By Michael E. Ricketts
The King County Bar Association has completed and announced the results of its quadrennial survey of attorneys regarding the performance of King County Superior Court judges.
The results present a favorable assessment, with most attorneys - more than 70% - rating the judges' performance in each of four evaluation categories as either "excellent" or "very good." The survey report also includes results for individual judges in four categories: Legal Decision Making; Demeanor, Temperament and Communication; Administrative Skills; and Integrity and Impartiality.
The survey, which was administered by Washington State University, was conducted during February and March 2012, and included attorney evaluations of 55 Superior Court judges.1 The survey development and administration were similar to the methods used by the KCBA since 2007.
As noted in the report, an important component of a judicial evaluation program is to obtain information from individuals who have had an opportunity to personally observe the judge during the time period covered by the evaluation. Accordingly, rather than attempt to survey all members of the King County Bar Association or all lawyers practicing in King County (as sometimes was done in the past), only attorneys who were identified as having appeared before a particular judge were invited to participate in the evaluation of that judge.
Attorneys were identified by two means. First, a report listing attorneys who appeared at trials, hearings and other in-court proceedings in Superior Court in 2010 and 2011 was generated by the Clerk's Office. The names of attorneys appearing before each judge were entered into a database for each judge.
Second, KCBA members who did not receive a survey for a particular judge were invited via email and the Bar Bulletin to request a survey for a judge before whom they appeared. Upon confirmation of the appearance, they too were added to the database and sent a survey.
Individual attorneys identified as having appeared before a particular judge weresent an email asking them to participate in the survey. The email contained a link to a web-based survey questionnaire for the attorney to evaluate that particular judge. An attorney who had appeared before multiple judges received separate emails so the attorney could complete a survey for each. An attorney who appeared before the same judge more than once received only one survey email for that judge. Moreover, the software was programmed so that an attorney could complete the survey only one time for any particular judge.
The responses were received via this web-based system for tabulation in the survey report. Surveys were processed through a secure web server, then delivered directly to WSU researchers for tabulation and analysis of results. WSU researchers also provided methodological and statistical consultation to the KCBA Judicial Evaluation Committee, including during the preparation of the report.
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