Justice System Journal Volume: 21 Issue: 3 Dated: 2000 Pages: 333-347
This article suggests a "best practices" approach to judicial performance evaluation programs that uses various components of each of the existing programs to help States with judge retention elections design a more effective and reliable system upon which the public can rely in making judge electoral decisions.
The "best practices" approach proposed is based on both the social scientific literature and the current judicial performance evaluation practices used in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. These five States are worthy examples for States seeking to develop programs of their own. These States have maintained their focus on informing the public and improving the judiciary without infringing on judicial independence. This article first provides background information on judicial performance evaluation programs (JEPs). It then discusses the following factors that must be considered in developing and evaluating JPE programs: who will design and oversee the program; what information will be used in the evaluation; how the information will be collected and analyzed; what will be the criteria of evaluation; and what information will be provided to the public. An example of the perils of operating a JPE program is then provided. The concluding section of this article summarizes 13 of the "best practices" that should be present in a JPE program. Among these are that a multimember commission appointed from multiple sources should sit as evaluators; the commission should have a reasonable balance between lawyers, judges, and nonlawyers and should be drawn from throughout the State; and the program, at a minimum, should have the dual goals of improving judicial performance and informing the public about the performance of their judiciary. 1 figure and 19 references
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