WHAT DOES THE PUBLIC EXPECT FROM ITS JUDGES?
Once judges take the bench, the public expects them to be good judges. The Commission on Judicial Performance Review exists to provide meaningful and accurate information to the public for its use in voting on the retention of judges and justices appointed to the bench through merit selection. To do this, a carefully designed method of providing clear and accurate information about each judge and justice appearing on the ballot at the general election is used.
WHAT ARE JUDICIAL PERFORMANCE STANDARDS?
High standards are set for Arizona's judiciary.
The JPR Commission evaluates each judge up for retention election to assess the judge’s:
- Legal Ability: Decides cases based on applicable law, demonstrating competent legal analysis.
- Integrity: Free from personal bias. Administers justice fairly, ethically, and uniformly.
- Communication Skills: Issues prompt and understandable rulings and directions.
- Judicial Temperament: Dignified, courteous, and patient.
- Administrative Performance: Manages courtroom and office effectively. Issues rulings promptly and efficiently.
WHAT FACTORS DOES THE COMMISSION CONSIDER WHEN MAKING ITS FINDINGS?
The Commission on Judicial Performance Review ("JPR") carefully considers the following factors when determining whether a judge or justice "Meets" or "Does Not Meet" judicial performance standards:
- Statistical reports of the survey results compared to the Threshold Standard adopted by the Commission.
- Transcribed comments from public hearings.
- Written comments from the public.
- Written or oral comments to the Commission submitted by the judge or justice being reviewed.
- Information obtained from the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
- The assignment of the judge, e.g. Civil, Criminal, Family, Juvenile, Probate, Special Assignment, Administrative.
To ensure the confidentiality and integrity of the JPR process, all survey data and public comments are encoded with a judge number assigned by the Data Center prior to being given to the Commission members. Commission members never know the identity of a judge or justice until after the public vote on whether a judge or justice "Meets" or "Does Not Meet" judicial performance standards unless a judge appears in person to address the Commission.
WHAT IS THE THRESHOLD STANDARD ADOPTED BY THE COMMISSION?
To determine whether a judge or justice "Meets" or "Does Not Meet" judicial performance standards, Commission members compare the compiled survey data of a judge or justice against two threshold standards. For each category of judicial performance, judges are rated and scored as "Superior" 4 points, "Very Good" 3 points, "Satisfactory" 2 points, "Poor" 1 point, and "Unacceptable" 0 points. First, if a judge or justice has an average score of 2.0 or less for any category from any group of respondents, the judge does not meet the threshold standard. Second, if 25 percent or more of any group of respondents rate the judge or justice as "unacceptable" or "poor" in any category, the threshold standard has not been met. The categories of "legal ability", "integrity", "communication skills", "judicial temperament", "administrative performance" and "administrative skills" are subject to the threshold standards. "Settlement activities" is not because it is very difficult to evaluate.
For any judge or justice who does not meet the standard, or even if the standard is met, any Commissioner may ask the Commission Chair to write a letter asking the judge to respond in confidence, by letter or in person, regarding questions about scores, public comments, letters, or other questions. All information, including the letter to the judge and the response from the judge, is coded by judge number to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of the process. The only instance in which a judge's identity is revealed prior to the Public Vote Meeting is if a judge appears in person to address the Commission.