Black Robe Disease (“BRD”) is a rare illness, an orphan disease, in fact.
Fewer than 32,000 Americans are exposed and vulnerable at any given time. It appears to be an occupational hazard. Approximately 100% of all reported cases have the job title of “Judge,” “Referee,” “Arbitrator,” or the like.
Fortunately (but to the disappointment of a few trial lawyers and litigants), it is never fatal. Also, fortunately, there are many reports of recoveries from BRD (which, after all, might be simply from stress, a bad night’s sleep, etc.).
BRD gets little attention because the true victims of the disease are not the infected jurists but the unfortunate lawyers and litigants who must endure the BRD sufferers’ arrogance, abuse, clumsy, obnoxious, mean-spirited attempts at humor that are not funny, etc., etc.
In defense of the abusers, bear in mind that the enabler lawyers before these sick judges fawn, bow, scrape, profusely apologize, and chuckle politely through gritted teeth. BRD also gets little publicity because, although lawyers’ rules of professional conduct allow for lawyers to call out the afflicted, there is enough play in the rules so that even an accurate public diagnosis of BRD might be deemed “in reckless disregard to truth or falsity yadda-yadda-yadda” and get the treating logician into ethical hot water.
Also, as all students of game theory and “repeat games” know, what goes around comes around…It does not take a genius to understand that if you call out Judge ________, the next time(s) you appear before Judge __________ might not go very well.
See below, an apparent case of BRD in U.S. District Court (N.D. Tex.). To set the stage, a lawyer asked permission to appear without local Texas counsel. That lawyer (that is, “the movant”) is a member of the Texas bar but he does not live in Texas. But the Court still required that he appear with local counsel (!!??)). By itself, this seems symptomatic. But the clincher is when the BRD sufferer criticizes the lawyer for the illegibility of the lawyer’s signature when the judge’s own signature is itself no model of legibility (see the footnote (the one with the typo)).