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Have you ever wanted to say what you thought about a judge? Now you can, and it is as simple as getting online.
A new website judges.utah.gov created by the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission brings increased oversight to judges in the state and offers citizens who have been in court to submit their thoughts on how a certain judge handled a case. JPEC unveiled the new site on Friday and invited the public to add their comments based on "first-hand experiences with particular judges," according to a release.
Previously only attorneys and jurors gave evaluations on judges. With the implementation of the new website, JPEC Chairman Lowry Snow said citizens can also submit comments for the commission to use in its final report. He said the new service was prompted by legislation that requires the commission allow for public comment.
"Members of the commission believe that providing more transparency to the evaluation process and allowing members of the public to contribute to that is a positive thing," Snow said.
In the past the Judicial Council, a group made up mostly of judges, was in charge of evaluating judges. In 2008, legislation changed that and an independent body the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission made up of 13 members representing the three branches of government and private citizens was born.
"It is important that the public knows that they can access the website and add information at any time," Snow said.
The JPEC will now use public comment submitted on the website to add to their 2012 report on the judges who are up for retention.
Since the final say about whether a judge stays in office or not depends on the voter, the comments and all the surveys are compiled into a final report that will be included in the annual November general election pamphlet. JPEC's inaugural report will also be available on the website in advance of the election for the first time on March 2012.
"This is a good time for [the public] to make comments, so we have the benefit of comments in making our final report," Snow said.
The online public comment is one of a series of new tools used in an attempt for JPEC to help voters make a more informed decision about choosing to retain judges. A new courtroom observation program also allows citizens to comment in other ways. Volunteers are trained and spend several hours a week in courtrooms throughout the state. Then they write a report about their experience. Snow said the majority of the nearly 30 volunteers already being used are retired professionals.
Comment is also gathered on judges through surveys of attorneys, judicial staff and jurors.
Snow said so far he hasn't heard what judges think of the increased comment on their job performance.
"One of the reasons is that this process is new," he said.
Judges standing for election in 2012:
Kevin K. Allen
David M. Connors
Mark R. DeCaria
Michael D. DiReda
Scott M. Hadley
W. Brent West
William W. Barrett
Royal I. Hansen
Anthony B. Quinn
Christine L. Johnson
Derek P. Pullan
James L. Shumate
Eric A. Ludlow
G. Michael Westfall
Marvin D. Bagley
Jeffrey R. Burbank
Janice L. Frost
C. Dane Nolan
Charles D. Behrens
Elizabeth A. Lindsley
Mary T. Noonan
Larry A. Steele
Shauna L. Kerr
Public comments on judges standing for retention election in 2012 must be received no later than Nov. 1, 2011.
To submit comment Visit judges.utah.gov and click on the Public Comment tab