RALEIGH — The North Carolina Bar Association is hoping that an evaluation of state judges by lawyers will help voters decide which judges to elect in the upcoming 2012 elections.
The association recently released the results of its Judicial Performance Evaluation Survey, a survey administered last May, that had attorneys licensed to practice in North Carolina evaluate judges who will be candidates during the 2012 elections.
The judges were evaluated on six qualities: integrity and impartiality; legal ability; professionalism; communication; administration skills; and overall performance. Each category was rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent; 4 good; 3 average; 2 below average; and 1 poor.
Among the judges evaluated were four from Robeson County: Superior Court judges Robert F. Floyd Jr. and James G. Bell, as well as District Court judges Judith Milsap Daniels and William Jeffrey Moore. Statewide, 168 judges — all eligible for election in 2012 — were surveyed, including 17 Superior Court judges and 151 District Court judges.
A separate survey evaluating qualifications of challengers to any of the judges evaluated in May will be conducted in March, according to the Bar Association. These results, along with those recently released, will be included in an online voter’s guide that will be posted on the N.C. Bar Association’s website.
Floyd scored an average overall performance rating of 4.31. His other average ratings were: 4.36 for integrity and impartiality; 4.24 for legal ability; 4.48 for professionalism; 4.40 for communication; and 4.35 for administration skills.
Bell received an average overall rating of 3.93. Other categorical averages were: 4.06 for integrity and impartiality; 3.78 for legal ability; 4.19 for professionalism; 3.90 for communication; and 3.94 for administration skills.
Daniels scored an overall performance average of 4.03. Her other averages were: integrity and impartiality, 4.13; legal ability 3.97; professionalism, 4.25; communication, 4.03; and administration skills, 3.93.
Moore mustered an overall performance average of 3.34. His other averages included: 3.38 for integrity and impartiality; 3.44 for legal ability; 3.50 for professionalism; 3.39 for communication; and 3.39 for administration skills.
Hal Kinlaw, attorney for Robeson County, said that the results of the survey show that judges from Robeson County can hold their own with any judges in the state.
“Being a judge is a hard job,” he said. “I like to think that we have some of the best judges, considering their years of experience in the courts and how efficiently they handle the large number of cases that come through Robeson County courts.
“Our judges handle more cases than many of the court systems,” Kinlaw said. “They do it expediently and efficiently.”
Kinlaw believe the results of the survey will benefit voters.
“Any information that can get out about the judicial system will benefit the voters,” he said. “A majority of the public does not go into the courts. They know little about the court system.”
Vanessa Burton, a Robeson County assistant district attorney and the recently elected president of the Robeson County Bar Association, said it is “always a good idea to keep elected officials accountable.”
“Knowledge is always a good thing,” she said. “It can be helpful if those who actually work with the judges and in the legal system make an evaluation. This is important to all citizens, including both victims and defendants … They all need to know how our judges are performing.”
Rob Price, a Lumberton attorney, also feels that what the attorneys revealed in the survey about judges will benefit voters.
“It gives them (voters) a helpful tool to use,” he said.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.