The Wisconsin Judicial Commission recently filed a disciplinary complaint against a sitting Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  This has been reported widely, especially in the state of Wisconsin by,, among other places.  A copy of the complaint is available there.  The practice of law, and even the practice of judging, involves emotions.  Emotions must be harnessed and managed.  Lawyers, and that includes judges, must have emotional intelligence to do their work.

Judicial Commission Complaint:  “Total Bitch” Comment & Other Things

In Wisconsin Judicial Commission vs. The Honorable David P. Prosser, Jr., Case No. 12AP566J, a disciplinary complaint, filed March 16, 2012 in the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, alleges that in June of 2011, the Justice put his hands “full circle” around the neck of a fellow Justice, the Honorable Ann Walsh Bradley.  This alleged unconsented-to touching occurred during what the complaint describes as an “escalating discussion” as Justice Bradley directed Justice Prosser to leave her chambers.  This incident occurred, allegedly, in the presence of several other Justices, including the Chief Justice.  The Chief Justice, the Honorable Shirley Abrahamson, was in Justice Bradley’s chambers when Justice Prosser and three other judicial colleagues entered to discuss a pending matter, the complaint alleges.  The complaint also alleges that prior to the June 2011 incident, Justice Prosser stated to the Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, in the presence of other justices, “you are a “total bitch”.  Justice Prosser, the complaint further alleges, does not deny touching the female justice’s neck, but answered or responded and claimed “It was a total reflex.”  The complaint concludes by alleging that the Justice, prior to the June 2011 chambers incident, “had demonstrated a tendency toward lack of proper decorum and civility” by the “total bitch” comment to the Chief Justice in the presence of other Justices.  The Commission claims by his “words, conduct, and behavior” that Justice Prosser has willfully committed “judicial misconduct” in violation of the law of Wisconsin.

IQ vs. EQ – “Book Smarts” vs. “Street Smarts”

As explained below, the ongoing drama in Wisconsin’s highest court implicates the concept of “emotional intelligence”.  Remember, judges are lawyers, too.  Just as lawyers do sometimes behave badly, any lawyer, or judge, who calls a brother or sister lawyer, or judge, a vile expletive, shows emotional intelligence development opportunities.

Most lawyers are “smart”.  These people got good, if not great grades, probably “straight As”, usually beginning with the first report card, and that carried through grade school, high school, and college.  School either came very easy or high achievement came by hard work and personal sacrifice.  It is undisputed – high cognitive achievers get into law school.  Law students are usually “well above average” in academic achievement.  The benefits of being “book smart”, however, are not without limits.

The key to professional success, as research suggests more and more, is not just cognitive intelligence, which provides the necessary foundation of memory, vocabulary, math skills, visual-motor coordination , or generally the ability to concentrate and plan, organize material, and to understand, assimilate, and interpret facts, which your IQ measures.  Rather, it’s your IQ and your EQ – emotional quotient, or emotional intelligence.

 Models/Measures of Emotional Intelligence

Several models/assessments of emotional intelligence exist.  This blog will mention and discuss several in the future, but will emphasize a couple.  The EQ-i 2.0™, a self-report measure, based upon the original research of Dr. Reuven Bar-On, and now a newer model in the 2.0 version, and the MSCEIT (Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test), an abilities measure, each published by Multi-Health Systems.

I am qualified by my master of science in organizational development psychology degree to purchase and administer most of the emotional intelligence assessments commercially available.  I completed the certification training and am qualified to administer and interpret the EQ-i 2.0™ emotional intelligence assessment.  Under that model, emotional intelligence is defined as “a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.”

As measured by the EQ-i 2.0, emotional intelligence is:

  • Made up of 5 general areas – “realms”
  • 5 realms break into 15 subsections or subscales
    • Self-Perception – understanding your emotions – know and manage yourself – “inner world”
      • emotional self-awareness, self-regard, self-actualization
    • Self-Expression – expressing your emotions – “face the world”
      • emotional expression, independence, assertiveness
    • Interpersonal – develop and maintain relationships – “people skills”
      • interpersonal relationships, empathy, social responsibility
    • Decision Making – use emotions to make better decisions
      • impulse control, reality testing, problem solving
    • Stress Management – cope with challenges
      • flexibility, stress tolerance, optimism

In addition to the 5 “realms”, there is an additional scale – Happiness.  This is an independent indicator about your ability to feel satisfied with your life, to enjoy yourself and others, and experience zest and enthusiasm.

The EQ-i 2.0 model looks like this:

EQ-i 2.0 model

Alignment of EQ-i 2.0 Model of EI

Take-Aways …

These circumstances involving the Wisconsin Supreme Court are just plain amazing!  Justice Prosser has apparently avoided criminal prosecution as a special prosecutor declined to file charges.  Seems like many recusals are probably appropriate in this case.  Would a well-known business/ real estate mogul and TV celebrity take very long to say “You’re fired…..” here?   The point of this is not to pick on the highest leadership in a state’s judiciary.  Rather, the point is to illustrate, with a real-world example, that it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that, in general, lawyers can be really IQ-smart, but EQ dumb!  This issue comes to the surface in law school…….and never seems to go away.

Clearly, the allegations about the judge’s “total bitch” comment and the unconsented-to full-circle neck touching mentioned in the disciplinary complaint implicate issues or concerns – development opportunities – in several, if not all, of the 15 subscales of the 5 realms of emotional intelligence of model.

Multi-Health Systems (MHS), Inc., the publisher of the EQ-i 2.0, has researched many professions.  Over 4,500 people from a variety of occupations took the assessment.  The 5 most important factors which distinguish high performing attorneys vs. low performers in consideration of emotional intelligence are as follows:

  1. Self – actualization
  2. Happiness
  3. Stress Tolerance
  4. Assertiveness
  5. Social Responsibility

The “good” news is that the emotional and social skills identified and measure by the EQ-i 2.0 model can be enhanced or improved by training.  How can you benefit from learning more about emotional intelligence and its connection with enhanced performance in your work and increased well-being and happiness in your life?

The EQ-I 2.0 model and the model alignment are courtesy of Multi-Health Systems, Inc.

Dan DeFoe

Owner and Lead consultant at Adlitem Solutions
I'm an attorney with 20+ years of experience and have an MS degree in organizational development psychology. I provide normal personality and emotional intelligence assessments, assessment interpretation and feedback, and professional development planning and training activities for lawyers, judges, other legal services providers, and their organizations.
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6 Responses to Emotional Intelligence & Lawyers – IQ vs. EQ

  1. Leah Mason says:

    I have been to one of Mr. Defoe’s presentations on this topic and found it to be informative and entertaining. I think this would be something that legal departments and law firms could benefit from and would recommend Mr. Defoe in that regard.

    • Dan DeFoe says:

      Thanks, Leah. Our goal is to let lawyers and others know about what emotional intelligence “EI” is and its importance for lawyers, their work, their clients, and, their “business”. Having a good time along the way is important, too. Happiness is part of emotional intelligence. Please check in again at Psycholawlogy soon. Thanks and best regards. Dan

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  3. […] has been updated and is now known as the EQ-i 2.0. You can read about it in an earlier post here and you are invited to find out more by visiting the EQ-i 2.0 publisher’s website. The […]