I always get excited when someone from my office makes it to the bench (someone good, that is - if the person's a total political tool, then it's not so exciting). It means that finally, someone with our perspective is sitting on the bench. So, I have to ask myself all of the time this question: Why do ex-PDs make such uniformly bad judges. I mean, there are good judges who were PDs (or private lawyers, for that matter), but so many of the best judges I know were either District Attorneys or worked in the federal system. And I don't know why.
I've heard the theories. One theory is that as a Public Defender, we've heard all of the bullshit that our clients put out and we no longer buy it. But, that would mean that only the most cynical Public Defenders make it to the bench (something that doesn't seem impossible, in light of the political process it takes to make it to the bench). But, it would seem that I would have noticed the cynicism of some of these people before they made it to the bench. Most of the time, I haven't seen it.
Another theory is that only the most politically adept PDs make it to the bench, so that when they get there they have thoroughly sold their soul to make it there, and they can't do what their conscience asks them to do when they hit that spot for fear of a backlash by the people that put them there. I guess that this is possible, but, again, I never noticed this personality trait in so many of the people that I knew beforehand who make it to the bench and completely disappoint when they hit that spot.
Another, along the same vein, is that as ex-PDs they are under a greater microscope looking for perceived pro-defense bias (something that will really get you bounced from the bench, in contrast to overt pro-prosecution bias, which will get you a sweet gig within the judging ranks, unless you go completely overboard and totally piss off every PD in the county, something that's hard to do). This holds more water, and sort of goes in line with the previous thought. By promising this independence from their prior profession to everyone under the sun, they at least feel as if they are being closely scrutinized for possible bias, and want to cover it up.
But, all of these theories work for perhaps some of my colleagues who've made it onto the bench. Do they explain all of them? Is there another reason I'm not considering? In general, I feel defense lawyers are better lawyers than most prosecutors (note the MOST, there are some prosecutors who are stellar lawyers, but the mean PD is better than the mean DA, as far as I've seen). They have spent their lives bucking the system, not playing along to get along, not following strict hierarchical rules that DAs have to follow, thinking independently. Why is it that once these people hit the bench, they do so much worse than these DAs who usually can't hold a candle to them as lawyers?
And with that post, I completely give up the chance to ever become a judge (unless people realize that maybe I'll be just as "bad" as all of those other ex-PDs that have been put on the bench, and they'll put me on as well).