The 63 judges and three supreme court justices standing for retention in this year’s general election on November 8 are well-qualified to remain as judges.
All 66 received high marks on the 12 questions (10 for appellate court justices and judges) for their professionalism and demeanor as determined by the attorneys who voted in the biennial Judicial Performance Review conducted by The Iowa State Bar Association. The attorneys completed the performance review in early August.
All 14 of Iowa’s judicial election districts have at least one judge standing for retention in the 2016 general election. Three justices on the supreme court and four judges on the court of appeals are also up for retention this year.
Since Iowa adopted its merit system for selecting judges in 1962, the ISBA has conducted the performance review as a way of giving voters information on which to base their decisions about keeping a judge in office. Under Iowa’s judicial merit selection system, judges are appointed by the governor after going through an extensive interview and evaluation process by the Judicial Nominating Commission. Voters then decide during the November general elections whether the judges should remain in office.
In order for attorneys to be eligible to rate a judge or justice, attorneys must have appeared before him or her frequently. Attorneys rate the judges on eight (six for appellate court justices and judges) questions related to their professional competence; i.e., knowledge and application of the law, perception of factual issues, attentiveness to arguments and testimony, management and control of the courtroom, and promptness of rulings and decisions. The ratings range from 1-5 with 5 being “excellent” and 1 being “very poor.”
Attorneys also rated judges on four questions related to their demeanor; i.e., avoids undue personal observations or criticisms of litigants, judges, and lawyers from the bench or in written orders; decides cases on the basis of applicable law and fact, not affected by outside influence; is courteous and patient with litigants, lawyers, and court personnel; and treats people equally regardless of race, gender, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or disability. The ratings on these questions also range from 1 to 5, with 5 being “strongly agree” and 1 being “strongly disagree.”