Harvard doc helps judges open minds

Dozens of Bay State judges followed their bliss and abandoned the bench to mellow out with a meditation guru who taught them how to boost their “concentration” in the courtroom.

The six-hour conference – scheduled for a Friday – featured noted Harvard meditation expert Dr. Daniel Brown and attracted 66 of the state’s 80 superior court judges.

It was such a hit other judges are shedding their robes for some deep reflection.

“We focused on identifying the types of stresses that are typical of being a judge,” Brown said. “We talked about ways of enhancing capacities to cope with handling the ongoing stresses of being a judge.”

Brown said it was the second such seminar for superior court judges, who pull down $129,000 a year, in a program aimed at “stress reduction and performance excellence.”

While Massachusetts Trial Court spokeswoman Joan Kenney denied the conference was focused on meditation, Brown told the Herald he incorporated “Eastern traditions on contemplative or concentration training,” including “deep concentration meditation from the Buddhist tradition.”

The conference drew sharp criticism from victims-rights advocate Laurie Myers, a former rape crisis counselor and outspoken critic of the state’s judicial system.

“It takes two or more years to get these sexual-assault cases to trial because of scheduling conflicts. So it makes me feel real good these judges are taking time to learn how to meditate on the bench,” Myers said.

But defense attorney Bob George lauded judges for thinking outside the box.

“The worst possible situation people accused of crimes could find themselves in is before a distracted judge,” he said.

The Feb. 26 meditation day at Boston College Law School comes as the courts grapple with $30 million in budget cuts and struggle to chip away at a case backlog that has reached more than 34,000 dockets, including 5,100 criminal cases.

The state had originally budgeted money for Brown’s seminar, but it was slashed during recent cutbacks. The judges paid for their own lunches and Brown did the conference for free, Kenney said.

Brown said the conference was so well-received that he recently held a similar workshop for district court judges at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, while another is being planned for probate and juvenile court judges. He’s also planning one for California judges, he said.

“The training was focused on being more concentrated to the task at hand without distraction, being more fully present with a continuous awareness,” Brown said. “(It’s about) how to reduce the background noise of extraneous thoughts, so that one could do research and write up court findings with a clearer mind.”

[via Boston Herald]
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