Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

Perspectives About Judicial Performance Evaluations

OARC recognizes the importance of lawyer participation in the judicial performance evaluation process, a special kind of civic duty that falls upon litigators and others with knowledge about how judges handle cases and treat those appearing before them. Given reports of decreasing survey participation rates and unconstructive (and occasionally unprofessional) commentary directed to judges, OARC asked Kent J. Wagner, Executive Director of the Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation, to give his thoughts about how lawyers can help improve the evaluation process:

In coming back into the office, I have noticed that a number of my fellow commuters are wanting to give me performance feedback. The feedback, by way bumper stickers, seems to be either that I’m an idiot driver (which is hard to understand since they’d be observing my skills while I’m behind them) or that my mere presence on the road is offensive and a violation of the person’s space. I’m really not sure what to do with this feedback. Trying to put a positive light on it, I’ll simply try to be a better driver (whatever that means). This has caused me to reflect on the written feedback provided to judges in judicial performance evaluations surveys.

We are in the business of improving courts together – something we can’t do without you. I very much appreciate attorney participation in the survey process. In fact, I wish we had greater participation. However, when it comes to comments left for the judges, I’ve noticed a trend away from explanations of specific problems or deficiencies observed, and instead toward telling the judge “what you really think of them” (including inflammatory labels such as privileged, racist, sexist, classist) or asserting that a judge is simply a bad judge or an “idiot.” While I recognize your right to leave any comment you wish, I would hope you’d find benefit in providing feedback in a way the judge might actually be able to use to improve their performance. Judges, for the most part, are interested in performance feedback and improving their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Constructive feedback addressing observed performance deficiencies provides the information needed to initiate change and develop. This, I think, is a benefit to all of us, resulting in more efficient case management, better trials, better communication, and greater trust and confidence in the courts. Again, I very much appreciate your participation in judicial performance evaluations.