Is Judge Elizabeth Scherer Toxically Empathetic?

Judge Elizabeth Resigns

Judge Elizabeth Scherer recently resigned from her post as a Circuit Judge in Florida. This came under the heels of a unanimous decision by the Judicial Qualifications Commission that found she violated rules of conduct in the Nikolas Cruz trial. 

The timing of the resignation, alongside the decisioning of conduct violations, belies that it was other than political pressure that forced her to resign. 

In this video, I explain why I felt the interaction between the Judge and the defense team created such a toxic atmosphere:


Chess Gambits


A case of this magnitude, arguably Judge Scherer's biggest career case, can stress anybody. Not only was this highly publicized, but it also spanned 6 months. There were chess-like moves that were employed by all parties, which likely resulted in the case moving slow. 

At first glance, Judge Scherer seems to be a direct personality who does not fluff her answers. It is this trait that appeared when it appeared as if the defendants were employing "chess moves" that prolonged the trial. 

As you saw from the video, Scherer attempts to move the trial forward when she states that "90% of the trial was professional." As a result, she didn't cede to the defense counsel's desires to communicate about some of the "unprofessional" moments which transpired. 

Likewise, a few ways the judge tried to silence the defense counsel's chess gambits were to gaslight them. One example is when she reframed the jr. defense counsel's complaint. This attorney voiced contempt at how his kids were mentioned during the trial. He followed that up by asking the judge what she would do if, vis-Γ -vis, her children were talked about. Directly after this, she rebuked the attorney, stating that threats to her children were wrong and uncalled for. She reframed the question by turning it into a threat in order to silence him. Following that, she dismissed him from speaking further by asking him to sit down. 

Ultimately, this case was frippery. It had slippery moments where it appeared as though the defense counsel were doing as much as they could to postpone the trial. In the video, at approximately 05:30, you can tell that the Judge was displeased at its pace. When she asked the prosecution team "Are you going to have anything ready today?", it was followed up with "No," because the defense team had planned on calling 80 witnesses, and they were still waiting on 40. The judge then vented furiously citing highly unprofessional behavior by everyone involved.

The biggest moment, and one reason why the Judicial committee was involved, was what happened after the trial was over. After Cruz was sentenced a life sentence with no death penalty or possibility of parole, she hugged the prosecution team and some of the victims' family members. This was reported to by the defense team, alleging impartiality towards the defense counsel. This was added onto other complaints by the defense counsel alleging hostility towards them throughout the trial. 

Judge Elizabeth Scherer hugs the prosecution team at trial's end (3).


The Black Mirror

This is a black mirror of life. An example of this is the corporate world. As people move up the ladder of social drudgery, they do so by navigating the social vines of communication. They do their best to keep their personal opinions private, hold their tongue when they are wrongly chastised, produce quality work that may or may not be miscredited, and communicate with people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds or personality types, et. al. 

 
All of this is tied to the human resources department, which is in charge of compliance, to ensure that there are no business impacts related to inclusivity. There are all sorts of communicational challenges that people face in life that have direct impacts to their own growth. And this also shows the pressures of attempting to please everybody.

 
Judge Scherer doing such a small yet impactful gesture, like hugging the prosecution team and family members of victims, allowed the world to see that she is human and on the side of justice. But also, it showed them that she may also be impartial.  


Judge Elizabeth Scherer hugs victim's family members (3).

 

While this case was ruled correctly, with the perpetrator receiving 34 life sentences, could this remain true for other cases where it isn't so easy to conclude? 

What if the wrong person was improperly jailed, having lived in the correctional institute for 10 years, before being found not guilty when technology improved? 


Alter Egos

Imagine reframing the defense team as a Fred: a person who is cunning and willing to navigate the frippery slopes of persuasion to get what he wants. 

Then imagine reframing the judge with Suzy: a direct, yet fiery person who is incredibly empathetic to people that are down on their luck. Now place both of these people in a corporate setting. 

 
The corporate setting is the collections department of a major bank. And the role is as a Collection's Specialist. This role requires doing inbound or outbound calls that deal with asking for and taking payment of overdue loans. Day in and day out, both Suzy and Fred have to be in charge of talking to people that have difficulties in life that are preventing them from being able to pay these loans. 

 
Fred is someone who has the gift of gab and a slick personality that enables him to finagle social interactions to get what he wants. This allows him to remove the emotional equation out and thrive in this role. However, this does not mean he is unemotional. He too feels guilty when the pressures of this role, while hearing the stories people tell, put the weight of guilt on him.  

 
Suzy is equally as adept as Fred, except that when she successfully thrives in the role, she feels heartbroken that it is on the backs of the people she is taking payments from. She becomes racked with guilt. 

 
Both Fred and Suzy are completely different, but both have consciouses. They both materialize and synthesize empathy differently, but it doesn't make them wrong. But when they work together on some projects, that is when things get toxic. 

 
Fred is more process-driven, and desires to ensure that work gets done on a compliance basis while being able to talk to customers with a friendly demeanor. He is more rigid than Suzy, because he is pressured with all sorts of HR-risks otherwise. As a result, he does not want to give any wiggle room to the people he works for and with. 

 
Suzy is more people-driven, and desires to ensure that she gets her work done. But because of how empathetic she is, she morally or in good conscious, cannot take money from people that are really down on their luck. As a result, she may let slip of an upcoming project the company is working on that will help a customer. However, she was not supposed to provide this internal memo to customers before it was created as it can cause material risk. 

 
Both of them feel like they are doing a great job at work and that they are not doing anything wrong. But when they work together, they both feel as though the other person is doing a terrible job. Their personality traits clash. 



Takeaway

There are pros and cons to every personality type and their communication styles. But not every style, or method of delivery, is conducive to a group atmosphere. 

The goal is to tailor interactions for each person based on their personality types by avoiding methods of delivery that will trigger the worst outcome for them. 

The 4 personality types are: Driver, Supportive, Promoter, and Analyst

But while tailoring the interactions by avoiding conflict is a good way to promote the overall peace, it is not the full picture. 

Boundaries must be enforced. In a corporate setting that would be compliance laws such as inclusivity or internal affairs. Without boundaries, there are no rules, so this must be enforced. There are healthy balances that must be developed, and this is why communication is such a difficult gambit to master. 

Empathy must be carried out in a manner that promotes the overall vision of the company or person. People can detect disingenuous empathy, and likewise, other people can finesse over-empathy.  



 

References

  1. Team CM. Florida Supreme Court reprimands judge Elizabeth Scherer for conduct during Parkland school shooting trial. CBS News [Internet]. 2023 Jul 25; Available from: https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/florida-supreme-court-reprimands-judge-for-conduct-during-parkland-school-shooting-trial-4/

  2. Gothner C, De La Rosa C. Elizabeth Scherer, judge in Parkland shooter case, resigns from bench. WPLG [Internet]. 2023 May 11; Available from: https://www.local10.com/news/local/2023/05/10/elizabeth-scherer-judge-in-parkland-shooter-case-resigns-from-bench/

  3. Vazquez C, Torres A. Judge’s hugs after Parkland school shooter’s sentencing become controversial. WPLG [Internet]. 2022 Nov 4; Available from: https://www.local10.com/news/local/2022/11/03/judges-hugs-after-parkland-school-shooters-sentencing-become-controversial/

Alex Sung

At an early age Alex knew he was different from most kids. He had D's and F's in early education and even had undiagnosed selective mutism alongside other mental health hurdles.

Despite these challenging experiences, he persevered and was able to "Tigerhack" his way to success. He created the Tiger Dojo to help everyone uncover these secrets.

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