Rating judges online

April 15, 2011
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In doing a little research for a story, I came across ratethecourts.com. This site lets people anonymously rate any judge, and even judicial nominees. In addition to being able to fill out a survey about the judge’s performance, the site also lets you cast a vote if you think a particular judge is the worst judge of 2010.

One thing I found interesting about the survey is that, while you are anonymous, you need to respond as to your relationship with the judge – attorney, juror, litigant, witness, etc.

Judges who have been rated are assigned a letter grade, and you can search by location to see who had the highest grades, lowest grades, most comments, most negative comments, most positive comments, and more. The results may be deceiving because most judges – Indiana included – only have had a couple of surveys completed on them.

Like a lot of websites that rate things anonymously – hotels, clothing, restaurants – you have to digest the results intelligently. While a lot of bar associations conduct surveys anonymously, those are done with attorneys who practice before these judges, not the general public who may have had an unfavorable or favorable outcome in the courtroom.

Another component of this site is a forum where you can leave comments on judges. Again, this is where disgruntled people can say what they want about the judge, sometimes fueled by the negative outcome in their cases. But some people do leave positive comments. Lawyers also comment, as one wrote that an Indiana judge was a pleasure to appear before as an attorney.

I’m a fan of review sites. I tend to look up hotels before I book one to see what others’ experiences were. When it comes to rating a judicial experience involving the general public, it may be a bit skewed because those who had a negative outcome in their case will be more likely to say the judge was a bad judge even if he or she did their job correctly and fairly.

What are your thoughts on these kinds of judicial rating websites that allow anyone to fill out a survey and comment?

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