Local News

Bar Association Hopes to Help Public Judge Judges

Posted July 9, 2007 7:04 p.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2007 10:13 p.m. EDT

— 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.