University of Denver

Ten Years of IAALS: Building Bridges for Better Judicial Performance Evaluation

Director of Communications, The Missouri Bar
Cook, Vetter, Doerhoff & Landwehr, P.C.

IAALS is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2016. Throughout the year, we will be featuring guest posts from our colleagues and partners to recap our accomplishments and national impactand look to the future ahead. The full series of posts will be collected here.

When the Supreme Court of Missouri in January 2008 adopted a rule authorizing The Missouri Bar to create and administer the state’s first true judicial performance evaluation program, the state bar was faced with a very tight timeframe for implementation and a seemingly endless set of questions. How and where do we start? How should the evaluation be conducted? What form should the survey instrument take? What information should be considered by evaluators?

Without the help of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), the fledgling Missouri evaluation program would have been hard pressed to find answers to those questions. Instead, what we received from IAALS was access—access to the wealth of information available from those in other states who had already trod this path, as well as the helpful and knowledgeable IAALS staff.

Rather than “reinvent the wheel,” Missouri was able to study other states’ experiences, discuss issues with those who administered those programs, and gain invaluable knowledge as to methods to pursue and pitfalls to avoid. It is no exaggeration to say that, without the willingness of these programs to share their experiences, Missouri’s program would have had a much less successful debut.

Likewise, IAALS staff has always been there for us—either offering useful guidance and advice or directing us to other individuals with the specific expertise we needed.

All of these benefits have since been consolidated into the JPE Working Group, an informal collaboration of those jurisdictions that administer JPE programs around the nation. This incredibly generous group of individuals meets via conference call on a regular basis to hear updates, consider new issues, and share best practices—all with the goal of improving one another’s JPE programs for the ultimate benefit of the citizens we serve.

As Missouri approaches another judicial election later this year, we begin that process buoyed by the knowledge that we have a network of partners who, in collaboration with IAALS, are always there for us when we need information or wise counsel.

We look forward to continued interaction with IAALS, its Quality Judges Initiative, and our partners around the nation in pursuit of the common goals of improving public knowledge and understanding of the judiciary, ensuring that the justice system remains accountable to citizens, and avoiding the intrusion of politics and special interests into the work of the courts.