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RULES OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

ADMINISTRATIVE RULES 35 TO 59

Rule 56. Performance Evaluation of Judges.


   
(I) Administration and Implementation of a Performance Evaluation Program

          (A) The supreme court shall be responsible for the overall administration of a judicial performance evaluation program. On or before June 30 of each year, it shall prepare an annual report on the implementation and operation of the judicial performance evaluation program for public distribution and filing with the governor, the speaker of the house, the president of the senate and the chairpersons of the house and senate judiciary committees.  The report shall include a summary of the number of evaluations performed by each court, the number of questionnaires distributed and returned, and, a summary of the overall evaluation results for each judge or marital master evaluated and all actions taken to correct inadequacies and deficiencies.

  (B)  A judicial performance evaluation advisory committee is established to advise the supreme court on the design and implementation of the judicial performance evaluation program.  The members of the judicial performance evaluation advisory committee shall include:  a supreme court justice designated by the supreme court, the chief justice of the superior court and the administrative judge of the circuit court, the chairpersons of the house and senate judiciary committees, the chair of the judicial council or his or her designee, the deputy attorney general, the chairperson of the New Hampshire Bar Association's committee on cooperation with the courts or his or her designee, the executive director of New Hampshire Public Defender, and a judicial branch employee designated by the supreme court who is involved in administering the judicial performance evaluation program. The judicial performance evaluation advisory committee shall meet periodically for the purpose of making recommendations to the supreme court on the following subjects: 

    (1)  the design of questionnaires to be completed by attorneys, parties, witnesses, jurors, court personnel and others who have appeared before the judge or marital master being evaluated;

   (2)  the adoption of a protocol for making questionnaires available, including the number of questionnaires to be distributed, selecting the persons to receive questionnaires, distributing the questionnaires, and compiling the results of the questionnaires;

   (3)  the design of the self-evaluation form to be completed by the judge or marital master being evaluated; and

   (4)  the standards to be used in evaluating the performance of judges and marital masters.

(C) The chief justice of the superior court and the administrative judges of the circuit court shall be responsible for implementing the judicial performance evaluation program approved by the supreme court in those courts. They shall have the authority and the duty to:

   (1)  consult with the supreme court about the process for compiling evaluation results for a judge or marital master and for determining the overall evaluation result for a judge or marital master;

    (2) consult with the supreme court about the development or identification of suitable programs to assist judges or marital masters who have not met the applicable judicial performance standards to do so; 

    (3) consult with the supreme court about the advisability of other administrative action to address the performance problems of any judge or marital master that are identified through the evaluation process or otherwise;

    (4)  conduct the evaluation of the judges or marital masters serving on those courts; and

    (5)  determine the steps that the judge or marital master must take to improve his or her performance if his or her performance does not meet a performance standard or his or her overall performance is not satisfactory.


    (II) Evaluation of Trial Court Judges and Marital Masters

(A) Persons Performing Evaluations; Frequency of Evaluations

The chief justice of the superior court, or the chief justice's designee, shall evaluate each justice and marital master of the superior court a minimum of once every three years.  

The administrative judge of the circuit court, or the administrative judge's designee, shall evaluate each full-time and part-time circuit court judge a minimum of once every three years.  

A panel consisting of the chief justice of the supreme court and two associate justices of the supreme court shall evaluate the chief justice of the superior court and the administrative judge of the circuit court a minimum of once every three years.  

(B) Conduct of Evaluation  

    (1)  The judicial evaluation process is intended to evaluate a judge's or marital master's performance in relation to the applicable judicial performance standards.  The person performing the evaluation (the evaluator) shall determine whether the judge or marital master has met the applicable judicial performance standards.  The evaluator shall also determine whether the judge's or marital master's overall performance is satisfactory.  If the judge has not met an applicable judicial performance standard, the evaluator shall identify the steps that the judge or marital master must take to improve his or her performance.  

    (2)  The evaluator shall attempt to obtain comprehensive and balanced information from multiple sources to accurately assess the judge's or marital master's performance during the evaluation period.  The evaluation process of an individual judge or marital master shall include, but not be limited to, the following steps:  

(1) review of complaints about the judge or marital master that have been docketed by the supreme court's committee on judicial conduct and that are public records under Rule 40;  

(2) review of the results of the completed questionnaires of persons who appeared before the judge or marital master during the evaluation period;  

(3) review of the self-evaluation form completed by the judge or marital master; and  

(4) review of any complaints or inquiries about the judge or marital master received by the administrative judge or chief justice.  

(C) Results of Evaluation and Meeting with Judge or Marital Master Who Has Been Evaluated  

    (1) The evaluator shall prepare a summary of the results of the evaluation, which describes the judge's or marital master's performance in relation to the judicial performance standards and the judge’s or marital master's overall performance, and which identifies any judicial performance standard that has not been met and sets forth the steps the judge or marital master must take to improve his or her performance.

    (2) The evaluator shall meet with the judge or marital master who has been evaluated to discuss the results of the evaluation and to advise the judge or marital master of his or her overall performance.  The evaluator shall also advise the judge or marital master whether he or she has met the applicable judicial performance standards, and, if not, identify the steps that the judge or marital master must take to improve his or her performance.  

    (3) At the conclusion of the meeting, the judge or marital master who has been evaluated shall sign the evaluation summary, indicating that he or she has been informed of the results of the evaluation and has been given a copy of the evaluation summary.  

    (4) Within 30 days of the meeting, the judge or marital master who has been evaluated may submit a written response to the evaluation. The response shall be kept with the evaluation summary.  

(D) Failure to Meet Judicial Performance Standards  

    (1) If the evaluator concludes that a judge or marital master has failed to meet a judicial performance standard, he or she shall prepare a written summary identifying the performance standard that has not been met and specifying the steps that the judge or marital master must take to improve his or her performance and the time in which the steps must be taken.  The chief justice or the administrative judge of the court on which the evaluated judge or marital master serves shall, to the extent possible, assist the judge or marital master to comply with the steps set forth in the evaluation summary for improving the judge’s or marital master's performance.  

    (2) If the overall performance of a judge or marital master has been determined not to be satisfactory, the judge or marital master shall be reevaluated within 18 months.  

    (3) If a judge or marital master has failed to take the steps to improve his or her performance specified in the evaluation summary, the chief justice or the administrative judge of the court on which the judge or marital master serves may take steps to correct the non-compliance, including administrative discipline, and may take whatever other steps are necessary to ensure compliance and/or may report the failure to the committee on judicial conduct.

    (III) Evaluation of Supreme Court Justices  

The supreme court shall design a questionnaire to be distributed every three years to a representative selection of attorneys and parties who appeared before the court to assess the performance of the court during this period.  

The court will adopt relevant objective appellate court performance standards and regularly evaluate its performance according to such standards.  

Each justice shall complete a self-evaluation form designed to assess whether the justice has met the applicable judicial performance standards during the evaluation period.  

The justices shall meet annually to evaluate each other's performance.

    (IV) Confidentiality  

(A) General Rule. Except as otherwise provided in this section, all records and information obtained and maintained during the judicial performance evaluation process shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed.  The identity of persons who furnished information concerning judges under the program shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed.  

(B) Exceptions to Confidentiality Requirement.  

    (1) Disclosure to Judge or Marital Master Being Evaluated. Information about the results of the questionnaires or other components of the evaluation process of an individual judge or marital master may be disclosed to the judge or marital master for the purpose of improving his or her judicial performance, except that the identity of persons furnishing information about the judge or marital master shall not be disclosed.  

    (2) Disclosure to Other Judges Assisting in Evaluation Process. The person performing the evaluation may share the results of the evaluation with other judges for the purpose of assisting in the evaluation process.

    (3) If A Judge or Marital Master Fails to Meet Judicial Evaluation Standards or Purposely Fails to Complete Improvement Programs. If a judge or marital master fails to achieve an overall satisfactory level of performance on two consecutive performance evaluations, or if a judge or marital master purposely fails to complete the steps for improving his or her performance specified in the evaluation summary, the judge or marital master shall be deemed to have waived any right to confidentiality provided for by this rule, and the results of the judge's or marital master's evaluations shall become public, with the exception of the identity of persons furnishing information about the judge or marital master.  

    (4)  If A Judge or Marital Master is Being Considered or is Nominated for Another Judicial Position.  If a judge or marital master is being considered for another judicial position, the judge or marital master may authorize the release of the results of his or her judicial performance evaluations to the governor and to any agency or commission authorized to investigate the qualifications of judicial candidates, provided that they shall be required to keep the contents of the evaluations in strict confidence.  Upon nomination of a judge or marital master, the results of his or her judicial performance evaluations shall be made available to the governor and executive council upon request.  The contents of such evaluations shall be kept in strict confidence by the governor and executive council.  

    (5)  Report of Overall Evaluation Results.  The supreme court shall report the results of the judical performance evaluation program in the annual report described in paragraph I above.  This report shall include a summary of the overall evaluation results for each judge evaluated and all actions taken to correct inadequacies and deficiencies.


    (V) Retention of Records of Judicial Performance Evaluations  

The judicial performance evaluation summaries of a judge or marital master shall be retained while the judge or marital master remains in state judicial service.

 

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