Judges often play a part in mystery and crime fiction — and of course, in my day job. So naturally, this headline caught my attention: “9th Circuit addresses senility among federal judges head on.” (I read the report in the Missoulian, but it appears to have originally come from the Associated Press.)
Mental competence of state and federal judges is a critical issue, and with an aging population on the bench, one that’s getting more attention. This article describes the approach the 9th and 10th circuits are taking, and gives a few examples. Some states have mandatory retirement ages, unlike the federal system. Many states have judicial assistance programs, where judges can get help with emotional problems, addictions, and — if they recognize the problem — competence issues. Lawyers and lay people — often, a judge’s staff — can also report concerns to professionals who can then assess and intervene.
What opportunities for conflict and crisis can you give your characters — judges, lawyers, clerks, probation officers and law enforcement officers, litigants, families?