Meet the Judges: Casting Informed Votes in Judicial Retention Elections

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hey welcome and on behalf of the salt

lake chamber we want to meet you in

intro excuse me welcome you to the

last in our series of meet the candidate

forums this election season

this particular uh webinar is entitled

meet the judges

and is intended to help each of you cast

more informed

vote votes on those judges that are on

your ballot this season

i want to particularly start out by


our panel and first of all thank you all

for taking the time to be here with us

we have a

incredible panel here with us today

starting with our chief justice of our

utah supreme court matthew durant

david jordan who is a shareholder of

stole reeves and a member of the

judicial performance evaluation


rick hoffman who is a shareholder at

lone peak valuation group

a member of the utah state bar

commission and also a commissioner on

the judicial performance evaluation


and jennifer yem who is the executive

director of the judicial performance

evaluation commission for the state of


um as we begin today um i want to ask a

couple of questions of our group

but i wanted to start out by saying i

always know when ballots

are out because the first thing that

happens is i start getting calls from my

friends and my family and my colleagues

asking me how they should vote on judges

and who they should vote for

and how are they supposed to know who to

vote for when it comes to judges

the first thing i do is tell them that

i'm happy to tell everyone how to vote

and i think everyone should vote exactly

as i think they should

but a better way for them to make that

decision would be to

refer them to the information that comes

from the judicial performance evaluation

commission that they prepare

and that is public for each of the

members of the public

to make a decision related to how

they're going to vote

um and so as we get started in that i

think it's

wise for us to step back a little bit

because one of the more

common questions that we also get is why

are so many of the judges positively

recommended for retention from the


part of the way that we can explain that

is if you go back to how

judges are appointed to begin with it

explains why so

many of them are positively recommended

and so to take that first question

i want to turn the time over to our

chief justice

and chief if you could maybe tell us a

little bit about the background of how

judges come

to become judges to begin with

i'd be happy to do that jc

um in utah we have a

merit-based non-partisan

process and it is a process

as rigorous as any state in the nation

for the selection of judges

i've had a chance to compare with other

chief justices as i attend conferences

and top to bottom this ours is the most


it starts off with an application for

from a would-be judge

that application goes to a committee

which has been

which consists of individuals appointed

by the governor

he does that in a politically balanced


uh he or she whichever the case may be

um appoints both lawyers and non-lawyers

to this commission

now they review the applications and

they also review

the anonymous evaluations that are done

of judges so if i want to run

if i want to apply to be a judge

i need to list attorneys against whom

i've had cases

attorneys i've i've been on the same

side with

judges i have appeared before so it's

just a collection of individuals that

i've interacted with

during my time as an attorney and they

have the chance to evaluate

me on an anonymous basis that is i will

never know

uh how they anonym how they evaluated me

uh they evaluate uh would be judicial


based on the candidate's integrity

based on their work ethic

based on their fair-mindedness

they evaluate judges based on their

intellectual capacity

it's a one to eight scale the commission

then collects

all of these grading forms

from these attorneys these judicial


and based on those the commission meets

and decides which of those individuals


interview um

so once and once they do that and and

conduct the interviews

a certain statutorily uh prescribed

number of individuals depending on the

the court level

is sent to the governor might be eight

it might be five

the governor must select

from that list so

and the governor must do so on a

non-partisan basis that's


required so the net effect of this is

that if an attorney has not developed

a reputation for integrity if he or she

has not developed

a reputation for hard work

um if

if an individual has not developed a

reputation for

intellectual capacity that individual

will not be included in the list to be


to the governor and will not become a


so i think as jc described it's a system

designed to ensure

that we get

really that we're choosing from among

the best and the brightest of our legal


so at every stage of that process the

focus is required to be

on merit i can tell you that the

governors i've worked with

i have taken this uh job very seriously

um i think that's especially too when jc


running the selection process uh

she especially was always so careful

so focused on merit so determined to

ensure that the citizens of utah got the

very best judges

so that's how we do it in utah you might

think that that's common

there are other states who do it that

way many states

do not and and we'll talk about this

more later on but many states

have competitive elections sometimes

partisan elections so if i want to be

chief justice

in wisconsin or texas

it might cost me five six up to eight

million dollars

to run for that office

and where does that money come from it

comes from

large corporations who might be

appearing before me

it would come from large law firms that

might be appearing before me

and it would certainly tempt me to make


with my finger to the wind based on

political sentiment

uh our system helps protect judges from

that it allows judges

to make independent decisions not based

on what is popular

but based on what the constitution


um so at the front door we're getting a

lot of good people

appointed to be judges because of

governors who care about it

commission members who care about it and

individuals like jc who assists

governors in that process

that's not to say judges can't develop


that's not to say that you know life


as they say that's why it's so critical

that there be accountability and our

judicial performance evaluation

commission provides that accountability

thank you chief you mentioned some of

the processes that are used in other

states but i think

many of us hear about in the news or

where you hear about issues with

judges david maybe if i could turn it to

you to just ask

how would you compare our system with

other systems what do you see as the


or the if there are any downsides to


thanks jc there are

several other systems in the country

probably the most notable is the federal

system and i think people

generally understand that federal judges

receive a lifetime appointment they

don't stand for

retention elections they're not selected


partisan elections and they're not


by anyone other than the president of

the united states

and confirmed by the united states

senate and then they serve for life

and the idea behind that life tenure is

to insulate judges in the federal

system from the political process

and it does have that effect but of


it eliminates accountability

the other extreme as justice durant just


are elected judges uh including judges

elected in partisan races

i had a case once in nevada between two

the two

las vegas daily newspapers

and the case was pending before a judge

who was up for

his re-election race

and he just did not want to make any

decisions in the case

because he was afraid he'd be accused of


or he's he was afraid one of the

newspapers would attack him for whatever

decision he made

and and so of course the downside of


elected judges is that

they can have an appearance of partisan


it's especially difficult because they

have to raise money

to run a political campaign and they

typically raise money from the lawyers

and so people wonder did this particular

judge decide this particular case in

that way

because they received a large


from the lawyers who were on one side of

the case

that's problematic utah has steered a

a middle course where we have both

insulation from the political process

but we also have a level of

accountability our judges stand for

retention elections they're non-partisan


they're uncontested races meaning

there's not an opponent on the other

side of the

ballot but judges have an opportunity to

prove themselves or not prove themselves

and be retained or not retained

but terms are of sufficient length and

others can talk about that

that judges feel a certain level of

independence like they're not

directly accountable to the political


so that's the middle course we steer in

utah between

lifetime appointments and elected judges

thank you david chief i want to follow

up with you a little bit that process of

having a retention election for these

judges that were originally appointed

how does that affect their performance

or the way they think about

their job

that's an excellent question um

judges um well i should explain that

there is a an intermediate evaluation

process that

jpeg the judicial performance evaluation

commission does

that doesn't go out to the public it

happened happens midway through

a judge's turn that allows a judge

to get feedback from lawyers

um and that's invaluable

to judges sometimes it's it hurts

sometimes the judge might think it's

unfair sometimes a judge

might think that the lawyer didn't

understand why the judge acted as

she did um but overall

judges use that to improve as judges

so it's that's the midterm process and

then when jpeg provides evaluations

in connection with an election one it's

of course important for the voters to

have that information

it's just as important for a judge

judges want to improve

they want to be better judges and jpeg

helps to provide

judges with that with the feedback they


thanks chief um in light of that


can i ask you to just explain the

retention process i think people

sometimes wonder why are these

why are these ballot or judges names on

my ballot right can you explain that

process for us

sure i'd be happy to when a judge

gets appointed and by the governor and


confirmed by the senate the judge will

take the bench

and the utah constitution says that a

judge needs to stand

at the first general election at least

three years

after appointment that

is a first abbreviated term

for the judge of about three to four


and then every six years after that

or ten years for a justice on the

supreme court

a judge will be subject to a retention


jpec works with those judges from the

time they take the bench

until the time they retire or resign

doing as chief justice durant just said

two evaluations for every term of office

one a confidential midterm designed to

give that judge

feedback about their performance

as well as notice about strengths and

weaknesses so that they can capitalize

on those strengths

and have the remainder of their term

to remediate any problems

to get training and improve

before their retention evaluation and

most judges take that midterm very


and are able to address the issues

that may be identified by jpeg and the

people who

fill out evaluations about them

that's another reason i think that when

we started this session um

there was a comment that many judges do

very well in evaluations because

of the selection process the second

reason is because of this

ongoing process none of which the voters

really um

see but at jpec we really believe that

improvement in the judiciary shouldn't


for retention elections judges should

get feedback as they're doing their jobs

on a daily basis

and be able to act on that um more


and at retention elections so

you know there's this long sort of

ongoing process

of evaluation that helps judges to


over time and the retention election is

the end of that process

but it's a very important part of that

process a part that gives voters a say

in whether a judge should be able to


another term of office so jpeg's role is

very limited

by comparison with the voters we make


we provide information to judges but


are the ones who decide

just a quick follow-up question and

david or jennifer or any of you may want


ask this but how was it determined which


the different voters are voting on so

how do how are the judges on your ballot


i'll throw that to either of you

jennifer you go ahead

okay so who's on your ballot

is based on where you live and the

judges that serve your community

so the state is divided into eight

judicial districts

and state court judges serve in a

judicial district

if you live in that judicial district

you will be given a vote a say

in whether that judge should continue to


there are appellate judges of course i'm

starting in the middle and going to the

top so

the state court judge is in the middle

and then up at the top there are the

appellate judges

uh uh court of appeals and the utah

supreme court those judges are voted on

statewide so if you're

a voter in this anywhere in the state of

utah you will find seven judges on your

ballot this year

from this court of appeals and the

supreme court okay so now let's go to

the ground level

um of the judiciary the justice court


but there are lots of rules about

justice court judges and

how they appear on ballots but justice

court judges are those municipal and

county level judges that serve your


if you've interacted with the judge

before it's most likely a justice court

judge for example

if you ever had to go to court for a

traffic ticket you're most likely seeing

a justice court judge in utah

those judges are not selected by our

governor but by the cities and counties

that convene those courts

but they still serve six year terms and

as voters

if you are a part of that community that


or that municipality you will have a say

um and that judge will be on your ballot

the last caveat i will say because this


strike some voters is odd if a judge is

a judge of a very small community

a small city um or town

then that judge will be on your ballot

at a county-wide level and so that's a

separate statute that governs that but i

think i've tried to answer that question


thank you jennifer i appreciate that i

want to go to

so we often hear and i've spent a lot of

time talking with the elections office

about votes on judges and

um you know there are a certain number

member number of members of the

population who just vote no

on every judge um without knowing

anything or who leave them blank

because they don't they don't feel like

they have information to vote

rick i want to um direct this question

towards you

you're um one of the non-lawyers who

gets to sit on

these commissions and help work with

judges um

why should voters care and why is it

important for them

to actually take the time to vote on

these particular

these these these contests

well for me it's the same the same

reasons that it's important to vote

on the rest of the the election that the

voting is are the the means that we have

to express our how

our satisfaction with the system and

particularly with judges

i think that they're hard to it's hard

to see

what judges are doing but it's such a

for people who aren't in court a lot

it's hard to see what they're doing

but we all feel the effects of what

they're doing in a big way they're a

huge part of our justice system and our

justice system is getting a lot of

scrutiny right now

and so to me it's important to vote

because this is our opportunity to voice

our views

of whether we're satisfied with the

justice that part of the justice system

or not

jc can i throw in something on that

i'm expressing a personal opinion now

not a view of jpec but i think it's a


uh not to vote on judges and i think

it's a mistake to

in a knee-jerk way just vote no on

all the judges on the ballot i know some

people do that but judges are not

like political officials

some people think uh and with good

reason that there ought to be

term limits for politicians

that turnover is good

in that political world i don't think

the same

reasoning applies to judges it's my

experience that

judges get better over time as they hear

more cases

as they deal with difficult problems

they get better at their job they


wisdom that serves them well in their

responsibilities as a judge and so

i i think unless you have a reason

to vote against a judge

my own thought is unless i i

believe that a judge is not serving well

i will vote to retain them

and i think in the end that's how we get

a judiciary

that's experienced has been through the

retention process and survived it

and proved that they can do an excellent


thank you david um for those who have

those those questions about well how do

i know i don't want to cast a vote

that's not informed

where can they go outside of this


to find um to find information on those

judges where

where can they where should they look

jennifer can i throw that to you first

absolutely um so this

is the conundrum um

that in part motivates judicial

performance evaluations right we talked

in the beginning of this webinar how we

have a merit-based selection process

well in utah we have a merit-based

retention process so we're not looking

at partisan affiliation

but we're not asking judges to make

campaign promises we're trying to look

at as citizens the contributions

of our judges in terms of their

abilities to do their jobs well

but the challenge is most of us

if we're lucky and we're not a lawyer

most of us are happy to never find

ourselves in court

and to not have any real reasonable way

of finding out information

about the judges who serve our

communities these are very influential


that it's been said affect our lives in

many many ways

but we can't we have a hard time finding

information about them

so jpeg was created to provide that

information to voters

to do data-driven analyses

of a judge's performance by collecting


from people who appear before judges

regularly by

analyzing objective criteria and

reporting that information to voters

so that voters have an opportunity

to access that information look up


on their own make decisions about what

matters to them

talk to lawyers in the community like jc

and david get their opinions

and then make up their own minds how to

vote and i think it's really important

to note that this process of voting on

judges in some ways is no different

than any other process of voting on on

issues on your ballot

very seldomly do we go to a single piece

of information

and just trust that single piece of

information whether it's a candidate's

website or a friend's advice

we look broadly for information we try

to seek things

that we believe we can trust and then we

do our best to cast an informed vote

and the situation here is the same and

we would encourage people to go to

to get a start on that information of

casting an informed vote

david and rick i just want to ask either

of you i'm sure you get calls just like

i do who should i vote for

how do you how do you instruct people to

find information or to determine how

they should do that

you go first rick

no nobody cares about my opinion about

that i don't get those calls

but i liked i liked your answer

about that that they should vote my way

but generally i

i think that i tell people i think we've

got a great

group of judges and so i i believe

what david said earlier that i believe

the judges

all warrant support because i think

they've all met the minimum standards

they've all

uh i agree with him on them getting


with age so i i personally um

encourage people to vote yes for the

judges because i believe in the process

and i believe what's happened

i i believe that through our process

they've been vetted very well

through the whole process not just jpeg

but through the

selection process that the chief

described through the entire process

we've got a great

group of judges so i'll add that i'll

i'll add this jc uh

it is true that sometimes a judge goes

off the rails

for whatever reason maybe personal

problems in their life

maybe health problems it could be any

number of things

and that will usually show up in the

judicial performance

evaluation process if it does

we'll call a judge in we'll interview

that judge

try to understand what the problem was

if they feel to

fail to meet a minimum performance

standard that's prescribed by the


we always call them in to see if they

have an explanation for it

our process works this way if someone

meets all the performance standards

established by the legislature

we presume that they're qualified for


if they fail to meet a

minimum standard we presume that they're

not qualified for retention

and that presumption would have to be


there would have to be a good

explanation for why

jpec would still recommend their


in spite of them not meeting a minimum

performance standard

now you may say to yourself wow when i

look at the ballot it looks like jpeg

always votes to retain all the judges

not not true something that the public

sometimes does not see

is the conversation that we have with

judges in private

where we talk to them about the fact

that they haven't met a minimum standard

and we're not persuaded that they are

overcoming the presumption against their


in that circumstances in that


sometimes judges withdraw their name

from the ballot and retire

other times you'll see a split vote on


uh on the information packet that you

receive either online

or um now it's just i guess always

online isn't it jennifer

but if you see a split vote

maybe that's something that you'll want

to follow up on maybe you have some

lawyer friends

and you'll ask some more questions there

may be some newspaper reporting on that

particular judge that you'll be


in reading but you should certainly go


and there you'll find a lot of

information about the judge that will

inform you and then

you cast your vote the way you want to

regardless of

how the vote may have turned out on the

judicial performance evaluation


thank you i think when when i read

comments online

or talk with people that is one of the

the most common questions that is asked

is how is jpec useful if they give a

positive recommendation

to everyone and they don't give a

positive recommendation to everyone but

i think for the reasons that you've

talked about

that does seem to be the to the to see

to be the norm

i'll open this up to any of you how else

would you answer that question to people

we'll talk

more in depth about your process um but

what would you add to that if someone

were to say you know

how can it be an objective process if

everyone was getting a positive


chief how would you respond to that

i would respond by saying one as has

been noted

um it's it's not always a positive

recommendation but

more importantly a lot of judges who

have encountered

problems of the kind that david


will drop out even at the midterm stage

sometimes it might be in connect

connection with the evaluations

uh in the election year but

a judge doesn't want the embarrassment

of a negative recommendation

from jpeg and so it offers them an

opportunity to gracefully

uh retire so it's a very important check

on substandard judging

and in addition to that as i previously

noted even apart from

the fact that it helps to kind of weed

out those judges who've encountered


it provides important feedback

on how judges can do their job better

thank you chief um rick jennifer

anything that you would want to add to


i would only add we we should expect the

judges to generally be

high performers there's a very high bar

for them to become a judge in the first

place that

that people people are heavily

scrutinized to come into the process

and and so we should expect that judges

are generally

going to be people that we want in that


and then the majority of them do a very

good job in that position

and so to me this is a sign that our


is is working that we're picking good

good people

to follow up on that and thank you for

that greg


it is a position that people have worked

their entire professional career

uh in hopes of being able to receive a

judicial appointment

they're not people who've just been

pulled it pulled off the street

if they haven't over the course of their

career develop their reputation for

integrity and hard work

they're going to be weeded out of the

process they will not be a judge

so that's the starting point and when i

talk about

and when david talks about judges who

might encounter

health problems or emotional problems or


problems that impair their ability to


we're talking talking about a very small

group of people

so to me it is very unfair given how

judges are selected

and the rigor of that process

uh to simply make a blanket decision to


vote all the all the bums out so to


um so

steve i i wanted to add with that um

just briefly as the chief alluded to i

had the opportunity to

work with governor herbert for quite

some time

and help him and advise him in his

selection and appointment of judges and


i can echo that the process that's set

out in state statute and in the

constitution is a really unique one

that um by definition requires the

judges to be

the most qualified so no one's name gets

to the to the governor unless they fit


that mold but it's also a unique process

in that the governor is prohibited

and the senate is prohibited from

considering partisan political

considerations religious considerations

any of those things

um they really are uh focused on merit

which does

give us that entry point of someone not

becoming a judge unless we know

from the very beginning that they're

qualified and as you mentioned that

doesn't mean everyone

performs well once they're given that

chance most do and we hope they do

and that's what this process is there

jennifer i noticed you did you have

something to add

i was just going to say that um

jpeg is an entity that comes on to the

into the public realm um when

there's an election um and it's when

public attention is focused on our work


on the work of judges in advance of

these retention elections

but what i think most of the time the

public doesn't see is that we're working

um the whole rest of the time ever the

other two years

to do these evaluations for judges and

to work with them

um as i said earlier i think it's it's a


to want um

improvement in our judiciary to wait for

retention elections

so working together um

to hold judges accountable

and to push them to come to work every

day and be the best

judges that they can be and for them to

feel that motivation

is really one of the primary purposes

of an evaluation process

the point is we i i believe

we shouldn't be trying to throw the bums

out we should be trying to ensure

that utah has the best state judiciary

in the nation

and that we should achieve that in as

many using as many

tools as we have and performance

evaluation is one of those

doing rigorous honest valid evaluations

of judges

that citizens and judges

can trust to accurately represent

somebody's performance is absolutely key

so we've there are some questions um

that have been

asked about um

how we evaluate the judges in terms of

their implicit biases

um their blind spots with regards to


and i would say this if a judge's


has things in it that we can


about problems and this is not

necessarily uncommon it

might be about race it might be about

gender it might be about

victims it might be about prosecutorial

biases there are

all kinds of different ways that people

can be perceived to be unfair

those things find their way into jpeg's

narratives so if you go online to and you click on the

judge's name

you can read the narrative that

commissioners have worked

to write that fairly represents the

judge's performance evaluation

so we incorporate that analysis

into our evaluation of a judge and if

the judge decides to run for the

retention election

you have access to it online


just to follow up um

you know we used to do these this

evaluation of judges internally

and when i was when it was first moved

to this independent group


there was a a lot of natural tension


judges were being judged

and maybe had a bit of a rocky start

but if i could just say this about the


commission one we have extraordinary

people like david

like rick serving on that commission we


independent-minded people lawyers and


uh two it's run by uh

dr yin who in my opinion has done an

absolutely extraordinary job now are

there still

some tensions yes again

these people are the judges of the

judges but we take

great comfort in the fact that they are

to a person

um highly qualified independent-minded

and committed to a utah's judiciary and

committed to helping to improve

um our judiciary so

well it's not always easy for judges to

be judged

um i really appreciate the way this


um invests so much time

and so much uh fought in consideration

into fairly judging um our judges so

you know when people suggest well what's

the point of the commission

uh i kind of does rub me the wrong way

because this commission just flat out

helps to improve

our judiciary

let's talk a little bit about the

process that the commission goes through

um one of the things that if folks go to

the go to the

website and look at the different


they'll they'll see some percentages and

some different things like that

let me just ask you this question and um

perhaps we can have

rick maybe i can turn this to you just

because a judge gets the recommendation


and people if you're looking at you at

the ballots will say that they're

recommended for retention or not

recommended for retention

if someone's recommended for retention

does that mean that all the judges

who have that recommendation have an

equal skill level

or an equal performance level no

uh it means that they've passed the

minimum standards

um we see it's to me it's a fascinating


uh we see just like you would with any

group of humans different

skills uh spread across them different

strengths and weaknesses

and the criteria that we use includes

surveys as well as courtroom

observations a variety of things that we

may talk about but

those criteria it's it's fascinating to

me how often

criteria that comes for data that comes

from different sources

says the same strengths and the same

weaknesses about

different judges in other words several

sources all say the same great things

they all see the same great things about

a particular judge or they all

observe a particular weakness of a judge

which gives me

comfort that one the judges just like

any group of humans have

different strengths and weaknesses but

two that our

data sources are seeing what we're

trying to observe in this process

jc can i add something to that of course

of the criteria on which we evaluate


is procedural fairness now i've been

watching the questions

that have popped up during the course of


webinar today and one of one of the

questions was about

um how do we about judge how do we

evaluate judges for

bias of various kinds a racial bias a

gender bias

when we ask ask the people that we

survey for example like


about questions of procedural fairness

we will often see uh

will get a good insight into how the

judges are perceived in terms of the way

they treat people

do they treat men and women equally do

they treat people of all races equally

do they have a

religious bias comments will come back

from lawyers sometimes from

courtroom observers sometimes from


sometimes from caseworkers who work in

the juvenile court system

and so we do have ways

of of seeing whether there is bias in

the way that a judge

is doing their work um

now part of the question that i i saw

pop up on my screen is

are judges trained for

um implicit bias uh trained

on how they might filter that out of

their work i'll let justice duran speak

to that

but let me just tell you something about

how jpeg does

its work we do receive

extensive uh bias training

including implicit bias and one of the

ways that we protect ourselves from bias


as we work through our process for the

first stages of our evaluation process

we don't know the judge's race we don't

know the judge's gender

we don't know anything about the judge

except a number and the evaluations that

they've received

from others and so we try to filter out

our own biases

as we work through our process

chief did you want to add anything to


certainly yeah there's not a judge

in our system

who is intentionally unfair

or biased each judge

is struggling to make the right decision

based on the facts in the wall

but we are all products of our life


we have all have biases whether implicit

or explicit

when explicit we can directly account

for them

and ensure that they don't infect our

decision-making process

when input implicit we don't have that

same opportunity unless

we have been trained to recognize our

own implicit

biases so for that reason

yes we do have training we had an

appellate court training

i guess it was two weeks ago for

instance we do it at our conferences

and this is something we're very focused

on right now

david mentioned the concept of

procedural fairness

that's the notion that it's not enough

for a judge to just make the right


the people who've been in that judge's

courtroom should leave

having felt heard so even if someone

loses they're entitled to know

why the judge made that decision they

titled it just to say their peace

to feel like they had a meaningful

opportunity to express their

their view that is a particular concept


i give jpec a lot of credit for

bringing that to the fore uh in turn in

in terms of uh our our judiciary's focus

on that now it has become a very large


of our judiciary just one last note

because we have been concerned

about the issue of bias whether explicit

or implicit

we recently decided as a court system

through our judicial council

the governing body of our court system

to create an office of fairness and


um that was a big step especially in

this challenging

time fiscally to devote

a portion of our budget to the creation

of that office

but i am thrilled about it

um thrilled about the profs the

opportunity that gives us

to not only even better educate our

judges about implicit bias

but also to do more outreach so that

communities feel like

uh the courtroom is not so foreboding a


but it's a place where they can go and

get a fair shake we need to reach out to


disadvantaged communities our minority


to all of our communities to ensure that

they feel like the courts are a place

where they can go

and receive fair treatment so uh

that's just one thing that uh one

notable thing that we've been doing

uh recently

thank you chief i i want to shift a

little bit this from this very important

topic but

i want to focus a little bit on the jpec

evaluation so when folks go and look at

the actual evaluations and the


help us understand everything that goes

into that process

of putting those evaluations together

jennifer maybe we can start with you

what are they made up of okay um

the evaluations of judges include

surveys so we do surveys

with attorneys particularly in a judge's


with court staff and we construe that

very broadly to include

judicial assistants case managers um

interpreters bailiffs uh maybe even

treatment providers who work in a

specialty court with a judge

as well as juvenile justice

professionals and

um and others who were who who do

frequently find themselves in court and

were able to to reach

so we do those surveys we also do

courtroom observation we have trained

lay observers we have 50 of them across

the state

who go to judges courts they now go

virtually to judges courts

but observe judges hold in court and

make observations about this

issue of procedural fairness about how

the judge treats people who appear in


and sends that information to our


we we collect objective data on a

judge's performance including

tracking judicial discipline um needed

out by

the utah supreme court and um and other


like judicial education um and time

standards like how quickly they

manage cases that they take under

advisement so we

look at all of that information and

there are

uh as was said earlier statutory minimum

performance standards

we report those minimum performance

standards and compare the judge to those

standards as well as

to his or her peers and

put all of that information together

into a report

commissioners vote on whether the judge

should be retained

they are constrained in their judges in

their decision-making

um in ways that david jordan spoke

to in the beginning of this webinar

and then they um the commissioners vote

the judges get a copy of that report and

get to make the decision

um about whether to stand for the

retention election or not

if the judge stands for the attention

election then you get the information

at sorry i didn't mean

to direct write that word done for a


but i wanted to ask if you could also

just follow up a little bit of

what went into the determination of what

these minimum performance standards are

how did we decide

what those benchmarks are for making

someone a good judge

i think that answer has probably lots of

different pieces and i'm going to

actually rely

on my co-presenters here to to sort of

fill in the pieces but i do know

that um we have used standards that have


created by um the bar the

american bar association and that we've


looked at things that as a commission we

believe matter like procedural fairness

how people are treated in court

and we've developed in the legislature

minimum performance standards to set

those out either

in statute or occasionally enroll

maybe somebody else has something else

to add to that

one of the performance measures and

you've all mentioned this actually in

various answers

is the concept of procedural fairness

and how well a judge does at that

um maybe i could ask um chief if you

could talk a little bit more about

what does that what is what is

procedural fairness as it comes to

rating of judges and how do judges

incorporate that into their work

yes jc thank you

um procedural

fairness is not

a judge judy i think the opposite of

judge judy

um judges are obligated

by our code of conduct and by their oath

to not just neutrally resolve a dispute

but to treat each individual

with respect and dignity

um there is no excuse for a judge to

ever be rude

to anyone who appears in her or his


um and as i mentioned earlier

we have an obligation not only to get

the decision right

but to explain it in a way that people


heard i'll just say that this is also

something that i've appreciated

from jpec over the years i think in the



well let me just put it this way i think

jpeg itself and the way it judges

us the way it judges the judges

has has taken great pains to ensure

that we can feel we're treated fairly

that we understand the process and we

understand that the criteria that

are employed that's just something

everybody should be entitled to

whether they're judges or whether they

are individuals appearing before


thank you chief to say that's a process

that or a concept that i adopted from

the judiciary many years ago or at least

i try to

it's that concept of procedural fairness

or due process and that any process

i think is better understood or your

interactions are better people


why you're doing what you're doing they

feel listened to they feel

heard they feel understood and they

understand the reasons why

a decision was reached whether or not

whether or not they agree with you

i want to talk just a little bit now in

our remaining time about what this

process um

kind of looks like for a judge um

and so maybe we can talk about if we can

start and i know i'm going to the chief

a lot

but you know when you become a new judge

there's a lot to learn just like there

is in any new job

but what is that learning curve like and

how does this process help

judges learn what they're doing or

should be doing

well um thank you jc

we have our own internal training

process for new

judges it's it's extensive

and and uh i think that our educators do

a fine job

in that process but it is a bit like

you know drinking from a fire hose for

anyone no matter what

their background um and especially let's

say if you are a

maybe a civil litigator someone who


in the area of lawsuits business

disputes and so forth

suddenly you're asked to decide criminal


you may have no experience with that and

the reverse can be true

so that initial training is critical but


but it's you never can quite do enough

judges learn over time we have a mentor


um the first time that they are reviewed

is usually

correct me if i'm wrong on this dr yem

but it's usually about it's usually two


from the time the judge began service as

a judge

they've learned a lot by then but

there's still a lot to learn

that's why it can be so helpful and

sometimes eye-opening

to see comments from attorneys that come

through the jpec evaluation process

and to be able to have weaknesses

identified you can start to work on

and when we uh get those back

also where a judge's

a judge wants the help and typically a

judge will want the help

we also offer mentoring from senior

judges that can help

in the training process as well

thank you chief um

jennifer david rick i want to turn this

to you but as you as you've worked with


um one of the things that people often

wonder you know lawyers we're going to

protect the judges or judges are going

to say nice things about one another

it's a very internal process

i want you to talk a little bit about

those those

citizen and i say citizen but non-lawyer

non-legally trained

evaluators that take part in this


how do you um how do who are they how do

they work through things

and how do they get that information to


well let me let me follow on to the

chief judges

justice's comment before maybe we'll

kick it to jennifer to talk about the

courtroom observer program

so there's there's an old saying that

when you become a judge

all your jokes become funny

there's a truth behind that because

judges are in a a very important

position in our society and

lawyers want to have a good relationship

with judges

um they know they may appear in front of

that judge they want that judge

to like them they hope that will

mean that they'll get a good shake in

the judge's court

so if

lawyers didn't have an anonymous

process for registering their opinions

about judges then we might not get

candid feedback

but it is an anonymous process we survey

lawyers and others who participate in

the process including the judge's own

staff members

including jurors and others and and

when we prepare either a midterm report

or a full retention election report

we anonymize uh all those comments

in such a way that the judge will not be

able to perceive

who made the comments and so i think we

do get a level of candor

from people that we wouldn't otherwise


and that's helpful that's helpful for

judges because

just because everyone laughs at your

jokes doesn't mean you're funny

and sometimes judges need candid


about the ways that they can improve and

i i think

through our process we're able to give

them that kind of anonymous

candid feedback

thank you if i might

um i think this is i appreciate this

last question

um that you just asked and and it's

because of this

i think we've been spending a lot of

time talking um tonight about how this

process helps judges and i think that's

really important for voters to


that this process um that they take part


is at the is the last stage of um of the

judge's term of office when a lot of

work had gone

has gone into it and yet

much of our conversation hasn't really

been focused on

voters and what they get out of this


and so i want to kind of you know

let people know that there really are

regular people who participate in the

evaluation of judges

um that their community members who

you live next door to are helping to


the judges who appear uh who serve our


and that there are lots of non-lawyers

involved in this process and i think

that's part of what

jc's question originally gets to is that

half of the commission are non-lawyers

many of them um

don't know a single judge personally in

utah or professionally in utah

they're retired teachers they're

accountants they're

um soccer moms they are former

business leaders or community

organization leaders in utah

and they take this information

in and they need to decide whether the

judges who are serving their communities

are doing

a good enough job and they are working

hard to provide information to voters so

that voters can feel like they

have a real way to participate in a


having voters make the final


is key to a merit-based

selection and retention process it gives

us voters

a real say in their judiciary in their

justice system

and it's an important say so i guess i

would just encourage people

to learn about this process to learn

about the judges that are on their

ballot and go to

to find out that a starting point for

information for you to do that research

to help you cast and inform

them thank you jennifer

we are out of time but i do want to say

if anyone has any closing remarks i

don't want to preclude them but

i do want to say i think that one of the

very unique things about our system here

in utah is that we are very fortunate

while most voters are unaware of this

process and it is a fairly new process

or don't know how to access that

information if you are looking for it we

actually have

more information and more objective


about the judges who are on the ballot

than you really do about any other


on the ballot as you think about a


election campaign um those are

are done in the the sphere of convincing

people based on

on different kinds of of touch points

these are truly objective evaluations

that are there if if um people will take

advantage of looking at them

i want to thank our panelists um i know

your time is very valuable and your

your the time that you spend in this


is um is is impressive and we thank you

for that

and for lending your expertise before i

just close anyone have any

closing remarks or anything else you'd

like to say

if not um

thanks david um if not then we i want to

thank you all for joining us i want to

thank our

panelists for joining us and for their

work encourage you

all to go to to find

this information

please share that with your friends and

family so that they too can cast those

informed votes

and that they're not just calling me so

i can tell them who i think that they

should vote for

thank you again and have a great