blinking cursor anxiety
Like many others, when I’m faced with a blank page with the blinking cursor, I get anxious. What am I going to write about? Everyone faces that uh-oh moment when it’s time to get attached and understand a subject without too much nonsense.
A new book, “Future Tense: Why Anxiety Is Good For You (Even While It Feels Bad),” argues that anxiety is actually a good thing. Who would have ever thought that anxiety would be like eating your vegetables, taking your vitamins, flossing your teeth or something else that is good for you? Written by Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, professor of neuroscience and psychology at Hunter College, the doctor posits that instead of anxiety scaring us, it’s a positive force, not a negative one.
Please tell this to litigators who often have not only anxious moments, but paralyzing anxious moments in the trial, whether waiting for the court’s decision on a decisive motion or waiting for the jury to return from deliberations. I’ve seen Biglaw prosecutors literally shiver as they wait. No matter how well prepared you are, anxiety is at the forefront.
The thesis of “Future Tense” is that anxiety is a good thing that drives us to act. The anxiety itself is not the problem, but the problem is how to deal with the anxiety constructively. Of course, anxiety makes us uncomfortable. It forces us to pay attention to whatever is happening that makes us anxious. This is a lesson I must learn. I’m not the only one.
Fear and anxiety aren’t the same, says Dennis-Tiwary. Fear is a feeling that you might be in present danger. On the other hand, anxiety is, as the title suggests, “the future”. You’re anxious about something that hasn’t happened yet, that may or may not happen in the future, but you worry anyway. Once you have determined the source of the anxiety, then you can figure out what to do and how to handle it.
Anxiety is what keeps us going as lawyers. We prepare meticulously for whatever comes next, whether it’s a big deal or a gamble on the business. Law school teaches us, or should, that preparation is key. How many times have we prepared for trial only to have the case “settle on the courthouse steps”? Our focus on doing a good job for the client, for the outcome, and let’s not be shy here, for the reputation as well, makes us not only prepared, but often over-prepared.
How’s that for causing anxiety? The California Commission on Judicial Performance has filed a 50-page Notice of Formal Proceeding against a Northern California Superior Court judge. The judge under investigation sits in a rural Northern California county (yes, we do) that has only two sitting judges and a commissioner.
The charges allege various instances of judicial misconduct. Some charges allege retaliation against court staff for cooperating with the commission, including, but not limited to, comments that court staff were disloyal. The judge also reportedly said that lawyers, clerks and others would really hate him if he returned to private practice because he “would file many peremptory challenges against judges and create a heavy caseload and a miserable environment. for the court”.
But wait, there’s more. The judge reportedly used the term “mole” to try to determine who cooperated with the commission’s investigation. When the court’s executive officer (CEO) asked the judge what he would do if, due to the investigation and the commission’s decision, he was removed from office, the judge said he would go “postal”. The CEO “reasonably” perceived this comment as a threat of violence.
Other allegations: The judge also told the CEO that while he was doing his best to do nice things for people, they then turned around and stabbed him in the back. He said court staff were “snitches” and that “snitches have stitches.” He doesn’t like being disqualified. The commission alleges that the judge retaliated against lawyers who filed such motions. Does anyone want to appear before this judge?
There are a total of 21 allegations against this judge. From alleged retaliation, to conflicts of interest, to improper behavior, to denial of properly filed requests. These are only allegations at this time, subject to hearing and determination by the commission of any misconduct and, if any, disciplinary action the commission may impose.
The commission exposes certain allegations which, if true, particularly disturb women lawyers. There are allegations that the judge made derogatory comments on more than one occasion about the county attorney. The judge told a court staff member that the prosecutor ‘acts like a schoolgirl’, has ‘no self-control’, is emotional and ‘would do a good job if she could control her emotions’, or words to that. effect. The judge also told his judicial colleague that the prosecutor had “daddy issues”. Aren’t we beyond those kinds of stereotypes?
The judge’s response to the commission’s charges is not due until the end of this month. There will be a hearing and then the commission will decide what discipline, if any, the judge will face. The future indeed.
Jill Switzer has been an active member of the California State Bar for over 40 years. She remembers practicing law in a kinder, gentler time. She’s had a diverse legal career, including stints as an assistant district attorney, solo practice, and several high-profile in-house gigs. She’s now a full-time mediator, which gives her the opportunity to see dinosaurs, millennials, and those in between interact — it’s not always civil. You can reach her by email at [email protected].