« Ind. Courts - COA holds oral argument at Franklin College | Main | Ind. Law - Upcoming battle over marriage equality in Indiana creates odd political pairings, and confusion »

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ind. Courts - Report on local bar survey of St. Joseph Superior Court judges

Today Madeline Buckley of the South Bend Tribune reports on what looks like a useful survey by St. Joseph County Bar Association’s Board of Governors. Some quotes:

Attorneys who practice in the courthouse believe most St. Joseph Superior Court judges are performing well, as all but one judge received average or above average scores in all categories, according to the results of a survey that asked lawyers to rate judges on their legal abilities, efficiency, professionalism and integrity.

The St. Joseph County Bar Association’s Board of Governors executes the survey each year as an instrument to evaluate the judges who are not popularly elected.

The survey polls local attorneys on whether they believe the judges act fairly and impartially, keep their emotions in check, begin court on time, understand the law and issue rulings in a timely manner, among other things.

It asked attorneys to rate each judge on a scale of one through five in each of these categories — one being unacceptable; two, below average; three, average; four, above average; and five, exceptional.

The results were then analyzed by taking the average of the scores.

“It gives the judges feedback from the lawyers who appear before them on what they do well and how they can improve,” Joseph Fullenkamp, chair of the county bar association, said. “It also gives people who are never in court information to help them decide whether they will vote to retain or not retain a judge.”

The idea is to offer a tool to evaluate the judges who don’t launch public campaigns, so the Probate Court judge and Circuit Court judge are not included.

“Probate and Circuit Court judges may face opponents in contested elections, rather than a yes or no vote,” Fullenkamp said. “People can get information to decide how to vote from the candidates’ campaigns.”

On average, all the judges included in the survey received average or above average ratings (three or higher) in all categories except St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Jerome Frese.

Frese, who did not comment for this article, scored above average in some areas such as legal reasoning and understanding of the law, but attorneys rated him below average in all five categories relating to administrative capability and efficiency in the courtroom.

Frese also scored below average for “acts in a dignified manner” and “acts with patience and self-control.”

Attorneys evaluated Frese’s performance as below average in several categories last year as well, according to Tribune archives. * * *

Pitts Manier, who handles mostly civil cases in the Mishawaka courthouse, consistently scored the highest in all categories, as her ratings in each category averaged out to above average or higher.

Most judges on average scored in the range of 3.5 to 4.5 in each category.

Included with the story are links to the scoring documents for each of the judges.

This ILB entry
from Oct. 31, 2012 links to an earlier survey.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 18, 2013 09:15 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts