment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, 550 S.
Jackson St., University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
studied extensively.
40202. There is little question that a judge-

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1994 71

Eells and Showalter

ship offers many opportunities for per- cause of the position? You would like to
sonal fulfillment and satisfaction, and discuss cases, but are prohibited by the
that many judges gain significant per- ethical code." Suran2' has identified
sonal rewards from their work,19 which other stressors that judges face, including
is among the most prestigious our soci- an "overdeveloped capacity to defer
ety offers to its members. Despite the gratification" and an excessive need to
benefits, anecdotal evidence suggests control one's environment.
that judges face unusually high levels of The judicial system and the public's
stress. Zimmerman20 interviewed sev- perception of it also present stressors to
eral judges and identified many sources a judge. These include the widespread
of stress inherent to a judicial career. and erroneous view that a judge's sched-
Among these stressors is the lack of con- ule is leisurely, with many recesses and
trol most trial judges have over their postponements. Additional stressors are
caseload and the type of people appear- the incompatibility between the ideal of
ing before them. These individuals are individualized justice and the reality of
usually not society's upstanding citizens massive caseloads, the difficulty know-
represented by the best lawyers, but the ing how best to work with court admin-
most inadequate, unscrupulous, and istrators, and the incompatibility be-
marginally existing members of society. tween the ideal of judicial independence
The stress from lack of control might be and the need for supportive relationships
more manageable were judges not also with other judges.20
chronically burdened with a backlog of The quantitative evidence on judicial
cases, which can significantly tax their stress generally supports the anecdotal
capacity for empathy and dispassion. evidence just reviewed. Showalter and
According to ~ i r n m e r m a n , ~"When
' the Marte11,22for example, found that judges
workload grows steadily, a feeling of in- are overrepresented in the Type A or
cipient dread and helplessness can come "high stress" category than are other
over even the most conscientious and professionals. The only other study that
hardworking judge, one simply cannot we are aware of on occupational stress
get away." Other stressors identified by among judges showed that the primary
Zimmerman include social isolation, fi- stressor is the actual work performed23;
nancial pressure, lack of performance in many other professions, role conflict,
evaluation, and information overload. employer-employee relationships. and
Regarding social isolation, judges may career decisions are more stressful than
be unique in the necessity of distancing the work itself.24
themselves from long-held personal as-
sociations, often at the peak of their Psychological and Work-Related
career. As one judge reported to Zim- Stress
merman,20 "The position is obviously Psychological stress is difficult to de-
more lonely than private practice. Also, fine. Many researchers regard it primar-
are certain people only nice to you be- ily as a stimulus, or cause, of deleterious

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Judicial Stress

physiological or psychological conse- stressors, chronic stressors, and daily

quence~.'~ From this point of view, stress hassles.
comprises events that negatively im- The taxonomy and stimulus approach
pinge on an individual. These events to stress is useful but limited because
may arise outside the individual, such as individuals may respond differently to
a confrontation with an angry individ- the same stimulus. There is no universal
ual, or within the individual, such as response to stressful stimuli; instead, one
hunger, thirst, or the appraisal that an must consider the characteristics of in-
event is threatening. Note that some dividuals and situations that give stress-
researchers2' view positive and negative ful stimuli potency and meaning to that
stressors as having similar effects on an individual.
individual. For example, a job promo- Some researchers, primarily those in
tion might have effects on a person sim- biology and medicine, view stress in
ilar to those of a demotion. Following terms of an individual's response, that
is, its effects on the person. From this
S e l ~ ewe
, ~ will
~ use the term "stressor"
standpoint, researchers speak of a person
for the stress-as-stimulus approach.
in a stress state that entails distressing,
The view of stress as a stimulus has
disturbing, or otherwise harmful com-
led researchers to construct taxonomies
ponents. One problem with the view of
of stressors. Elliott and Ei~dordfer,~' for
stress as a response is that it does not
example, propose four basic types of allow one to distinguish between re-
stressors: acute, time-limited stressors, sponses that are stress related and those
such as waiting for a dental appointment that are not. An accelerated heart rate,
or experiencing a "near miss" while driv- for example, may be produced by the
ing; stressor sequences, which are a series stimulus of an angry and demanding
of events that follow an initiating event attorney and also by that of an enjoyable
such as job loss, divorce, or bereave- game of tennis. Without reference to the
ment; chronic intermittent stressors, stress stimulus, one cannot reliably clas-
such as conflict-filled sexual difficulties sify a response as stressful.13
or regular meetings with a harsh super- Lazarus and Folkman13 point out that
visor; and chronic stressors, such as con- all definitions of stress are circular when
tinual job stress or a conflict-ridden mar- they focus exclusively on either the stim-
riage. Lazarus and ~olleagues*~. 29 add ulus or the response. Such definitions
daily hassles as an important source of beg the question about what features of
stress. These are less dramatic but still a stimulus produce a stress response, and
imtating events that may occur fre- what features of a response indicate the
quently. Examples include having too effects of stress stimuli. In place of the
many responsibilities, being unable to traditional stimulus or response ap-
find necessary work supplies, and argu- proaches to stress, Lazarus and
ments with coworkers. In the present ~ o l k r n a n ~propose
' a relational model,
study, we focus on chronic intermittent in which psychological stress is defined
Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1994 73
Eells and Showalter

as a "particular relationship between the psychosocial factors such as humor and

person and the environment that is ap- social engagement may have on stress.
praised by the person as taxing or ex- Method
ceeding his or her resources and endan-
Subjects Eighty-eight American trial
gering his or her well-being." The ap-
judges participated in the study. All
praisal of an individual under a specific
judges attended a workshop titled "Fact
set of circumstances plays a critical role
Finding and Decision Making," spon-
in this approach to stress. Lazarus and
sored by the American Academy of Ju-
Folkman emphasize that the individual
dicial Education. One component of the
may or may not be aware of the ap-
workshop was completing the three
praisal he or she is making about a po-
questionnaires used in this study.
tentially stressful event. Thus, a stressful
event may have harmful consequences Measures
on a person without that person's aware- National Judges Health Stress Ques-
ness of these consequences. tionnaire (NJHSQ) This question-
We conceptualize work-related stress naire consists of items taken from a
within Lazarus and Folkman's relational larger survey of trial judges.32 We used
framework. Our focus, of course, is on it to obtain demographic information
the relationship between the individual and the judges' opinions on several as-
and his or her work environment. In pects of the work environment, includ-
accord with Lazarus and Folkman, we ing degree of control experienced, pres-
adhere to a "transactional model" of sure to move cases, satisfaction with case
analysis, which views the person and the variety, personnel effectiveness, salary
environment in a mutually reciprocal, satisfaction, and global stress experi-
bidirectional relationship. Thus, an ef- enced. Each work-related item was an-
fect of work stress at one point in time swered on a seven-point scale.
might be a cause at another time. We Judicial Stress Inventory (JSI) The
measured work stress in stimulus and in JSI is a 77-item questionnaire compris-
response terms, following Lazarus and ing specific stressors identified by an in-
Folkman's3' view that "it is appropriate dependent group of judges.33On a four-
to measure stress as either input, re- point scale, judges rate the frequency of
sponse, or strained relationship, as long occurrence (never, rarely, occasionally,
as the one being measured is made ex- always), frequency of stressfulness
plicit." Our goals in this report are to (never, rarely, usually, always), and in-
identify specific stressors in the judge's tensity (not, somewhat, quite, or ex-
work life, to assess the relationship of a tremely) of 77 stressor events. The final
judge's work environment to stress con- score for each item is the frequency of
sidered as a response, to examine the occurrence plus the product of the fre-
relationship between stress as response quency that the event is stressful and the
and psychological impairment, and fi- intensity of the stress. The maximum
nally, to explore the moderating role that value per item is 12, indicating that the

74 Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1994

Judicial Stress

event occurs "often," is "always stress- represented are circuit (28.4%), superior
ful" when it occurs and is "extremely (29.5%), district (2 1.6%), and county
stressful." The minimum value is zero, ( 1 1.4%) courts. Excepting the possibility
indicating that the event never occurs. of an overrepresentation of rural judges,
Brief Report Inventory (BRI) The these demographic characteristics are
Brief Report Inventory (BRI) is a mod- similar to those of a much larger sur-
ified version of the Symptom Check vey.34
List-90 Revised (SCL-90-R).34 We se- An initial question to answer is
lected 25 items from the SCL-90-R that whether demographic factors affect the
seemed to measure cognitive, affective, stress reported by the judges. To answer
and physical components of stress. In the question, we used analysis of vari-
addition, 10 of the 25 items were altered ance to compare the sum of JSI scores
in meaning to measure potentially adap- by sex, type of court, substantive juris-
tive effects of stress moderators.' For diction, method of selection, and com-
example, we altered "Feeling lonely even munity served. No statistically signifi-
when you are with people" to read "Par- cant differences were found. In addition,
ticipated in a social event I really en- correlational analyses revealed no signif-
joyed." icant relationships between JSI sum and
judicial experience (r = -.05, p < .67)
Results and age (r = -.07, p < .54). JSI sum
General Characteristics of the correlated negatively, however, with
Sample Demographic data show that years of legal experience (r = -.24, p <
the sample is representative of trial .02). The overall absence of significant
judges with rural and small urban juris- relationships between demographic vari-
dictions. The average age of the 88 ables and stress indicates that the judges
judges was 49 years (SD = 9.12) and 9 1 can be treated as one group in subse-
percent were males. The judges had quent analyses.
served an average of 6.5 years (SD = Type and Degree of Judicial Stress
5.6) and averaged 2 1 years (SD = 9.52) Considered as Stimulus Table 1 pre-
of total legal experience. Almost 60 per- sents the most and least stressful JSI
cent were elected to office, and the re- items. The most stressful aspects of work
maining were appointed. Most judges involve ill-prepared, inadequate, or abu-
(69%) served rural or small urban com- sive counsel. Also highly stressful are
munities with populations less than cases requiring active judicial manage-
250,000. Sixty-seven percent of the ment and decision-making discretion (as
judges had mixed jurisdictions, hearing when counsel poorly represents a client
both civil and criminal cases, with the or in pro se hearings), and highly emo-
possible addition of juvenile and traffic tional cases with strong public interest
cases. Fifteen percent heard only civil and scrutiny. In contrast, aspects of
cases and 16 percent heard only criminal work rated as least stressful are routine
cases. The types of court most frequently cases, those that do not require signifi-

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1994 75

Eells and Showalter
Table 1
Most and Least Stressful Aspects of Work As Measured by Judicial Stress lnventory
Mean ~ u d xStress
l Inventory Item
Most Stressful
Counsel is disrespectful or abusive of the judicial process.
Counsel is ill-prepared or inadequate.
Making decisions in cases in which no solution is clearly satisfactory.
Making decisions in cases where one party is poorly represented by
Pro se cases.
Making decisions in cases in which the emotional climate between
opposing attorneys is very volatile.
Making decisions in cases in which the emotional climate between
contesting parties is very volatile.
Public scrutiny of a judicial decision in a highly publicized case.
Strong public sentiment in a high publicity case.
Making decisions in cases that allow significant judicial discretion.
Least Stressful
Defendant is a police officer.
Case in which obtaining execution of judgment will be difficult, if not
Plaintiff is a police officer.
Cases containing religious connotations.
Imposing a criminal sentence that the public will probably view as too
Plaintiff is a "disreputable" character.
Being forced to impose a lenient mandatory sentence based on the
nature of a crime without regard for the individual characteristics of
the criminal.
Case involving a strong peer pressure from fellow judges.
Type of case: labor law.
Trials that are closed to the public entirely.

cant judicial discretion (e.g., where a nic minority (M = 2.41 vs. 2.80), or
mandatory sentence is imposed), those woman ( M = 2.70 vs. 3.02), than when
in which execution of a judgment ap- either is the defendant. In addition, the
pears doubtful, and those conducted judges report more stress when imposing
without public scrutiny. a sentence that the public may view as
The judges also appear to experience too lenient than one as too severe. Inter-
more stress in relation to the defendant estingly, the judges rated peer-pressure
in cases than the plaintiff. They reported stress as comparatively low.
less stress when the plaintiff is a "disre- Factor Anulysis of JSI With factor
putable" character (M = 1.82 vs. 2.56, analysis, one gains a different perspec-
respectively), juvenile ( M = 1.98 vs. tive on stress. Rather than ordering
3.05), police officer (M = 1.92 vs. 1.97), items according to their magnitude, fac-
v.i.p. (M = 2.18 vs. 2.64), poor person tor analysis groups them according to
(M = 2.49 vs. 3.15), member of an eth- correlations between the items. The goal

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Judicial Stress

of factor analysis is to statistically reduce includes concerns for whether the pur-
a large number of variables to a smaller pose of sentencing is retribution, deter-
number of "factors" that are presumed rence, or reform. An additional factor is
to underlie the correlations between the concern about public sentiment about a
original variables. The resulting factors decision.
are then interpreted according to their Factor 4 reflects conflict between
correlations with the original variables. professional and personal values. Items
We submitted the JSI to a principal correlating highly on Factor 4 include
components factor analysis using a var- making decisions that are clearly "cor-
imax rotation. This is a commonly used rect" from the legal perspective, but with
form of factor analysis. Five interpreta- which the judge has moral or pragmatic
ble factors were extracted, together ac- grounds for disagreement.
counting for 5 1 percent of the variance The highest loading items on Factor 5
among the 77 JSI items. Table 2 presents suggest stress related to the seriousness
the JSI items that correlated greater than of criminal offenses. Awareness of "law
.5 on each factor. and order" concerns in one's commu-
Factor 1 measures stress related to the nity may also play a role in this factor.
type of case the judge is presiding over. Work Experiences and Stress In this
Particularly stressful are complex and section we shift from viewing stress in
"high profile" cases that may have con- stimulus terms to viewing it as a re-
sequences for many individuals (as in sponse to a judge's work experiences.
class action suits and cases involving We measured stress as a response in two
civil rights or religion). Also stressful are ways: by summing each judge's JSI score
cases requiring considerable decision- and by each judge's direct report of
making latitude and active judicial man- stress, as reported on the National
agement, or those with potential for later Judges Health Stress Questionnaire
appellate review. (NJHSQ). The two stress measures differ
Factor 2 reflects concern for the par- in important ways. The detailed and
ties involved in a case, particularly vul- summary nature of the JSI is a more
nerable or "special" plaintiffs and de- detailed and comprehensive stress meas-
fendants. These include members of eth- ure because it covers many aspects of a
nic minorities, the poor, juveniles, judge's work life. As indicated earlier,
women, "disreputable" characters, the JSI score is the product of 231 dis-
"v.i.p.s," and police officers. crete decisions (77 items x 3 ratings per
Factor 3 measures stress about the item). On the other hand, the NJHSQ
purposes and consequences of one's de- stress item captures a judge's global,
cisions. Items loading highly on this fac- subjective experience of stress. The mea-
tor refer to providing justification for sure is based on the judge's response on
one's decision, especially where no clear a six-point scale to the question, "How
legal precedent has been set and where much stress are you currently experienc-
little solid evidence is available. It also ing?" ( 1 = no stress, 6 = extreme stress).

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1994 77

Eells and Showalter

Table 2
Correlations Between Judicial Stress Inventory (JSI) Factors and JSI Items*
JSI Item
Factor 1: Type of Case
Large (i.e., class action) as opposed to small case.
Case involving a clear "underdog" (as perceived by community or
Highly complex or technical case outside your field of knowledge where
expert testimony is crucial.
Case involving a large degree of judicial management and active partici-
pation in moving the case along.
Prospect of your decision being overturned on appeal by a higher court
based on a "doctrinal issue."
Prestigious attorney involved in case.
Making decisions in cases that allow significant judicial discretion.
Knowing that your decision will be followed or looked to by later courts.
Any ex parte hearing, especially those involving injunctions.
Prospect of your decision being overturned on appeal by a higher court
based on a "technical issue."
Making decisions in cases in which the emotional climate between
opposing attorneys is very volatile.
Case posing possible personal danger or other security problems.
Public scrutiny of a judicial decision in a highly publicized case.
Type of case: civil rights and liberties.
Cases containing religious connotations.
Factor 2: Type of Litigant
Plaintiff is a member of an ethnic minority.
Defendant is a poor person.
Plaintiff is a poor person.
Defendant is a woman.
Plaintiff is a juvenile.
Plaintiff is a woman.
Defendant is a police officer.
Defendant is a "disreputable" character.
Plaintiff is a v.i.p.
Factor 3: Purpose of Decision
Purpose of decision: combination of retribution, deterrence, or reform.
Plaintiff is a police officer.
Having to explain or justify your decision.
Purpose of decision: reform.
Strong public sentiment in a high publicity case.
Purpose of decision: deterrence.
Type of case: private economic.
Fear of the future consequences (for yourself) of your decision.
Apparent lack of pertinent analogies to your case (or precedents) in the
case law.
'Table includes only JSI items correlating greater than .5 with factor.

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1994

Judicial Stress
Table 2-Continued
r JSI Item
Factor 4: Professional and Personal Values Conflict
Making decisions in cases in which no solution is clearly satisfactory.
Making a decision that, although clearly "correct" from a legal perspec-
tive, you disagree with from a moral point of view.
Making a decision that, although clearly "correct" from a legal perspec-
tive, you disagree with from a pragmatic point of view.
Case in which obtaining execution of judgment will be difficult, if not
Political pressures if an elected judge.
Type of case: lifestyle issues such as gay rights or child custody
Factor 5: Seriousness of Criminal Offense
Seriousness of the offense.
Extent of offender's previous criminal record, if any.
Type of case: criminal law.
Type of case: alcohol/drugs involved.
Perception that there is a serious crime problem in your jurisdiction.

Table 3
Correlation of Two Stress Measures with Work Experience*
Work Ex~erience JSI Sumt NJHSQ Stresst.
Effective skill utilization (7 = effective, 1 = ineffective) .06 -.28**
Case variety (7 = too much, 1 = too little) .22' .20
Control of work day (7 = full control, 1 = no control) -.04 -.37***
Case backlog caseload (7 = very serious problem, 1 = no .16 .34***
pressure to move cases (7 = too much, 1 = too little) . .30" .38"+
Effectiveness of courtroom personnel (7 = effective, 1 = .03 -.I6
Salary satisfaction (7 = overpaid, 1 = underpaid) -.04 -.01
Number of cases heard per month -.03 .14
Jury trials heard per month .05 .06
' p < .O5; " p < .01; * * ' p < ,001.
t JSI Sum is the sum of items on the Judicial Stress Inventory.
+ NJHSQ Stress is the response on a six-point scale to the question, "How much stress are you currently
experiencing?" (1 = no stress, 6 = extreme stress).

Table 3 summarizes the correlations be- workday is a stronger predictor of stress

tween the stress measures and work ex- than is workload itself. This finding is
periences, as measured on the NJHSQ. shown by the stronger relationship be-
As shown, stress is positively correlated tween the NJHSQ stress measure and
with case backlog, pressure to move control of workday than between both
cases, and excess variety in cases. Skill stress measures and number of cases
utilization and control over one's work- heard per month and number of jury
day negatively correlated with stress. It trials heard per month. We also ran cor-
is noteworthy that control over one's relations between each of the five JSI

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1994 79

Eells and Showalter

factors, as measured by the sum of items Discussion

loading greater than .5 on each factor, This study extends an earlier report
and all work experience variables. Since showing that judges are overrepresented
the pattern of results was very similar to in the "Type A" or "high stress" person-
those shown by the sums of the entire ality style.22The present study identifies
JSI, we presented only the latter in Table a broad set of specific judicial stressors,
3. empirically classifies them, orders them
Judicial Stress, Psychological Impair- by magnitude, and correlates them to
ment, and Psychosocial Moderators A demographic information, the judge's
final set of analyses dealt with the rela- work environment, and several psycho-
tionship work-related stress may have logical symptom measures.
with psychological impairment and psy- The findings are consistent with pre-
chosocial stress moderators. As shown vious reports of judicial stress. For ex-
in Table 4, several Brief Response Inven- ample, the positive correlations between
tory (BRI) items correlated strongly with stress and case variety, case backload,
the JSI and/or NJHSQ stress measures. and pressure to move cases is consistent
Positively associated with stress are feel- with Zimmerman's observation that
ings of tension, work blocks, feeling dis- case and information overload are
liked by others, expressions of irritation sources of stress. The findings are also
with others, lack of interest in activities, consistent with research on stress in
not feeling appreciated, restlessness, neg- other occupations and professions, par-
ative feelings about one's professional ticularly regarding the importance of
role, and difficulty making decisions. As control over one's workday. The find-
a whole, these findings show that stress ings extend the report of Rogers et al.23
interferes with many aspects of a judge's that the work itself rather than role am-
work routine. biguity, employer-employee relations,
We assessed the moderating effect of and career decisions is critical in judicial
psychosocial variables on stress by cor- stress. In addition, the factor analysis
relating those variables with stress. We shows that one can classifyjudicial stress
expected these variables to correlate neg- according to type of case, type of litigat-
atively with the stress variables. As ing party, the purpose of a decision, a
shown in Table 4, five correlated signif- judge's value conflicts, and the serious-
icantly with at least one stress measure. ness of an offense.
However, only three of the five corre- Prominent in the results are the find-
lated negatively with stress: feeling pos- ings that exercising judicial discretion
itive about one's professional role, tak- and case management are highly stress-
ing time to relax, and experiencing a ful. Lazarus and Folkman's model of
sense of "doing a good job." Taking a stress helps explain this finding. They
break from work and expressing irrita- propose that an important factor influ-
tion toward others correlated positively encing a person's appraisal of a poten-
with stress. tially stressful situation is his or her

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Judicial Stress
Table 4
Correlation of Two Stress Measures with Symptoms and Psychosocial Moderators
Brief Report Inventory JSI Sumt NJHSQ Stress*
Trouble remembering things.
Feeling easily annoyed.
Poor appetite.
Temper outbursts that you could not control.
Feeling blocked in getting things done.
Feeling no interest in things.
Feeling that people are unfriendly or dislike you.
Trouble falling asleep.
Having to check and double check what you do.
Trouble concentrating.
Feeling tense or keyed up.
Getting into frequent arguments.
Others not giving you proper credit for your achievements.
Feeling so restless you couldn't sit still.
Difficulty making decisions.
Psychosocial moderators
Participated in a social event I really enjoyed.
Used a sense of humor to diffuse anxiety or tension.
Expressed irritation or aggravation toward others who have
troubled or frustrated me.
Had a frank conversation with a trusted friend in which you
disclosed true feelings or attitudes.
Took a break from work because things weren't progressing
well or working out properly.
Adopted a flexible attitude toward something that could other-
wise have caused considerable inter~ersonalconflict.
Felt positive about my professional role.
Took time to relax or meditate and "put things in perspective."
Engaged in physical exercise. .02 -.lo
Experienced a sense of "doing a good job." -.I4 -.29"
'p<.O5; " p < .Ol;*"p< ,001.
t JSI Sum is the sum of items on the Judicial Stress Inventory.
$ NJHSQ Stress is the response on a six-point scale to the question. "How much stress are you currently
experiencing?" (1 = no stress, 6 = extreme stress).

"commitments," that is, the choices, val- usual discretionary authority or case
ues, and goals that determine what is "at management. These commitments may
stake" in a particular situation. Lazarus also explain why high profile cases and
and Folkman posit that commitments public scrutiny of a case are stressful for
relate to a person's vulnerability to psy- judges. Research shows that the more
chological stress: the deeper a person's public a commitment is, the more
commitment, the greater the potential threatening are challenges to it.35 Of
threat or harm. Presumably, a judge's course, commitments can also operate
commitments include competence, in- as a motivating force for a judge to in-
telligence, and fairness, all of which are crease his coping skills in warding off
challenged when he or she presides over threats. This may explain why some
a case requiring exercise greater than judges respond to these stressors with

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1994 81

Eells and Showalter

psychological symptoms, but others do one takes a cognitive appraisal approach

not. In research now underway, we are to stress, which requires an assessment
analyzing the relationship between a of an individual's appraisals of stress.
judge's commitments and vulnerability Considering the conditioning that many
to work-related stress. judges internalize against making self-
An intriguing question that these data disclosures, our data more likely reflect
address, but ultimately leave unan- underreporting than overreporting of
swered, refers to the effects of stress on stress. Second, no systematic sampling
job performance, specifically, the judge's procedures were used to select respond-
decision-making ability. Our findings ents and thus assure a representative
show correlations between work-related sample. Nevertheless, comparison with
stress, decision-making difficulty, and results from a larger study showed that
feeling "blocked." We do not, however, the present sample is highly representa-
directly measure whether stress alters or tive of rural and small urban judges.
impairs decision making. Research by It is important to note that this study
J a n i ~shows~ ~ that highly stressful con- is not about "impaired" judges, but
ditions can be detrimental to decision about the stressors that normal, hard-
making; however, Lazarus and Eriksen3' working judges contend with on a daily
show that one must take individual dif- basis. The findings can provide a ration-
ferences into account. The implication ale for interventions aimed at enabling
for the present study is that personality judges better cope with the inevitable
and actual job performance must both stressors awaiting them at work.
be measured to directly assess whether
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Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1994