Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Videotaping Judges to Check Bad Habits

A court in Massachusetts is reviewing videotapes of judges for potential weak spots, such as scowling or eye-rolling during testimony -- behavior that might suggest the judge favors one side. Tresa Baldas, Legal Technology - Ready for Your Close-Up, Your Honor?, Nat'l L.J., Feb. 6, 2006.

The article ends:

David Givens, an anthropologist who researched and videotaped judicial behavior for the Washington state judiciary for seven years, said videotapes can show potential bias in a judge.

For example, he said, if judges compress their lips when a defendant is talking, it sends a signal that they don't believe the defense. Or when they pay attention to the prosecutor, but scribble notes when the defense lawyer speaks, that implies they favor the prosecution.
The Washington state judiciary? I wanted to know more about that!

David Givens runs a research center in Spokane, the Center for Nonverbal Studies. He began his work on nonverbal communication as a graduate student here at the UW (Ph.D. 1967).

Dr. Givens's study of judges was commissioned by the Washington State Administrator for the Courts over 25 years ago. See Judicial Body Language Can Speak to Juries, AP, Jan. 31, 1981; David B. Givens, The Way Others See Us: It's Not What We Say in Court But How Our Bodies Speak That Telegraphs Our Message, Judges J., Summer 1980, at 21.

Last year Givens published a popular work, Love Signals: A Practical Field Guide to the Body Language of Courtship (St. Martin's Press, 2005). Of more interest to trial ad fans (professionally, at least) is his forthcoming book: Crime Signals: Body Language of Murderers, Terrorists, and Thieves (St. Martin's Press).

Givens is also the author of The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues. For an example, see the entry on Deception Cue.

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