Judging the Judges

October 31, 2010

Judges' comments on 2010 evaluations

The Eagle provided Sedgwick County district judges with their individual evaluations on Oct. 20 and invited their comments. Those who responded:

The Eagle provided Sedgwick County district judges with their individual evaluations on Oct. 20 and invited their comments. Those who responded:

Joe Kisner

"I think this is a wonderful public service and helpful to us. Sorry the number of responses was down but I suspect that the lack of any contested races for the bench was a factor."

Christopher Magana

"I think the evaluations serve an important purpose. Whether an individual judge completely agrees with the evaluation results, all of us can find room for improvement in the feedback from their evaluation. As one of the newer judges, I certainly give serious consideration to any deficiencies noted and look at how I can do my job better.

"The nature of our work means you won't please everyone all the time, but at a minimum you strive for fairness every day. I think you can become a bit isolated as a judge so regular feedback from your peers helps a lot."

Doug Roth

"These evaluations are helpful in at least two ways. First, it educates the public about judicial performance during election years, which is especially valuable when there are contested elections. Second, it provides each judge with important information for use with self-improvement, especially when taken with the state evaluation that includes input from jurors, litigants, court personnel, attorneys and others.

"I noticed a drop in the number of attorneys participating, probably because there were no contested elections. From a self-improvement consideration, I appreciate all those who participated and encourage more attorneys to participate in the future. I know from personal experience and talking to other judges that we closely evaluate the results with the intent to improve.

"We recognize there is no perfect judge and we all can improve. We are competitive people and we want to do better individually, in comparison to each other and as a group.

"When reviewing the results for self-improvement purposes, a judge needs to determine if the opinions are based in fact or perception. For example, does a judge lack knowledge of the law and does he fail to apply the law correctly, or is that a perception with attorneys because he does not clearly explain his ruling; or is it both.

"If it is a perception problem, you deal with it differently. Figuring out which it is determines how you respond for improvement purposes. Sometimes there is nothing you can do.

"I have had two cases in which my decisions were appealed and the appellate courts ruled I was correct, but the 'losing' attorneys (who are well qualified and honorable attorneys) have said they believe that both the appellate courts and I got it wrong. There's not much I can do about that."

Terry Pullman

"While we should take these subjective ratings with a grain of salt — especially some high scores (friends?) and some low scores (disgruntled advocates?) —it is a good, subjective reality check and feedback from those who appear in front of us."

Robb Rumsey

"I believe it is a valuable tool that has the potential to give us honest feedback that we can use to improve how we do our job."

Gregory Waller

"My comment is the same as in the past: There was a very poor response so the results are skewed. There are nearly 1,500 attorneys in Wichita."

J. Patrick Walters

"I find that the evaluations are a very important source of feedback. My evaluation indicates that I need to do better, and I will talk with the attorneys to see how I can improve my performance."

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