Report: Nevada should establish judicial evaluation system

Chris Rizo May 11, 2009, 12:45pm

Ron Parraguirre

CARSON CITY, Nev. (Legal Newsline)-Nevada should adopt a statewide system to evaluate the performance of elected judges, a report from the Nevada Supreme Court's Article 6 Commission said Monday.

The blue ribbon panel's report suggests a five-step process to evaluate jurists as, among other tings, a way to help voters know how state judges are performing.

"Voters frequently complain that they have insufficient knowledge to determine if a sitting judge is worthy of being returned to the bench," said Associate Chief Justice Ron Parraguirre, who was elected to the high court in 2004.

He represents the state Supreme Court on the Article 6 Commission, which was established by the high court to examine at matters affecting the Nevada state Judiciary

The report, prepared by the Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies at the University of Nevada at Reno, noted that current judicial evaluation systems in the state are neither funded nor conducted by the judicial branch.

"The Article 6 Commission wanted to determine if broad based evaluations could paint an accurate picture of a judge's performance," Parraguirre said. "It is clear from this study that such evaluations can be very useful for the voting public and the judges themselves."

Under a current system, attorneys in Clark and Washoe Counties are polled biennially about the performance of judges in their counties and the Nevada Supreme Court. However, the evaluation system suggested by the Article 6 Commission would include not only attorneys, but jurors, court staff, and other judges.

The panel also suggested developing exit surveys for jurors and litigants to complete at the end of trials.

"Judicial performance evaluation programs are a proven approach to promoting accountability without necessarily restricting judicial independence," the report said, noting that jurists should
be "evaluated using objective and neutral criteria related to the process of judging rather than specific case outcomes."

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