May 01, 2019 Feature

Vicarious Trauma in the Courtroom: Judicial Perceptions of Juror Distress

By Dawn E. McQuiston, M. Dylan Hooper, and Abbey E. Brasington

Experiencing psychological trauma from secondhand exposure to traumatic situations—known as vicarious trauma—is ostensibly in the job description of many careers centered around law and justice. Judges routinely face matters of harm, wrongdoing, and blame (e.g., death, sexual assault, illness, domestic violence, child neglect, and abuse) and make significant rulings that sometimes result in anxiety, anger, a lack of concentration, fatigue, flashbacks, a sense of isolation, and loss of faith in humanity.1 Attorneys report similar experiences, as well as disturbed sleep, increased startle, and irritability.2 Law enforcement officers are certainly at risk for experiencing traumatic stress, particularly when it comes to confronting crimes against children.3 Can jurors also experience trauma-related symptoms depending on the nature and circumstances of a case? If so, does the court have a responsibility to protect jurors from the negative effects of psychological trauma they may experience during jury duty and/or post-trial, or is this simply the cost of justice? This article examines the impact of trial stress on jurors’ mental health in certain types of cases, current efforts to mitigate it, and our research exploring trial judges’ views on the matter.

Premium Content For:
  • Lawyers Conference
  • National Conference of Specialized Court Judges
  • National Conference of State Trial Judges
  • National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary
  • ABA Licensing Partners
  • National Conference of Federal Trial Judges
  • Appellate Judges Conference
Join - Now