The Computerized Judge



A judge hearing a proceeding to terminate a mother’s parental rights sits in a modern courtroom, where he accesses the court file on one computer, the court calendar on an iPad, and email on an iPhone. This leads to a motion for mistrial based on the judge’s inattention. This scenario is based on the transcript of an actual court hearing.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you describe the judge’s attitude when the mother and her attorney questioned whether the judge had been paying sufficient attention to the hearing?
  2. How would a party feel if they observed a judge frequently looking at a screen and typing on a keyboard—with no explanation about what the judge was doing—while key witnesses testified?
  3. How does the physical layout of your bench, including the equipment on it, either enhance or detract your ability to engage with those who are appearing in front of you?
  4. What other things do you do on the bench other than listening to the case before you? Could those things be done at another time? Would you be able to defend your practice of doing them on the bench—while a case is proceeding before you—in an interview with your local newspaper? In a judicial-conduct proceeding?

For Further Information:

  1. For information about multitasking, including the percentage of people who suffer a loss in performance when they multitask, see Pamela Casey, Kevin Burke, & Steve Leben, Minding the Court: Enhancing the Decision-Making Process, 49 Rev. 76, 89-90 (2013), available at
  2. For a discussion of courtroom behaviors that promote a sense of fair treatment, see So What Courtroom Behaviors Promote Perceptions of Fairness, Procedural Fairness Blog, Nov. 5, 2014, available at, or look at the Courtroom Observation Report citizen volunteers use for the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, available at
  3. For general information about procedural-fairness principles applied to the court setting, go to