Date: July 1, 2002 Contact: Laura Kiernan
Court Information Officer
(603)-271-2646 x359

NEWS ADVISORY

Report on Judicial Performance Evaluations Released

CONCORD—Lawyers and parties to cases who participated in the first performance evaluation of the New Hampshire Supreme Court gave the justices a overall ranking of "very good," according to a report released today by Chief Justice David A. Brock.

Participants were given questionnaires and asked to rank the justices’ performance and management skills, temperament and objectivity on a scale of one through five (1=excellent, 2= very good, 3=satisfactory, 4=fair, 5= unsatisfactory). The Supreme Court received an overall score of 1.9.

Each justice, also for the first time, completed a "self-evaluation" form that was used as a basis for discussion of their work and each other’s contribution to the judicial process. Because the appellate court works as a group, the justices were not ranked individually.

"Every justice talked about their individual strengths and the areas which could be improved. They acknowledged their responsibility to continually assess and adjust their performance to meet goals, guidelines and expectations," the Chief Justice said in the report.

The report on the judicial performance evaluation program, which also included findings on the Superior, District and Probate Courts, was submitted to Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Senate and House legislative leaders on June 28.

"This program provides the kind of accountability that is essential to maintaining public confidence in our independent judiciary," the Chief Justice commented following the report’s release. "All of us in the court system believe the process helps us to be better judges and to better serve the people of New Hampshire," the Chief Justice said.

The report also said that in 2001, for cases in which data had been collected, the Supreme Court met or exceeded time standards for processing cases.

Judges at the Superior, District and Probate Courts have participated in performance evaluations since 1987. In March 2001, the Supreme Court changed and formalized those procedures and adopted a new performance evaluation program for the Supreme Court justices to follow every year.

In his report, Chief Justice Brock said the revised standards strengthen the existing program and "help guarantee to the citizens of New Hampshire a highly competent judiciary."

The nine Superior Court judges evaluated, using the same one to five scale, received an overall score of 1.9, or "very good." Three judges ranked higher, between 1.3 and 1.8; five ranked 1.9 to 2.0 and one was ranked at 2.4, which is the lower end of the "very good" scale.

In the District Court, 23 judges were evaluated with an overall score of 2.0 or "very good," with 13 of those judges scoring higher, between 1.5 and 1.9.

Three probate court judges were evaluated and each scored 1.7.

Trial court judges are evaluated every three years by the administrative judge of their court. Questionnaires are distributed to a sample of attorneys, jurors, witnesses and court staff and are available to the public.

In the Superior Court, in the case of one judge, Chief Justice Walter L. Murphy suggested that certain remedial actions be taken including periodic mentoring and a review of that judge’s performance again in 2003, one year earlier than the regular three year schedule.

Chief Justice Brock said in the report that the expectation is that the 28 Superior Court judges meet or exceed the "very good" performance standard.

The Superior Court Education Committee, in response to concerns raised during the evaluation process, is now considering future court programs in advanced evidence, judicial writing and stress management if adequate funds are available.

According to the report, "corrective" action was taken in the case of three District Court judges. In one of the cases, the judge involved was temporarily reassigned, to assure monitoring of that judge’s performance, and meetings were held with Administrative Judge Edwin W. Kelly.

A re-evaluation of that judge’s performance several months later "showed considerable improvement over the first," the report said.

The two other District Court judges who were subject to corrective action were given "specific instructions on behavioral and practice changes" and they will be re-evaluated this year, the report said.

A complete copy of the report and sample questionnaires, are available by clicking on the following press releases: