SCOTUSBlog has an 8-part interview with 4th Circuit federal judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, III, who has established a sturdy reputation as a "conservative" judge, but nails what the mindset of a judge needs to be:
I think when judges sit on the bench — this applies at all levels — we don’t really think about ourselves as ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal.’ Those are labels that people apply to us. And . . . I understand why they do because you have to use short-hand. But, the interesting thing is, I don’t think most judges conceive of themselves as conservative or liberal. We think of ourselves as judges first and foremost and that the judicial calling is such an honorable calling. And when we get on the bench, you know, you’re just so focused on that one case. I mean, you don’t think, ‘Is this a conservative result?’ or ‘Is this a liberal result’ or ‘Which way is the law as a whole moving?’ You’re just thinking about those people before you and how much the case means to them. And our mindset when we go on the bench is, ‘this case is a universe unto itself.’
Amen. But another Wilkinson observation strikes me as puzzling. He says that the core of judging is "the sense of independence and the sense to express your own convictions." My own observation from my experience as an appellate law clerk is that some cases require judges, admirably, to subordinate their personal convictions to the requirements of the law. Perhaps I misapprehend Judge Wilkinson's meaning.