25 Judges Evaluated on Courtroom Performance

Chief Justice Ronald Moon released the summary results of performance evaluations for ten Circuit Court judges, seven Family Court judges, and eight District Court judges. The results contained in the Judicial Performance Program 2009 Report show that most attorneys thought the judges performed well.

The Circuit Court judges were divided into two groups of five judges. One group of Circuit Corut judges was evaluated by standard mail, and the other group was evaluated through the Internet. The Family and District Court judges were evaluated only over the Internet. To ensure the security, anonymity, and confidentiality of the evaluation process, the Internet procedure was administered by eHawaii.gov, which is completely independent of the Judiciary.

The five Circuit Court judges evaluated by standard mail had mean scores of 4.0 in the Legal Ability section, 4.0 in the Judicial Management Skills section, 4.3 in the Comportment section, and 4.0 in the Settlement and/or Plea Agreement Ability section. Scores were based on a scale of possible responses ranging from one, for Poor, to five, for Excellent.

For each Circuit Court judge, 150 questionnaires were sent out. A Judiciary computer system was used to generate lists of attorneys selected for each judge. The 100 attorneys with the most appearances before the judge were chosen first. After that, random selections were made from the remaining attorneys who appeared the most frequently before the judge.

The number of survey forms distributed for the five judges was 750. Of this total, 201 questionnaires were returned. The number received for the individual judges ranged from 29 to 51. Surveys were distributed on Feb. 3, 2009 and collected until March 9, 2009.

For the other five Circuit Court judges evaluated over the Internet, the Legal Ability section had a mean score of 3.9. The mean score for Judicial Management Skills was 3.9, the mean score for Comportment was 4.3, and the mean score for Settlement and/or Plea Agreement Ability was 3.9.

Emails were sent to active attorneys who provided the Hawaii State Bar Association with their email addresses. There were 576 responses out of 3,716 emails sent. Some of the 576 respondents said they had not appeared before any judge in the previous two years. This ended their participation in the evaluation process. The number of questionnaires received for all five judges from attorneys who had appeared before them totaled 343, with between 20 and 115 questionnaires received by each judge.

Questionnaires for the seven Family Court judges evaluated over the Internet were collected from July 27, 2009 to August 10, 2009. The total number of survey forms distributed was 3,660. Three hundred four questionnaires were returned in all. Some of the attorneys said they had not appeared before a judge, which ended their participation in the evaluation process for that judge.

One hundred sixty-seven questionnaires were returned by attorneys who said they had appeared before the judge in the previous two years. The number of questionnaires received for each judge ranged from 18 to 35.

The Family Court judges had mean scores of 3.6 for Legal Ability, 3.7 for Judicial Management Skills, 4.0 for Comportment, and 3.6 for Settlement and/or Plea Agreement Ability.

For the eight District Court judges evaluated via the Internet, the Legal Ability section had a mean score of 3.8. The mean score was also 3.8 for the Judicial Management Skills, Comportment, and Settlement and/or Plea Agreement Ability sections.

Surveys for the District Court judges were collected between April 28, 2009 until May 15, 2009. From the 3,685 emails distributed, 493 surveys were returned. Evaluations from attorneys who said they had not appeared before a judge were not counted.

Between 22 and 58 questionnaires for each of the eight judges were received from attorneys who said they had appeared before the judge, or 292 questionnaires in total.

As in the past, the judges evaluated in this report were or will be interviewed by members of the Judicial Evaluation Review Panel. The nine members of the Review Panel are Robert Alm, Momi Cazimero, Richard Guy, Douglas McNish, Willson Moore Jr., William Santos, Herbert Shimabukuro, Betty Vitousek, and Stanley Yamagata Jr. Each panel consists of one former judge, one non-practicing attorney, and one member of the public knowledgeable in the law. Their purpose is to interview and counsel the evaluated judges and help the judges improve their performance.

Chief Justice Moon established the annual performance review as a permanent program in 1993. The main goals are improving the performances of judges, increasing the efficiency of judicial management, and providing the Judicial Selection Commission with a potential source of information for retention and promotion decisions.

All yearly Judicial Performance Program reports are available to the public. Scores and comments received for individual judges are available to the Judicial Selection Commission upon its request.

The current report may be viewed on the Judiciary's website.

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Contact: Marsha Kitagawa, 539-4909

For more information, contact the public affairs office at 808-539-4909 or via email at pao@courts.state.hi.us.

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