Chief Judge Philip McNulty of the 1st Judicial District received some of his most important advice early in his 21 years as a judge. It came from his father, who volunteered as his bailiff in night court. Judges in night court have to handle a lot of cases, so McNulty would try to multitask, not giving his full attention to the people appearing before him. His father told him, put your pen down. Listen to each person in front of you and make eye contact. Be in the moment.
It made a remarkable difference. McNulty found taking a personable approach had an immediate calming, almost disarming, effect on agitated people in front of him. He now makes a point of greeting each person and addressing them by name and looking them in the eye.
“I noted that when I treated people with respect, they treated me in kind,” he said.
His openness to learning mirrors the self-reflective approach McNulty has taken throughout his legal career. He loves his job, the culture of support around him and his fellow judges in the district, and he is acutely aware of his ability to use his position to make a difference.