Beneath the Robe: Personal Values & Judicial Ethics.

Newman, Louis. Beneath the Robe: Personal Values & Judicial Ethics. Journal of Law and Religion 12:2 95-96, 507-531.

Louis E. Newman explored how personal values and beliefs influence the practice of judicial conduct through extensive observations of and interviews with four state district judges over a period of several weeks. The essay describes Newman’s findings under the broad themes of (1) the ethics of judging, and (2) personal values, religious commitments, and judicial ethics. Ethics of judging involved issues of judicial discretion and judicial fallibility. Judicial discretion addressed the question of how judges makes decisions when they have the room to do so, and how they conduct their authority in relation to those they judge. Newman examined judicial fallibility through instances of circumstantial and prejudicial failings. While the former tended to be minor, the latter indicated a major disregard for the most common judicial canons through taking bribes, and holding biases against individuals and groups of people.
Religious beliefs played a key role in providing a framework for moral guidance and a metaphysical framework for moral norms and orientation, though not directly in the case of at least one judge Newman interviewed. Newman notes that at the center of a judge’s professional life is a profound conflict: while judges must act publicly as though their personal lives were irrelevant, their private lives must provide a wider, moral orientation on how they function as judges. On the other hand, observes Newman, the public and private lives of judges also function in complementary ways.