Wednesday, May 26, 1999

State judges fare
well in evaluation

The survey rated judicial
management, legal ability and
courtroom behavior

By Ian Lind


A confidential evaluation of 17 state judges resulted in average ratings between "good" and "excellent," according to a report released yesterday by the courts' administrative director, Michael Broderick.

Overall, judges did well in all areas of evaluation, including legal ability, judicial management and courtroom behavior or comportment, the report says. Average scores were between 4.0 and 4.2, on a scale that ranged from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent).

Evaluation results are used primarily by Chief Justice Ronald Moon "to provide guidance and counsel to the judges," according to a statement accompanying the report.

The latest evaluation rated 10 Circuit Court judges and seven District Court judges.

Only average combined scores of the judges being rated were disclosed, and individual scores were not made public.

The judges evaluated were not named.

But the report discloses several potential problem areas where average scores were lower and variations between judges wider.

These problems were associated with judges' behavior in court, including ratings for "courtesy to participants," "patience," "absence of arrogance" and "evenhanded treatment of attorneys."

The variation between judges was greatest for these ratings, indicating that several judges may have scored significantly below the reported averages.

The evaluations were conducted by the Judicial Performance Program, established by the Hawaii Supreme Court in 1991. They were based on 521 questionnaires completed by lawyers appearing in court and individuals who represented themselves before the respective judges during the evaluation period.

Honolulu attorney David Louie, co-chairman of the 13-member committee, which administers the Judicial Performance Program, said improved procedures for distributing evaluation surveys boosted participation in the evaluation process.

Using the improved procedures, an average of 36 completed surveys were received for each Circuit Court judge being evaluated, compared to an older procedure that produced an average of just 23 responses.

The new procedures should allow most judges to be evaluated at regular three-year intervals, Louie said.

The secrecy of the evaluation process has prompted criticism for more than a decade, and the Hawaii State Bar Association is expected to make its own proposal for an independent rating system later this year.

Bar Association President Randall Roth said a committee working on the evaluation issue is "determined to come up with proposals that will stimulate a lot of discussion."

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