Lawyers Find Nebraska Judges Perform Well 8/21/18 09/27/18 11:17:37 AM
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Lawyers Find Nebraska Judges Perform Well
By Scott Stewart
The Daily Record
Lawyers largely supported the retention of Nebraska judges facing elections this fall, although a few judges received mixed reviews in an informal survey of Nebraska State Bar Association members.
The poll, released this summer, found that nearly half of Nebraska judges earned the approval of at least 90 percent of those lawyers completing the survey. The vast majority of judges earned the support of at least four-fifths of survey respondents.
All district and county court judges in Douglas and Sarpy counties earned passing marks, along with judges serving on the Nebraska Supreme Court, Nebraska Court of Appeals and Workers’ Compensation Court.
Those lawyers who responded to the survey – about 16 percent overall, out of more than 5,500 active Nebraska State Bar Association members not serving in the judiciary – practice regularly in front of the judges or are familiar with appeals judges’ written opinions.
The survey is anonymous, and the poll isn’t scientific, meaning any inferences should be made cautiously.
Nevertheless, Tim Engler, president of the Nebraska State Bar Association, said many lawyers don’t get in front of a judge as part of their practice, so they don’t participate in the survey, which makes the response rate appear lower than it truly is among those who know judges best.
Engler said the poll gives practicing attorneys a chance to evaluate judges, and the results of the poll are watched by both judges and the voting public.
“People pay attention to it,” Engler said. “It’s a good reflection of the quality of judges we have in the state.”
The overall high marks earned by Nebraska judges reflect not only the makeup of the bench but also the state’s system of selecting judges, Engler said. Nebraska uses the so-called “Missouri Plan,” where a vacancy on the bench is filled by a gubernatorial appointment following a public nomination process. Voters weigh in periodically on whether judges should be retained, instead of directly voting on judges or having them serve lifetime appointments.
“That system promotes a better recruitment of good judicial candidates,” Engler said.
A Lincoln-based research firm, Soval Solutions LLC, compiled average scores reported for judges on a variety of characteristics: legal analysis, impartiality, attentiveness, opinions, judicial temperament, timeliness, fairness, efficiency, punctuality and trial management.
Lawyers rate the judges on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “very poor,” 3 is “satisfactory” and 5 is “excellent.” Lawyers are asked separately whether the judge should be retained by voters.
The complete results of the Judicial Performance Evaluation are available on the Nebraska State Bar Association’s website, www.nebar.com.
The survey covers statewide courts, district courts, county courts and federal courts and includes all serving judges, not just those up for retention votes. Previous poll results through 2002 are also available on the association’s website.