Judicial Ratings - the Ratings Process
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How the Judicial Candidate Evaluation Process of the King County Bar Association Works

The King County Bar Association judicial candidate evaluation process utilizes a representative body of the King County Bar Association in its 85 member Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee. The committee undertakes a fair and comprehensive rating process designed to create a high-quality bench and assist the public by providing them with important information on judicial Candidates. The King County Bar Association invites judicial Candidates for contested judicial elections to participate in this thorough three-part Candidate evaluation process

Uniform Judicial Evaluation Questionnaire

First, Candidates complete the uniform judicial evaluation questionnaire from the Govenor’s office. That questionnaire covers:

·         professional history;

·         Bar Association and professional Society membership;

·         nature and extent of law practice;

·         trial experience;

·         significant matters handled;

·         experience as a neutral decision-maker;

·         significant mediation experience;

·         educational background;

·         court committees or administrative positions held;

·         public offices held;

·         professional and bar activities;

·         publications;

·         community and civic activities;

·         business leadership activities;

·         honors received;

·         statements of judicial interest and philosophy.

Reference Checks

In order to ensure full disclosure and candor, the portions of the questionnaire related to checking references are used only by the Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee. Those portions cover questions of a private or privileged nature regarding disciplinary matters claims, suits, or complaints filed against the Candidate, or other involvement as a party in legal proceedings.

References requested come from the following categories, most of which cannot be avoided by the applicant. Including:

·         opposing counsel;

·         attorneys appearing before the Candidate as a judge or neutral decision-maker;

·         non-attorneys;

·         judges and opposing counsel from the last five trials in which the Candidate participated;

·         additional attorneys familiar with the Candidate’s professional qualifications, skills, experience or attributes.

In addition, the Candidates must complete a supplemental questionnaire that requests additional references from the following categories of attorneys;

·         past attorney supervisors or attorneys who have reviewed and are familiar with the Candidate’s work;

·         counsel and judges in appellate matters.

Committee members are assigned to contact the listed references by telephone. After being promised confidentiality, the references are encouraged to speak with full candor about their own knowledge of and experiences with the Candidate and to evaluate the Candidate’s qualifications, strengths, and weakness for the position sought.

Candidate Interview

The committee convenes with a panel of at least 12 members to carefully review and consider the questionnaire, the information from the list of references, and conduct a 20 minute personal interview with the Candidate. The interview consists of questions pertaining to qualifications for the office as well as issues raised by the questionnaire, reference checks, or other information received. The Candidate is provided an opportunity for closing remarks.

Thereafter, the committee deliberates and, by secret ballot, votes to rate the Candidate, based upon the written criteria of the committee’s rules and procedures. An adequate rating requires a majority vote. The higher ratings require a "supermajority" vote of two thirds of the members present.

Rating Criteria

The criteria for rating Candidates are uniform and objective. These criteria measure an individual’s suitability to serve in a judicial position. When applying the rating criteria, the screening committee evaluates each Candidate against the same criteria. There is no ranking of Candidates for comparison of one Candidate against another the criteria are as follows

Ratings of Candidates.

"Qualified"  A Candidate may be rated "Qualified" if the Candidate has satisfied the basic criteria—consisting of the following factors, which are not listed in any order of priority—to a degree sufficient to consider the Candidate minimally qualified for the judicial position sought:

(a)  maturity, integrity, courtesy, intellectual honesty, fairness, good judgment, curiosity, and common sense;

(b)  a demonstrated commitment to equal justice under the law, and fairness and open-mindedness with sensitivity to and respect for all persons, regardless of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, religion, political ideology, creed, age, marital status, or physical or mental handicap, disability, or impairment.  This commitment and sensitivity can be evidenced by the individual’s involvement in community affairs and activities, professional practice, and personal and professional background;

(c)   the courage and ability to make difficult decisions under stress;

(d)  the competence, ability, and experience to manage pretrial and trial proceedings, including administrative proceedings, arbitrations, settlement conferences, and commissioner or magistrate responsibilities.  It should include an ability to address diverse issues, weigh conflicting testimony, apply the law to the facts, understand the dynamics of the trial or conflict resolution process, and command respect from attorneys, litigants, and other participants in the process;

(e)  the ability to work with a wide variety of subject matters;

(f)   demonstrated excellence in legal ability and practice;

(g)  demonstrated capacity for hard work;

(h)  the potential for ongoing professional development and demonstrated leadership in the profession;

(i)    the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, orally and in writing, with all participants in the judicial process and other branches of government;

(j)   interest and commitment to working with other judges, court administrators, and other branches of government to improve the administration of justice; and

(k)  a demeanor conducive to all participants in legal proceedings before the Candidate being treated with fairness and respect, and receiving an opportunity to be heard fairly and without prejudice.

"Well Qualified"  A Candidate may be rated "Well Qualified" if the Candidate demonstrates a level of skill, experience, sound judgment, and excellence in his or her professional or judicial career, or both, that will sustain or improve the quality of the bench of the judicial position sought.  These qualifications may be demonstrated by satisfying some or all of the criteria used to support a "Qualified" rating.

"Exceptionally Well Qualified"  A Candidate may be rated "Exceptionally Well Qualified" if the Candidate fulfills the requirements necessary for a "Well Qualified" rating and, in addition, demonstrates outstanding accomplishments as reflected by some or all of the following:

(a)  singular accomplishments in professional practice, academic training, judicial career, or contributions to the profession;

(b)  exceptional litigation, judicial, or administrative experience;

(c)   outstanding personal and professional integrity and commitment to fairness in the administration of justice;

(d)  significant public service; and

(e)  excellence in the criteria which support a "Well Qualified" rating.

"Not Qualified"  A Candidate may be rated "Not Qualified" if the Candidate does not demonstrate qualifications sufficient to receive a rating of "Qualified".

"Insufficient Information to Rate"  If a Candidate has been provided with a full and complete opportunity to provide information and, despite that opportunity, the Committee concludes by majority vote that it does not have sufficient information to rate the Candidate, the Committee shall not rate the Candidate and shall place the Candidate in the category "Insufficient Information to Rate." This rating shall not be used if a Candidate has declined or refused to participate in the rating process.

"Refused to Cooperate in the Judicial Candidate Evaluation Process"  If a Candidate has declined or refused to participate in the rating process, the Committee may by majority vote, elect to not rate the Candidate and may place the Candidate in the category "Refused to Cooperate in the Judicial Candidate Evaluation Process."

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