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Introducing daylight losing time | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, March 05, 2021 @ 3:13 PM | By Marcel Strigberger


Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
Let the judge sleep on it. Daylight savings time is around the corner. DST bah!

Studies have shown that that the spring switch to daylight savings time results in sleep deprivation leading to problems such as increases in incidents of heart attacks, accidents and simple loafing at work. DST arrival also impacts the legal system in that judges have been found to impose harsher sentences on the first Monday of the switchover.

The reason is the body’s “circadian misalignment,” meaning the body does not march in step with the clock. And so when the cuckoo bird comes out that Monday morning, the judge just might get grumpy, likely bellowing, eyes shut, “Shut up or I’ll release the cat.”

This finding certainly adds a new dimension to sentencing. Especially in light of the fact that one such study estimated that judges’ post-DST sentences are as much as five per cent harsher.

I wonder whether studies have more detailed information on this matter. I would squirm to see a report which plots a chart of sleep loss time versus sentence increase:

15 minutes:  Add 20 per cent

45 minutes: Tag on 40 per cent

One hour:  Sock it to ’em. Tag on 75 per cent.

The defence wants to know.

Another question is, are judges aware of this phenomenon or is it more likely subconscious?

I would love to see some data on what happens in situations of joint submissions to sentence by the Crown and defence lawyer on the first DST Monday.

CROWN: Your Honour. Defence counsel and I have agreed that a reasonable disposition here would be a jail sentence  of 30  days.

JUDGE: I’m not so sure. We’ll make it six months. That just feels better.

To take it up a notch, what if the judge has a bad breakfast experience on DST Monday? Does unsavoury food intake increase the severity of the decision? Is there a phenomenon such as judicial food bias?

It is not hard to visualize a cause-and-effect connection. I can readily see a judge heatedly entering the courtroom in the morning after eating something disagreeable. If word gets out, what can a lawyer do?  

DEFENCE LAWYER (to yawning judge): Your Honour. I request an adjournment. I hear for breakfast you had some burnt toast.

And if ingesting noxious food can influence a judge’s decision on sentencing, I would think even unsavoury smells can do it. A judge goes out for lunch and some diner nearby douses his pasta with a kilo of Parmesan. If that judge shares my sentiments, woe is the accused the judge will be sentencing in the afternoon.

JUDGE X: There is just too much shoplifting going on these days. Sentences must reflect the community’s revulsion of this heinous crime. General deterrence is a prime consideration. The court hereby banishes you to Australia.

Well maybe this scenario is unlikely. Given COVID-19, it is most unlikely that the judge these days would have lunch in a restaurant. Either way, I find the aroma of Parmesan cheese abominable. Judges are human. With this intoxicating olfactory ordeal we’re talking a knockout punch.

I now wonder whether that sleep deprivation study has a flip side. If judges hit criminals with heavier sentences when DST comes on, are they similarly more mellow in the autumn when we switch back to standard time? Is this the Monday on which you want to stack all your sentencing appearances? If the research bears this out, there may as well be a sign on the courtroom door reading,

“Plead guilty today. Up to 50 per cent off. (Conditions apply)”.

I did mention the studies also note that the transition to DST results in more on the job loafing. This too is a matter of judicial concern. I would not want to think that while I am examining a witness, the judge is on his or her iPad viewing a YouTube video on how to make sourdough bread.

I say let’s give our judges that extra hour of slumber all year round. Drop daylight savings time altogether and keep the justice system on even keel. And while we are on the subject of change, ban the public consumption of Parmesan.  

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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