Judicial Performance Evaluation in the States: The IAALS JPE 2.0 Pre-Convening White Paper
40 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2023 Last revised: 18 Aug 2023
Date Written: May 1, 2022
It has been nearly fifty years since the first state judicial performance evaluation (JPE) program was initiated in Alaska. Since then, roughly twenty states have implemented or experimented with official JPE programs, both as a way of promoting professional development among judges and as a way of educating voters about the performance of their judges in advance of retention elections. But momentum for JPE programs has slowed in recent years—perhaps even to the point of retrenchment—provoking important questions about their future.
In May 2022, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) hosted a national convening of judges, court administrators, evaluators, judicial educators, and other JPE stakeholders. The two-day convening launched a larger project—JPE 2.0—which aims to recommend changes to JPE programs that will reflect more fully the experience of modern court users, the needs of modern judges, and the expectations of modern voters.
This White Paper was written for the IAALS convening. It sets out the history of JPE programs in the United States, describes the criteria and methodology currently used to evaluate judges, and identifies seven issues warranting particular consideration for reformers.
Keywords: judicial performance evaluation, JPE, judicial performance review, JPR, judges, state judiciaries, merit selection, judicial selection and retention, professional development, public trust and confidence, survey bias
JEL Classification: K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation