Mental Illness Awareness in the Courts

The Code of Judicial Conduct makes it clear that being a judge is not easy. Adding a new area to jurisprudence will not be easy. However, an accurate understanding of mental illnesses – and how these common brain illnesses affect human thoughts, judgment, and behaviors – is necessary if we are to strive to have “justice for all” the over 1.7 million Floridians [one in every ten citizens] who have one or more of the illnesses known as depression, manic-depression [bipolar disorder], schizophrenia, and the anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder. Upholding integrity, avoiding impropriety, maintaining judicial impartiality, improving the legal system and the administration of justice, and minimizing the risk of conflict with judicial duties and personal behaviors which are inappropriate for a jurist, are vital components of being a judge. A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice. A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by word or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status, and shall not permit staff, court officials, and other subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so. [Emphasis added] The “disability” of concern in this article is mental illness. Judges are selected for their good judgment, character, and fairness. What if a person’s judgment and opinions...

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