Judicial Performance Evaluation in the States

By Kearney, Richard C. | Public Administration Quarterly, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Judicial Performance Evaluation in the States


Kearney, Richard C., Public Administration Quarterly


INTRODUCTION

It should surprise no one that judges are receiving increased public scrutiny. After all, most of the once-admired political, social, and economic institutions of the United States have fallen from public grace like so many leaves in the fall. Confidence in public institutions, particularly in legislative and executive branch bureaucracies, is disturbingly low. In response, supporters of the Reinventing Government movement have sought, among other goals, to elevate the image of public service through gains in efficiency and responsiveness.

Performance measurement and customer-focused government are two of the many approaches that have been developed. If executive and legislative branch personnel are to be held to certain public performance standards, then it is but a small step to include the judiciary within the purview of accountability. Additional impetus for an evaluative examination of the judiciary has emerged from media coverage of court spectacles such as the O.J. Simpson murder case and the Oklahoma City bombing trials, as well as from the popularity of television programs such as Peoples' Court and Court T.V.

Initiated in Alaska in 1976, judicial performance evaluation (JPE) is a relatively recent phenomenon that has been established or is under development in nearly half of the states. JPE has received technical support and encouragement from the American Bar Association's Special Committee on the Evaluation of Judicial Performance (1985) which issued guidelines for evaluating judicial performance and from the National Center for State Courts which had helped distribute information and other assistance to the states on JPE methods and implementation.

The specific approach to appraising judges varies as to goals and purposes among jurisdictions but two primary objectives prevail: 1) to educate voters or appointing authorities, such as the governor, who are charged with the retention or reappointment of judges and/or 2) to improve the performance of sitting judges. States also vary in which aspects of performance are being scrutinized and the evaluative techniques or method employed but all JPE states must necessarily confront the critical and competing values of judicial independence versus judicial accountability.

This article discusses the diffusion of JPE in the states, briefly assesses it in the context of professional performance appraisal, and examines some of its most important positive and negative aspects.

EVALUATION IN THE STATES

The formal assessment of judges' performance is largely a state phenomenon of the past two decades although JPE programs have been established in some municipal court systems (e.g., Dallas) and in the Navajo Nation courts. Approximately 23 states had some sort of JPE program in place or under development in early 1998. Written information was available on 17 of them, including all fully operational state programs. The following description and analysis is based on published reports by JPE states and on articles and reports in the professional legal literature.

Retention Election States. Five states with merit plan or "Missouri Plan" judicial selection systems have adopted JPE programs with the primary purpose of educating voters before judicial retention elections in which they are faced with a typical choice of "shall Judge X be retained in Office?" (Table 1). In all 19 merit plan states, retention elections have been characterized by low voter turnout, blamed at least partly on apathy and ignorance as to the quality of Judge X's performance. Little non-biased information has been available on the judge's voting record in most states.

Surveys of attorneys conducted by the state bar association are made publicly available in some states but such polls may suffer reliability and validity problems as well as a lack of credibility with the voting public. Judges seeking reappointment to the bench in merit plan states are constrained by ethics and information dissemination costs from educating voters as to their records. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Judicial Performance Evaluation in the States
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.