Judging with a Nonjudgmental Mind

Stephen J. Fortunato, Jr., is an associate justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court. He writes here on how he brings his Buddhist practice to his responsibilities as a trial judge.

Stephen J. Fortunato, Jr.

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Whatever our ability to live in the present when off our zafus, the circumstances of daily life often compel us to make judgments. This is something I do regularly as a trial judge in a court of general jurisdiction—a court that deals with serious felonies as well as with civil disputes. It is with some irony that I carry the title “judge” while taking refuge in a tradition that has as a central tenet the cultivation of the nonjudgmental mind.

In The Mind of Clover, Robert Aitken Roshi writes about the monks of the Ryutaku Monastery, who reformed a young novice they had caught stealing by showering love and compassion on him over the course of a year. Judges and others in decision-making positions, however, have neither the constituencies nor the time conducive to a prolonged practice of lovingkindness toward one person.

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