Judges who are afflicted with the "judicial blahs" contracted by spending too many hours on the bench could be helped with sabbaticals, concludes a new report by the Federal Judicial Center.

Written by Ira P. Robbins, a professor at American University's Washington College of Law, the report concludes that sabbaticals or leaves of absence for judges could:

improve efficiency and productivity,

enhance creativity,

provide the opportunity for educational development as well as personal and professional growth,

decrease attrition (and reduce costs),

put judges more in touch with the communities they serve, and

reduce stress.

Studies show that judges, much like physicians, face great stress in their jobs and often are victims of job burnout. "They are always the neutral arbiters between two opposing parties, and they get all the crossfire that such a position attracts," former California Chief Justice Rose Bird says in the report ". . . Our trial judges are a unique and invaluable resource. If we do not take steps to preserve them, we will all be diminished by their loss."

Yet only three jurisdictions -- Oregon, Alaska and Puerto Rico -- today allow judges to take sabbaticals in "some meaningful form," the report says. Sabbaticals would enable judges to renew themselves, the report says, and to avoid the needless -- and costly -- resignation of those on the bench.

"Time away from the constant stress of dealing with human conflict and misery, to reflect on one's work and what justice is all about would surely make for an even stronger and better court," wrote Judge Tim Murphy in his letter of resignation from the D.C. Superior Court in 1985. For a judge to get a respite today, he wrote, it is a "matter of 'quit or die.' And I am opting for the former."