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Bar Association Hopes to Help Public Judge Judges

Posted July 9, 2007

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— Picking a judge on Election Day can be a guessing game for many voters.

That’s why the North Carolina Bar Association is launching a pilot program to give the public more information about the men and women on the bench.

Judges with whom WRAL spoke said they are OK with the program, as long as the process is fair.

The program involves attorneys and other court personnel evaluating judges. The Bar Association would then share those reviews with voters at election time.

“It’s very important that we're all very professional and give people the same respect that is due in any kind of public setting,” said Wake County District Judge Kristin Ruth.

Defense attorneys say they're in as long as they are granted anonymity and the criteria are appropriate.

“I've no problem evaluating a judge and being very honest about it,” said Bill Young, a defense attorney. “Based on how they treat the public, how they treat lawyers, the judicial demeanor.”

But Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said he worries that some people filling out the evaluations could be biased and might not do the judges justice.

“I think getting more information is the right thing to do,” Willoughby said. “The way we get that information and how we collect it is the sticky wicket.”

The goal of the program is that even if you have never set foot in a courtroom you have an idea about the judges among whom you can choose on Election Day.

The pilot program starts this fall, and the Bar Association hopes to evaluate all of the state's 450 judges by the fall of 2008.


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  • 1Moms_View Jul 10, 2007

    A fairer system would be to give statistics on judges' performance every year. Post how many cases they delayed/continued and reasons (ie personal etc), how many sex offenders/child molesters they let go, how many not guilty vs guilty decisions made, etc. That's more reliable than letting attorneys rate them.

  • then who cares Jul 10, 2007

    Wow! This has potential for disaster! I believe there must be checks and balances but caution is needed here! Maybe the public should be encouraged to sit in on some cases to become better aware of the judicial system. I've had the opportunity to do this several times as a potential juror. The judge I've been most impressed by is Judge Donald Stephens. If you want to see professionalism in the courtroom sit in on some of his courts. If all courtrooms are managed the way his is then I have complete faith in the courts. I've been to other courtrooms and have had the opposite feeling in some of them. And stories you hear about various judges in the news make you a little unsure also. Judge Stephens is a role model for how it should be in my opinion. And, no, I do not know him or anything about him other than what I've seen.

  • Rabid_Wolf_2 Jul 10, 2007

    All judges put their pants on, one leg at a time. Unless you're that judge up in DC that lost his pants.

  • GroupOfPricklyPears Jul 10, 2007

    I'm totally against lawyers judging/evaluating Judges. I'm assuming the Chief Justice has a Judicial peer review board/commission, they meet quarterly to review complaints from lawyers and the public, take appropriate action and make the entire process open to the public in as much as personnel laws will allow. Otherwise, the voting public can decide at election time given a Judge's stats - how many he let slide on DUI's, speeding, letting accused rapist out on bond, setting low bond for spousal abuse cases, etc. Let the Judge defend his/her own record of fairness, efficiency, leniency, harshness to their district citizens. We, the people, shall decide.

  • Adelinthe Jul 10, 2007

    I think we can trust lawyers and the public to be fair in judging judges. The evaluators will be able to see "sour grapes." And if a lawyer has had a case unfairly go against them, they have a point; if it was fair and justice, they know they do not.

    I hope this reflects on those judges who let a rapist out on bond, only to have them rape again in the interim - or murder, or rob.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • pleshy Jul 10, 2007

    Let's Clear up one misconception: The NC Bar is the mandatory STATE government entity, run under the auspices of the Supreme Court, with the duty of licensing and disciplining lawyers. the NC Bar Association is a Voluntary group of lawyers that pay dues to an organization that performs a lot of tasks on their behalf. CLE training, lobbying, giving voters advice of judge races. There are also other, smaller sub groups like the Association of Trial and Defense attorneys, but the only real Bar is the mandatory Bar. Everything else is just a voluntary association. At least in NC

  • I say... Jul 10, 2007

    This pool of non-impartial lawyers is where the judges are generally selected from. If you don't trust the lawyers opinions, then you can base your vote accordingly. The Bar will be providing the public with opinions, based on having had frequent, professional interaction with the courts. All opinions are biased by the perspective of the viewer, which is why it is an opinion, and not a fact.

    Much like reading all of the comments and opinions posted here allows one to decide for themselves which have merit from those that are flawed, I tend to prefer the decisions made by an informed electorate, as opposed to relying on name recognition or when that fails, whatever we can gleam from a list of names alone.

    The first step to quality improvement is to establish a form of measurement. They don't all have to be accurate, as long as the sampling is broad enough, such that when taken collectively there is a correlation to actual performance.

  • 3potato4 Jul 10, 2007

    I would rather see examples on how Attorneys/potential Judges have handled cases and what were the outcomes. Then I could make up my own mind. Rather than my mailbox jammed with fliers saying someone is going to be tough on (example) sex offenders, show me what you've done already.

  • tbajr Jul 10, 2007

    Knowing more about them would help...Such as are they "God
    fearing", and do they uphold the Constitution. Their track
    record should reflect this and if it doesn't, don't need to know
    anything else!

  • napdog123 Jul 10, 2007

    "thinkb4youspeak" WELL...your point to your synopsis is why after a "fair and ethical" evaluation by defense attorneys would people need to hire them. So why would they hurt themselves...THAT MY FRIEND IS HILARIOUS!!! WHY...no offense to the great people of this nation, but laws are complex and frankly folks wouldn't know any better. Defense attorneys have nothing to lose but everything to GAIN!!