What makes judging so hard? It’s not the intellectual challenge, of which there is very little anyway. As we have often said, the law is an intellectually pedestrian subject for the most part, and should be: if it requires high intelligence and a Ph.D to be law abiding, something is seriously wrong.
No, the real challenge is moral. You need to be able to make people unhappy if doing the right thing requires that. And then accept that they might be mad at you. Maybe for a long time. Maybe irremediably.
One judge who showed great moral courage in the Amanda Knox affair doesn’t feel so much vindicated as sad:
Q: How come you left the judiciary right after that verdict?
Hellmann: I was practically forced to. Our decision was received with reactions of contempt. I can still remember the whistling and the shouting by a claque that had gathered outside the Court house on the evening of the verdict. From the next day I felt surrounded by a growing hostility. In the bars of Perugia they were saying I had sold out to the Americans, that I had yielded to the pressures of the CIA. Tall tales, of course, but what hit me more than the defamatory lynching that lasted years, was the reaction of colleagues in the judiciary. Nearly all of them stopped greeting me. In particular those who in various roles had been involved in the case. I realized that my Court had been a lone voice in a Courthouse where all the judges, starting with the GUP (Judge of the Preliminary hearing) up to those of various review courts, while criticizing the investigation, had endorsed the charges.
From an interview with Judge Hellman, who overturned the Amanda Knox Rafaelle Sollecito guilty verdicts the first time, published in Italian here.
Sometimes you have to throw down the gauntlet. And then for sanity’s and safety’s sake you have to accept the personal consequences, some of which can only be ameliorated by resigning, retiring, leaving the country. That kind of thing.
We know exactly how Judge Hellman feels.