A survey by the Iowa State Bar Association gives the 60 judges who’ll face retention votes in November good marks for the way they do their job. Sioux City attorney, Alan Fredregill, is former president and co-chair of the bar association committee that conducts the survey of attorneys in the state.
Fredregill says there are 10 questions for appellant court judges and 12 questions for district court judges with some of them identical questions. The questions deal with a judge’s knowledge, including: perception of the law, perception of factual issues, temperament and demeanor, clarity and quality of written opinions, and promptness of rulings and decisions.
Fredregill says some of the question deal with how a judge handles rulings. He says they ask whether or not the judge avoids personal observations or criticisms of litigants, judges and lawyers from the bench and in written opinions, and whether they decide cases based on the applicable law and fact without the influence of outside forces.
"In other words, they’re not taking their judicial decision from the latest popularity poll about what should or shouldn’t be the outcome, rather they base it on the law and the facts in each case," Fredregill says. Fredregill says this survey is relatively new, as prior to 2000, lawyers were simply asked to respond yes or no if a judge should be retained.
There was criticism of that survey as lawyers said you couldn’t tell if someone was voting against a judge just because of a ruling against them. Fredregill says he felt the criticism was inappropriate because it thinks the lawyers take the evaluations very seriously. But, he says they answered the criticism by changing the survey so the lawyers can rate the judge based on the questions.
Fredregill says the survey helps give some information on the judges to voters. He says most people don’t get much of a chance to evaluate the judges, but the lawyers are the most frequent users of the court system and he says that makes them an appropriate gauge of the judges. You can find the detailed listing of ratings of the judges based on their election district the I.S.B.A. website . Click on the link entitled "2008 Judicial Plebiscite" on the home page.