Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A new program, the Kansas Judicial Report Card, is providing voters with the tools they need to cast more-informed votes for district judges, district magistrates, Court of Appeals judges and Supreme Court justices.
Most voters, even the best-informed ones, find it difficult to vote intelligently for judges. The culprit is often the lack of nonpartisan information about their performance. With the Nov. 4th election little more than a month away, a new program, the Kansas Judicial Report Card, is providing voters with the tools they need to cast more-informed votes for district judges, district magistrates, Court of Appeals judges and Supreme Court justices. Established by the legislature in 2006, the program lets the public search its Web site for evaluations of judges and justices based on confidential surveys completed by attorneys, litigants, witnesses, court staff, jurors and others who have appeared before or had professional contact with the judges being evaluated. Participants are asked to assign the judge a letter grade based on their overall legal ability, impartiality, temperament and communication skills. The grades are then averaged and posted to the site with a recommendation from an independent commission to retain or dismiss the judge. Data will be gathered over a four-year period, and judges' ratings in the future will be based on a rolling average of survey results. Kansas is one of just seven states to publicly evaluate judges, joining Alaska (the first to inaugurate judicial performance reviews, in 1976), Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Tennessee and Utah.