Judicial Performance Review Criteria

The seven judicial performance evaluation committees that analyzed the qualifications and skills of non-partisan judges seeking retention in the November 6, 2012, general election conducted their work based on a series of Judicial Peformance Standards.

In making their recommendations regarding retention, the committees analyzed the results of a survey of lawyers, the results of a survey of jurors, the results of a peer survey, and written opinions issued by each judge.

Lawyer Survey

For appellate judges, lawyers were asked to evaluate judges on 10 specific criteria as follows:

  1. Being fair and impartial toward each side of the case.
  2. Writing opinions that are clear.
  3. Writing opinions that adequately explain the basis of the court’s decision.
  4. Issuing opinions in a timely manner.
  5. Allowing parties to present their arguments and answer.
  6. Making decisions without regard to possible criticism.
  7. Making reasoned decisions based upon the law and facts.
  8. Refraining from reaching issues that need not be decided.
  9. Treating parties equally regardless of race, sex or economic status.
  10. Being courteous toward attorneys.

For trial judges, lawyers were asked to evaluate judges on 18 specific criteria as follows:

  1. Treats people equally regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, economic status, or any other factor.
  2. Displays fairness and impartiality toward each side of the case.
  3. Is not affected by partisan considerations.
  4. Is prepared for hearings and trials.
  5. Allows parties latitude to present their arguments.
  6. Bases decisions on evidence and arguments.
  7. Gives reasons for rulings.
  8. Demonstrates appropriate demeanor on bench.
  9. Maintains and requires proper order and decorum in the courtroom.
  10. Is competent in the law.
  11. Rulings on dispositive motions state reasons and consistently apply the substantive law.
  12. Effectively uses pre-trial procedure to narrow and define the issues.
  13. Understands rules of procedure and evidence.
  14. Weighs all evidence fairly and impartially before rendering a decision.
  15. Written opinions and orders are clear.
  16. Clearly explains all oral decisions.
  17. Efficiently manages his/her docket.
  18. Issues timely opinions/decisions.

For both appellate and trial judges, lawyers’ evaluations were converted into a numerical score between 1 and 5, with 1 being the poorest and 5 being the best. The number of responses and the average score is listed for each criteria.

Juror Surveys

Members of the public who had served on juries before trial judges during the last two calendar years were asked to complete a survey composed of “yes/no” answers. Questions on the juror survey are as follows:

  1. Did the judge treat people equally regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, economic status, or any other factor?
  2. Did the judge appear to be free from bias?
  3. Did the judge act in a dignified manner?
  4. Did the judge act with patience?
  5. Did the judge appear to be well-prepared for the case?
  6. Did the judge clearly explain court procedure?
  7. Did the judge clearly explain the legal issues of the case?
  8. Did the judge maintain control over the courtroom?
  9. Did the judge promote public confidence in the courts?
  10. Did the judge clearly explain the responsibilities of the jury?

It is important to note that juries do not serve in appellate courts, so no jury information was involved in the evaluation of appellate judges seeking retention. 

Peer Survey

Appellate judges were asked to evaluate their colleagues on 10 specific criteria as follows:

  1. Being fair and impartial toward each side of the case.
  2. Writing opinions that are clear.
  3. Writing opinions that adequately explain the basis of the court’s decision.
  4. Issuing opinions in a timely manner.
  5. Allowing parties to present their arguments and answer.
  6. Making decisions without regard to possible criticism.
  7. Making reasoned decisions based upon the law and facts.
  8. Refraining from reaching issues that need not be decided.
  9. Treating parties equally regardless of race, sex or economic status.
  10. Being courteous toward attorneys.

Trial judges were asked to evaluate their colleagues on 18 specific criteria, as follows:

  1. Treats people equally regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, economic status, or any other factor.
  2. Displays fairness and impartiality toward each side of the case.
  3. Is not affected by partisan considerations.
  4. Is prepared for hearings and trials.
  5. Allows parties latitude to present their arguments.
  6. Bases decisions on evidence and arguments.
  7. Gives reasons for rulings.
  8. Demonstrates appropriate demeanor on bench.
  9. Maintains and requires proper order and decorum in the courtroom.
  10. Is competent in the law.
  11. Rulings on dispositive motions state reasons and consistently apply the substantive law.
  12. Effectively uses pre-trial procedure to narrow and define the issues.
  13. Understands rules of procedure and evidence.
  14. Weighs all evidence fairly and impartially before rendering a decision.
  15. Written opinions and orders are clear.
  16. Clearly explains all oral decisions.
  17. Efficiently manages his/her docket.
  18. Issues timely opinions/decisions.

For both appellate and trial judges, lawyers’ evaluations were converted into a numerical score between 1 and 5, with 1 being the poorest and 5 being the best. The number of responses and the average score is listed for each criteria.

Written Opinions

Each appellate judge was asked to provide five (5) written opinions for use by the evaluation committee. The committee was charged with the responsibility to review the decisions authored by each judge for adherence to the record, clarity of expression, logical reasoning, and application of law to the facts presented.

Each trial judge was asked to provide one (1) written opinion for use by the evaluation committee. The committee was charged with the responsibility to review the decision authored by each judge for thoroughness of findings, clarity of expression, logical reasoning, and application of the law to the facts presented.