Article: Do Jpec Evaluations Make a Difference in the Quality of Utah's Judiciary?

JurisdictionUtah,United States
CitationVol. 36 No. 6 Pg. 16
Publication year2023
Article: Do JPEC Evaluations Make a Difference in the Quality of Utah�s Judiciary?
Vol. 36 No. 6 Pg. 16
Utah Bar Journal
December 2023

November 2023

by Mary-Margaret Pingree

For over a decade, the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) has been gathering and sharing data with voters to help them make informed decisions about whether to retain Utah judges, and providing judges with valuable feedback about their performance. JPEC gathers information from attorneys, court staff, jurors, and the public about the performance and quality of our Utah judges. Many of you may have previously participated in this process by completing surveys that ask you to assess a judge's legal ability, administrative skill, procedural fairness, integrity, and judicial temperament.

Do your efforts have an impact on the quality of our judiciary in Utah? Do JPEC evaluations impact the performance of individual judges or make a difference in the quality of our state judges overall?

This year, under the direction of Dr. David Curtis, University of Utah graduate students examined these questions and explored the relationship between the quality of the Utah judiciary and JPEC's work. This independent study [1] found that JPEC's evaluation process is positively associated with improved judicial performance in a number of ways. We would like to share three of their conclusions below.

Judges with scores significantly lower than their peers were 25% more likely to step down.

This study compared the scores of judges who stepped down at the end of their terms with those who decided to stand for retention. After controlling for natural retirements due to age and time on the bench, the research team found that judges who stepped down from the bench were more likely to have lower evaluation scores than those who chose to run for retention election. This statistically significant association was true for all measured categories: legal ability, integrity and temperament, administrative ability, and procedural fairness.

Additional analysis provided another insight: a one-point decrease in a judicial performance evaluation score is associated with a 15-30% increase in the likelihood of a judge stepping down.

Judge scores increase after their first evaluation.

In Utah, judges are evaluated frequently. Most judges receive two evaluation reports during a six-year term. Supreme court justices are an exception, receiving three evaluation reports...

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