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Judge, and ye shall be judged - Part Three

Here in England, the media are in the frenetic throes of deciding whether someone’s personal lifestyle and choices reflects upon their ability and nature to conduct himself in a professional manner in an unrelated sport.

Does a person who fails to maintain their personal promises, vows and agreements influence our ability to rely upon them to make honourable and ethical decisions in the show ring? Can the public trust the integrity of someone who behaves less than prudently in all areas of his or her life? To realize how public opinion is effected by such revelations, one only needs to look at political public confidence polls after a politician has dallied with a staff member or has been involved in shady financial dealings or accepted gifts from lobbyists.

The stretch from the effect on a politician’s credibility to that of a dog show judge is easily comparable. In recent news, the Crufts Best in Show judge removed herself from judging because past breeding practices in the 1970’s were viewed unfavourably by 21st century standards.

Regardless of whether the accusations were right or wrong, I believe that she showed a tremendous respect for both the sport of dogs and the future of dogs by stepping down from such an esteemed assignment and withdrawing from all future assignments. She placed the sport above herself and conducted herself ‘in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity…of the judiciary.’

Perception

In the US golf-outings and even politically motivated weekend outings have been promoted by some individuals, groups and shows at which judges, professional handlers and even some exhibitors participate. Such activities must be considered very carefully since public perception may be skewed and the integrity of the judging process suspect. A better use of ‘off days’ during a circuit would be educational seminars or outings designed for strictly judges or handlers, but not both together.

Judges need to also consider their behaviour at show-giving club dinners, particularly since such affairs are always closed-society events and the average exhibitor not allowed to attend. It is not a matter of whether the individuals have the integrity to comport in a fair-handed, unbiased manner after socializing on a continued basis, but rather how the public and the exhibitors perceive such socialization. If it lends itself to even a modicum of adverse reflection, such activities should be actively discouraged, rather than encouraged.

Those judges wishing to maintain the highest levels of exhibitor confidence should understand that once one becomes a judge, maintaining the respect of the average is paramount and, rightly or wrongly, those in positions of power must be held accountable to a higher standard of behaviour. Judges need to accept that their socialization and friendships change upon accepting the responsibility and lofty power of being a judge; their peer group has changed with that acceptance.

Consider these hypothetical scenarios (Characters, places and incidents are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental):

l The show chair of a large show wins at numerous shows under several of the judges that were contracted for the two shows of last year.

l The offspring, partner, sibling, or unmarried mate of a judge seems to continually enter the same shows where the judge is adjudicating and wins at a higher ratio than at shows where the parent, sibling, partner or unmarried mate of the judge is not judging.

l The person seen furtively leaving the judge’s room in the early hours of the morning wins the breed that day.

l A certain type of person, be it same sex or younger or short skirts or anatomical endowments, seems consistently to win under a certain judge.

l A judge is involved in a lawsuit alleging poor treatment of a dog in their care and yet is still determining the fitness of other dogs in the show ring.

l A judge has been convicted of a white-collar crime.

l The judge gets ‘lost’ during judging and must be guided to the ring and reminded of what he or she is doing throughout the judging because of advanced age.

l The line-up of placings is a conundrum to those standing both inside and outside the ring with no continuity as to type, movement, or condition.

l The exhibitor seated at a judge’s table at the club dinner, monopolizes that judge and then goes on to win under the same judge the next day.

l The judge who has the responsibility of answering phone inquiries and sending out show schedules for a show that she is judging.

Should these people be judging? The worrisome fact is that because judging is subjective in nature, it is very difficult to prove that any impropriety is occurring. Few, if any, charges of misconduct will ever be brought forward. Exhibitors are afraid to do more than shadow whisper because they fear being known as troublesome or whistle-blowers. It is easy to whisper innuendoes and gossip; it takes effort and courage to step forward and demand that the judging be done solely on the dog.

The majority of exhibitors will support these judges by entering under them, even while complaining about the very character flaws that make their judging less than judicious. If you believe a judge to not judge impartially and fairly, there is a simple solution – do not enter under that judge!

It does not matter if the judge is at a show only ten miles from your house or if the judge is judging on the third day of a five-day circuit, or even if you think the entries will be low and you ‘just might have a chance.’ By supporting the judge and entering, you are inferring your blessing and directly condoning the manner in which the judge conducts themself.

Shows are not conducted to lose money for the club, and those judges who fail to draw entries will eventually not be retained. Furthermore, the exhibitors following the judge around for major wins will cease doing so if the numbers are not there. Simply put, we, the exhibitors, hold the power to stop bad judging, just as we, the voters, have the ability to remove bad politicians. Vote with your feet!

What can be done to curtail bad judging? Other than boycotting and refusing to show to those judges who fail to comport themselves professionally, the various kennel clubs need to look at how judges must first qualify and then maintain that qualification to judge. The AKC has, perhaps, one of the most comprehensive requirements for granting the right to judge to individuals. It certainly is not as subjective as the system employed in the UK where individuals are moved up the judging ranks to the level of championship judge based on their toadyish ability rather than on what they know and how they have learned the evaluation trade.

Those systems whereby judges are moved forward dependent solely upon their personalities and not abilities are likely to face greater infractions of the code of conduct for judges. Those highly placed individuals in clubs in the UK have a great deal of power in not only granting the ability to judge at a championship level, but also in promoting those judges to the championship clubs who request the list of approved judges maintained by the breed club. There is a great deal of truth in the saying that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

The Racking Horse Breeders’ Association of America requires annual re-licensing of their judges. Each judge must attend an annual judges clinic where the annual written examination is given a minimum of two out of every three years. Those judges not attending the annual Clinic have to produce written evidence of their inability to attend and that absence must be excused by the Judges’ Committee prior to the judge being re-licensed. All negative reports are reviewed by the Judges’ Committee prior to the annual re-licensing.

Any judge failing the written test, which is revised annually, must wait a period of one year to be retested; if the written test is failed for a second time, the candidate is dropped from the judging program and must wait for a two-year period before reapplying. The Association believes that the term ‘licensed judge’ means more than a mere position and that it ‘connotes competence, fair dealing and high integrity resulting from adherence to the Bylaws and Rules of the RHBAA and to idealistic and high moral conduct. No inducement of profit or personal gain can ever justify departure from this ideal…’.

Assessment

There are professions that require psychological examinations prior to employment. These exams show tendencies – whether inconsistencies or the ability to carry out the necessary responsibilities – and would be useful in not only showing those individuals who are unsuited temperamentally, regardless of knowledge, for the task of judging, but also those individuals who would benefit from additional ethics education. Many employers commonly use a variation of personality assessment tests as an aid in determining the suitability of an individual for a specific position. There are many types of pre-employment assessment tests ranging from honesty and integrity tests to full blown management evaluations measuring career competency.

Clinically oriented psychological profile tests, such as the MMPI, while diagnostic in nature, also have a section on trait assessment. The Achiever test is said to provide good cognitive assessment (information regarding six mental aptitudes), management skills, leadership skills, communication skills (plus nine behavioural traits), as well as providing personal development suggestions. Rather than using these types of testing as a means of refusing judging candidates ranking low in certain areas, the tests could certainly be used to emphasize those areas that need attention and further development.

Other than psychological evaluation, annual licensing and testing, a merit system for acceptance into the judging peerage, review of any negative reports, and exhibitors refusing to show to specific judges believed to be partial, the kennel clubs need to take a strong stance in the fight to demand and maintain integrity and impartiality. Analysis needs to be done on judging trends.

Mandatory and on-going attendance in ethics classes should be instituted. A judges committee needs to randomly, and unannounced, observe judging of peers. Care to maintain confidentiality of those individuals brave enough to report perceived misdoings must be paramount. No one will actively speak up and reveal bad judging if they fear being ostracized or penalized in future events.

Good judges do abound in our sport. The numbers who fail to meet the exalted expectations tarnish those who are determined to fulfil their duties with integrity, honour and dedication. If my words have incited your anger and derision, perhaps you need to do some further introspection. I believe that those judges who are impartial and highly professional share in the sadness that our sport, as well as the future of all dog breeds, is jeopardized by those who have lost their way.

Which end of the lead do you judge and who pulls your leash when it comes to handing out placings?

© 2004 Sierra Milton,
sierra.milton@ntlworld.com