Judge Philosophy Guidelines

As the season begins, there are many people who will begin judging for the first time. There are also many people who realize they are terrible judges and want to improve. As such, people will be writing and posting new judge philosophies. I wanted to try and put together a guide for people approaching this task to help guide them through the process. These insights are gleaned from my years in debate looking at judge philosophies and from many revisions to my own philosophy and the effects I saw it have on debates I judged.

I will update this post a few times before Greenhill, but a few people asked me about it so I wanted to get the bare bones out there.

Updated 9-14

Section 1: Things to avoid

1. Being clever- some judge philosophies are very funny, some attempt to be funny and miss the mark. Some are so laced with inside jokes that useful information is almost impossible to glean from them. No one is more guilty of this than me. Judge philosophies are most useful when they can be read quickly, and are written concisely. If you feel the need to be clever, save it for the end.

2. Lying- if you hate the K, just say it. If you hate politics disads, say it. If topicality gives you a warm tingly feeling inside, just admit it. Please drop the “I’m equally open to everything ” nonsense if you don’t really believe it. There are very few people I have judged with or been judged by who were truly equally open to all arguments. This probably sounds obvious to a lot of you, but it really is a problem that makes 75% of JPs totally useless. I would much rather have someone come out and say “I hate speed, disads, counterplans and T” so I can adapt /teach my students how to adapt.

3. Reference other judge philosophies- if you agree with XYZ on ABC issue, either explain that issue or copy and paste into your philosophy. Reading your JP shouldn’t turn into homework, and many people won’t automatically be familiar with the people you are referencing.

How to Structure your judge philosophy

1. Cliffs notes

To me this is the most important section- blunt, to the point, a quick and dirty guide to debating in front of you.

This section should contain 1-10 sentences, preferably in bullet form, that explain the most important things someone should know when debating in front of you. You can go into these concepts in much greater depth later, but offering them in cliffs notes form at the beginning as a guide is extremely helpful to students and coaches alike. Listing things you think are important will also prevent you from writing the rambling stream of consciousness judge philosophy were no one really has any idea what you are talking about/how to debate in front of you because your ideas aren’t expressed clearly. Some suggestions on what should be in the cliffs notes section ( I would select from this list the ones you thought most clearly defined you as a judge/you felt strongest about).

-how familiar are you with the topic/how much do you judge

-what is your ideal rate of delivery, and how many issues would you like to see in a debate

-rank your ideal 2NR strategies from the following list, asuming all positions are well prepared and executed close to as well as possible: Politics case, politics process CP, entirely plan inclusive CP with internal net benefit, impact turning all advantages, topic T argument (not material quals T),  topic K generic (note, this list is not “super specific Pic, case specific disad and case specific cp because everyone obviously loves crap like that, and if you have a super specific pic you aren’t going to consider generic nonsense, the idea here is to guide people when they have to chose from bad options)

-your views on cheap shots- are they voters or not

-your view on K fw that change the decision from yes/no policy- are they acceptable

-your views about T on this topic- are the 2-3 most common violations persuasive to you

-where do you draw the line in terms of what counterplans do you think are acceptable

-uniquess or link- who do you love

-Who are recent debaters/teams that you loved to judge (this is to identify the style of debate you find most persuasive, so you can get specific with examples such as X persons 2AC, Y persons K extension etc). Pick examples the people debating in front of you would know, not golden age titans. This one helped me a lot when I debated. At the Harvard tournament Dallas Perkins said a certain debater was the best he had ever seen, and from that day on whenever I debated in front of Dallas I literally did my impression of this other kid (well, as best as I could given he was a genius) to rave reviews.

-What do you consider the bounds of appropriateness- either in terms of niceness or humor

-offense/defense vs reasonability- where do you fall, does it vary from issue to issue

2. Your views on the classic debate controversies. This can be longer than the above, but make sure you have clear headings/divisions so people can find the relevant portions for their strategies. Many of the classics are explained above- K framework, theory VI’s etc. You can probably figure this out. Some other ideas are discussed in other 3NR posts. As I think of more and as people comment I will update this section of classic controversies, so if there is an issue you think should be in this section comment away.

3. Speaker points – how do people improve them, how do they avoid the pitfalls that result in poor points. Content wise much of this should be addressed above, so this section will probably focus more on style, pet peeves etc.

4. Examples of how you would resolve things- give some context to your preferences above, either with actual examples from real debates or with well explained hypotheticals that you make up.

5. Misc things to include

-paperless rules- I kind of think these should be decided by the tournament , but if not a section for how you will deal with paperless time issues can be good

-who do you judge like- name some people you feel you evaluate debates in the same way, or explain why you see debates differently from certain people. This seems like it would be especially useful in panel situations.