Which judges meditate and practice mindfulness?

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Jun 11, 2012 Which judges meditate and practice mindfulness?

Like all power, judicial power can be used for good, but can also be abused.

I believe that judicial power can be more justly harnessed when judges exercise mindfulness — being positively in the present moment — which can be assisted by meditation. Judges will also benefit when lawyers, litigants and witnesses appearing in their courtrooms practice the same, making it easier for the judge to focus on the case at hand rather than to apprehend lawyer shenanigans and outrageous tensions among pro se and represented parties.

Meditation has proven its effectiveness over its millenia of practice. Meditation and mindfulness do not require following any religious path, and its effectiveness is scientifically supported. Meditation and mindfulness are now more mainstream than ever, including through the efforts of Jon Kabat-Zinn to bring mindfulness to the medical community and Chade-Meng Tan’s success in bringing mindfulness to Google/corporate America. Thanks also to U.S. House member Tim Ryan for being an out-of-the-closet mindfulness practitioner in Congress.

My mindfulness and meditation practice focuses on taijiquan, which helps me to be calm in the eye of the storm. Taijiquan is moving meditation, with the taiji form concluding for me and many fellow practitioners with at least five minutes of standing meditation, with the arms raised around parallel to the ground, with the fingertips pointed somewhat towards each other, whether or not that involves an exchange of energy between the fingertips.

The Washington, D.C., area offers many simple opportunities to learn and practice mindfulness and meditation, including the Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center, the Insight Meditation group, monthly meditation gatherings with Sharon Salzberg, and, for lawyers, the D.C. Contemplative Lawyers group that meets monthly. Nationally for lawyers are such gatherings as the Cultivating Balance June 22-24 weekend at the Blue Cliff Monastery in New York state, and the Mindful Lawyer Conference, which was last held in 2010.

I have learned that the following judges practice mindfulness, meditation, or both. As this list gets longer, more judges and lawyers will be willing to try such a practice, and to be out-of-the-closet about it. If you know of additional judges engaged in such practice, please let me know.

Justice Breyer meditates.

The following three judges listed are listed in the Mindful Lawyer Conference website:

– Florida federal trial judge Alan S. Gold is “dedicated to furthering the goal of ‘the mindful judge.'”

– Judge Thelton Henderson — Senior Judge of the Federal District Court of Northern California — includes meditation in his life. Here is more biographical information on judge Henderson.

Arizona appellate judge Donn Kessler practices meditation, t’ai chi and yoga.

Baltimore City, Maryland, Circuit Court Judge Evelyn Omega Cannon is involved with Shambhala Buddhism.

Outgoing D.C.federal trial judge Ricardo Urbina meditates.


Thanks to the Institute for Mindfulness Studies for listing eleven judges who include contemplative practice in their lives, with Florida judges dominating the list. Some are listed above, in addition to:

– Judge Jennifer Bailey, Miami Dade Circuit Court.

– Judge  Sandy Karlan, Miami Dade Circuit Court.

– Judge Ellen Leesfield, Miami Dade Circuit Court.

– Magistrate Judge Chris McAliley, S.D. Fl.

– Judge Arthur Rothenberg, Miami Dade Circuit.

Judge Michael Zimmerman (Ret.), Utah Supreme Court

– Judge Ron Greenberg (Ret.), Superior Court of California.

ADDENDUM (MARCH 2013) – More on past Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Mugaku Zimmerman. He teaches at the Two Arrows Zen Center. He is a partner in a small appellate law firm. His archived 2010-11 blog entries are here.

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