University of Denver

National Conference on Evaluating Appellate Judges

Preserving Integrity, Maintaining Accountability

IAALS has worked in the area of judicial performance evaluation (JPE) from its inception in January 2006. In August 2008, IAALS convened its first conference on JPE—Judicial Performance Evaluation: Strategies for Success—which focused on the development, structure, and improvement of JPE programs across the nation. On August 11 and 12, 2011, IAALS convened its second national conference, this time focusing on appellate JPE, in response to the heightened profile of appellate judicial retention elections and the need for more tailored means of evaluating appellate judges and justices.

Over 70 state court judges, practitioners, academics, state JPE program coordinators from across the nation, and other leaders in the field attended the conference. The two-day discussion engaged panelists and participants on the roles and responsibilities of an appellate judge, appropriate measures and methods for evaluation, challenges and obstacles encountered in establishing and implementing JPE programs, strategies for improving existing performance evaluation programs, and the role of JPE in the growing contentiousness and politicization of appellate judicial retention elections. Conference participants engaged in an open and honest dialogue that was focused on the overarching importance of appellate JPE and the identification of concrete and meaningful improvements that can be made to the evaluation process.

In advance of the conference, IAALS administered a survey of appellate judges and justices in eight of the eleven states that have official appellate JPE processes. The results of this survey helped to both shape the agenda for the conference and shed light on potential areas for improvement in the process. Drawing from these survey results, conference materials, and participant dialogue, this post-conference report discusses the various approaches currently in place for evaluating appellate judges and justices, and identifies themes, recommendations, and areas for future work in appellate JPE.