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NCJ Number: 76616 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: What Judges Think of Performance Evaluation - A Report on the Colorado Survey
Journal: Judicature  Volume:64  Issue:9  Dated:(April 1981)  Pages:414-424
Author(s): J Sterling; E K Stott; S Weller
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 11
Sponsoring Agency: US Dept of Justice
Washington, DC 20531
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A survey of Colorado judges, designed to determine which evaluation methods would receive judicial support and would help the electorate make informed decisions in retention elections is described.
Abstract: The subject of judicial evaluation is becoming increasingly important as more States move toward merit selection of judges. The first phase of this study included a literature search to learn more about performance appraisal in other disciplines and organizations, particularly in business associations. The second phase focused on the judicial survey. Questionnaires were given to all State judges as they registered at the annual Colorado judicial conference in September 1979. The response rate was 90 percent. Analysis of the results involved calculation of frequency distributions for each question; determination of systematic differences on the basis of age, level of court, years of service, and urban or rural court location; and examination of open-ended questions. The Colorado judicial system consists of 233 judges serving in four types of courts; the average age of the respondents was 51 years. Respondents were asked to rate a list of criteria for evaluating both appellate and trial judges. For appellate judges, the 10 criteria which were rated highest on the list were quality of reasoning, conscientiousness, legal knowledge, neutrality and fairness, common sense, intellectual honesty, ability to make decisions, legal ability, moral courage, and ability to handle complex cases. Older judges thought that age, personal conduct, and experience as a lawyer were more important than did younger judges. Urban and rural judges differed very little in how they ranked evaluation criteria. In general, judges preferred to be evaluated by lawyers who have practiced before them. A second close choice was evaluation by a committee of citizens, judges, and lawyers. In terms of retention in office, the first method of choice was the general public. In order, preferences for evaluation methods included a rating scale indicating judicial skills or behaviors, interviews with judges, checklists, and review of tangible work products. The majority preferred that evaluation results be presented without recommendation. It is concluded that Colorado judges favor the idea of periodic appraisals, but they recommend that a combination of evaluation methods be used so that a variety of views can be presented to the public. Six tables and 14 footnotes are included.
Index Term(s): Colorado; Evaluation; Judge retention elections; Judge selection; Judges; Judicial conduct and ethics; Surveys
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