Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review

JPR Process

How do voters evaluate the judges?
How does the Commission conduct performance reviews of judges?
Who receives the surveys?
How are survey comments used?
What are the performance standards for judges?
What information does the Commission provide to voters?
How can citizens participate in selecting and reviewing judges?


HOW DO VOTERS EVALUATE THE JUDGES?

In 1992 Arizona voters amended the state constitution to create a process for evaluating the performance of judges appointed through merit selection. The constitution requires that the performance evaluation process include input from the public and that judicial performance reports be given to the voters before the state's general election.

The Commission on Judicial Performance Review (JPR) was created to conduct the periodic performance reviews of appointed judges required by the constitution. The public has the key role in the performance review process. Jurors, witnesses, litigants, people who represent themselves in court, attorneys and court staff who have observed the judge at work are surveyed about the judge's performance. The JPR Commission sets standards for judicial performance and works under procedures adopted by the Supreme Court. Like the judicial nominating commissions, public members form the majority of the JPR Commission. The Commission is composed of 18 members of the public, six attorneys and six judges.

The JPR Commission uses the public input to decide whether each judge subject to retention election "Meets" or "Does Not Meet" judicial performance standards. The Commission reports its decision and the information collected from the surveys in the Secretary of State Voter Information Pamphlet and on this website. Voters can use the JPR Commission's findings and data reports to decide how they will vote on each judge on the retention ballot.

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HOW ARE REVIEWS CONDUCTED?

Judicial performance reviews are conducted twice during a judge's term --once at midterm and once at the end of the term just before the general election. The review is a two-part process: (1) Data Collection and Reporting, and (2) Self-Evaluation and Improvement:

Data Collection and Reporting: Survey forms are distributed to people who have contact with the judges during a prescribed period of time. Survey recipients include attorneys, jurors, litigants, witnesses, people who represent themselves in court, court staff, other judges, and parties who have contact with presiding judges. The Commission also holds public hearings every election year and accepts written comments from the public at any time.

Self-Evaluation and Improvement: Judges complete self-evaluations to rate their own performance. The categories on the self-evaluation form are identical to the categories on the various survey forms to give the judge the opportunity to compare their perspective of their performance with the survey responses. Each judge is then assigned to a Conference Team composed of one public volunteer, one attorney volunteer, and one judge volunteer. The Conference Team meets with the judge to review the Data Report, survey comments and public comments, and helps the judge set performance goals. The Conference Team reports its work with a judge in a Conference Team Report. The report is confidential and is not distributed to the Commission for use in its decisions. A copy of the Conference Team report, with identifying information removed, is used by the Judicial College of Arizona to assist in developing more effective judicial education programs.

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WHO RECEIVES THE SURVEYS?

To maintain the integrity of the performance review process and ensure confidentiality, the Commission contracts with an independent data center to collect survey responses and compile the data. Respondents mail completed surveys directly to the data center. Survey forms are never collected by court staff or JPR Commission staff. Only data from surveys returned directly to the data center is used.

The data center assigns each judge a code number. All survey responses are entered into a database under the code number. When the survey period ends, a compiled data report is generated for each code number.

When reviewing data reports and public input to make its decision about whether a judge has met judicial performance standards, the Commission works only with code numbers, not the names of the judges. This system is intended to reduce potential bias on the part of Commission members when voting on whether a judge "Meets" or "Does Not Meet" judicial performance standards.

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HOW ARE SURVEY COMMENTS USED?

Confidential comments on survey forms are retyped at the data center to omit names or other identifying information. The retyped comments are grouped and reported by respondent type in a separate document. Neither the JPR Commission nor the public has access to the survey comments. They are used only to assist in preparing the judge's self-improvement plan.

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WHAT ARE THE PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR JUDGES?

Judges should:

  • administer justice fairly, ethically, uniformly, promptly and efficiently;
  • be free from personal bias when making decisions and decide cases based on the proper application of law;
  • issue prompt rulings that can be understood and make decisions that demonstrate competent legal analysis;
  • act with dignity, courtesy and patience; and
  • effectively manage their courtrooms and the administrative responsibilities of their office.

To decide whether a judge or justice "Meets" or "Does Not Meet" judicial performance standards, Commission members compare the 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 before the Commission vote is if a judge appears in person to address the Commission.

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WHAT INFORMATION DOES THE COMMISSION PROVIDE TO VOTERS?

Data Reports: In April of each election year the compiled Data Reports (including the retyped confidential comments), together with any public comments, are distributed to the judge, his or her presiding judge or chief judge, the Chief Justice, and the Conference Team, for all judges undergoing review.

Encoded data reports (excluding the confidential comments), together with any public comments encoded by judge number, are distributed to the JPR Commission members for those judges who are undergoing retention reviews.

Written Notice: The Commission sends written notice to any judge who has a score in any category of judicial standard that falls below the Threshold Standards adopted by the JPR Commission. The judge may respond in writing or by personally appearing before the JPR Commission before the Public Vote Meeting. (Link to performance standards page)

Public Vote Meeting: In July of each election year the Commission votes in a public meeting on whether a judge who is standing for retention "Meets" or "Does Not Meet" judicial performance standards. The vote is recorded as the "finding" of the Commission.

Report of the Commission: After the Public Vote Meeting, the Commission makes its findings available to the public in the Secretary of State Voter Information Pamphlet and on the Commission's website.

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HOW CAN CITIZENS PARTICIPATE IN SELECTING AND REVIEWING JUDGES?