THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

SUPREME COURT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

O R D E R

Pursuant to Part II, Article 73-a of the New Hampshire Constitution and Supreme Court Rule 51(A)(7), the Supreme Court of New Hampshire approves, on a temporary basis, effective immediately, a new Supreme Court Rule 56 as set forth in Appendix A. The rule shall be referred to the Advisory Committee on Rules for consideration of whether the rule should be adopted on a permanent basis, and, if so, whether any changes should be made to it.

DATE: March 27, 2001

 

ATTEST:

______________________

Howard J. Zibel, Clerk

 

 

 

 

Appendix A

 

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, without identifying individual judges who were evaluated, a summary of the results of the evaluations.

(B) The administrative judges of the superior, district and probate courts shall be responsible for implementing the judicial performance evaluation program in those courts. They shall have the authority and the duty to:

(1) consult with the supreme court about the design of the questionnaires to be distributed to a representative selection of attorneys, parties, witnesses, jurors, court personnel and others who have appeared before the judge being evaluated, to assess whether the judge has met the applicable judicial performance standards during the evaluation period;

(2) consult with the supreme court about the adoption of written protocol setting forth the procedure for distributing the questionnaires described in subsection (1), including the number of questionnaires to be distributed, the process for selecting the persons who will be sent the questionnaires, the manner for distribution and return of the questionnaires and the process for compiling the results of the questionnaires;

(3) consult with the supreme court about the design of a self-evaluation form to be completed by each judge being evaluated, which attempts to assess whether the judge has met the applicable judicial performance standards during the evaluation period;

(4) consult with the supreme court about the judicial performance standards applicable to the judges of each court;

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

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

(II) Evaluation of Trial Court Judges

(A) Persons Performing Evaluations; Frequency of Evaluations

The administrative judge of the superior court, or the administrative judge’s designee, shall evaluate each justice of the superior court a minimum of once every three years.

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

The administrative judge of the probate court, or the administrative judge’s designee, shall evaluate each full-time and part-time probate 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 administrative judges of the superior, district and probate courts a minimum of once every three years.

(B) Components of Evaluation

The judicial evaluation process is intended to evaluate a judge’s performance in relation to the applicable judicial performance standards. The person performing the evaluation shall attempt to obtain balanced information from multiple sources to accurately assess the judge's performance during the evaluation period. The evaluation process of an individual judge shall include, but not be limited to, the following steps:

(1) review of complaints about the judge 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 sent to a representative sample of persons who appeared before the judge during the evaluation period;

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

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

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

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

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

(3) At the conclusion of the meeting, the judge 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 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 person performing the evaluation concludes that a judge 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 must take to improve his or her performance and the time in which the steps must be taken.

(2) If a judge has been determined not to have met a judicial performance standard, then the chief justice or the administrative judge of the court on which the evaluated judge serves shall, to the extent possible, assist the judge to comply with the steps set forth in the evaluation summary for improving the judge's performance.

(3) If a judge 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 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 annually to a representative selection of attorneys and parties who appeared before the court to assess the performance of the court during the year.

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 discuss the results of the questionnaires and 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 Being Evaluated. Information about the results of the questionnaires or other components of the evaluation process of an individual judge may be disclosed to the judge for the purpose of improving his or her judicial performance, except that the identity of persons furnishing information about the judge 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 Fails to Meet Judicial Evaluation Standards or Purposely Fails to Complete Improvement Programs. If a judge fails to meet judicial performance standards for two consecutive performance evaluations, or if a judge purposely fails to complete the steps for improving his or her performance specified in the evaluation summary, the judge shall be deemed to have waived any right to confidentiality provided for by this rule, and the results of the judge's evaluations shall become public, with the exception of the identity of persons furnishing information about the judge.

(4) If A Judge Is Being Considered or Is Nominated for Another Judicial Position. If a judge is being considered for another judicial position, the judge 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 confidential. If a judge has been nominated for another state judicial position, the judge may authorize the release of the results of his or her judicial performance evaluations to the executive council, provided that the executive council shall be required to keep the contents of the evaluations confidential.

(V) Retention of Records of Judicial Performance Evaluations

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