While I was in Florida, someone wanted to know if there was a cheat sheet available for voting on judges.
At one time I intended to create a cheat sheet, but I just ran out of time. Here is how I would have gone about it.
District and County Judges:
1. The Blue Book recommendations of judicial performance commissions are, in a word, worthless. Ignore them. Any individual commissioner who votes against a judge puts himself at risk for retribution should he be forced to litigate in that district and the law says he can't request that his litigation be moved. You can thank your current Republican legislator for having his/her head up their...oh, I forgot, this is a family blog. No Republican opposed a law that made retribution likely and the Democrat lawyers in charge of the legislature love the concept of retribution as much as the mafia because it keeps really bad judges in office.
2. The state has a nifty site that provides some of the underlying data that performance commissions use when deciding on each judge. Select your county from this page. I live in El Paso County and I find, as I expected, that all ten local judges are recommended for retention. The information isn't useful so far.
3. By clicking on the name of each District and county judge, I find that every judge was recommended unamiously. In 2006, the El Paso commissioners who chose not to vote for a judge simply stepped out of the room when the vote was taken. Thus, commission votes were 8-0, 9-0, and 10-0, but you could tell that some commissioners were uneasy about some judges. On the theory that was too much information for the public, the number of commissioners who voted is concealed, making this data point valueless.
4. You can get meaningful information if you follow the link at the bottom of the verbiage on each judge's individual page. Because Judge Edward Colt is the first judge listed, we will go into his underlying data to see what the attorneys (page 5) thought of him. They weren't impressed with his knowledge and application of the law. He got a 2.9 on a scale of 4 when the average judge got a 3.5. If you litigate before a judge who is clueless about the law, you get to pay as your attorney educates him.
The ten clowns on the 4th judicial district performance commission didn't think it important to alert the public that they were recommending a judge who doesn't know the law and thus would cost litigants money. I can call them clowns because they pulled the same stunt two years ago and then were obnoxious about it. They couldn't be bothered to tell the public that in every category, Judge Edward Colt is a below average judge, and in some categories he is significantly below average. Their biggest complaint-that he is soft spoken. All fluff and no stuff.
5. Ignore everything else. Jurors are clueless as to whether the judges enforced the rules fairly, knowing only that he smiled at them when they came in in the morning and left at night. In my trial, the jurors were told that it was "no one's fault that it took eight years to get to trial." It was a bald faced lie, but a convenient lie for the judge involved.
For El Paso and Teller Counties, I would suggest the following votes based on the above analysis: Judge Edward Colt: Do Not Retain; Judge Ronald G Crowder: Retain (lawyers love him and rate very highly qualified but non lawyers hate him); Judge Jann P. DuBois Retain (A superstar); Thomas K. Kane Retain (A superstar); Thomas L. Kennedy Retain (slightly above average); David S. Price Retain (Another Superstar); Kirk S. Samelson Retain (just average despite the glowing writeup); Gregory Werner Retain (just average); Karla J. Hansen Do Not Retain (another judge who doesn't know the law and appears to be a petty tyrant--attorneys think her impolite, disrespectful, lacking in empathy, lacking in neutrality--see pg 9); Daniel S. Wilson Retain (average).
Note that under the system that the legislature has created, some really bad judges can easily navigate the local judicial performance commission. Thank your local legislator. He is happy with the system and you should be as well. One wonders if he would be so happy if he were paying the bills for judicial misconduct (just a thought).
Appeals Court judges and justices:
This is a bit harder.
I did a little experiment this year. I provided the state commission with 20 legitimate reasons why Justices Eid and Hobbs shouldn't be retained. It took four requests to get the commission to acknowledge that I had sent the document. I wasn't at all surprised that my input was totally ignored.
Everyone seems to like Justice Eid. Justice Hobbs has some integrity problems relating to the enforcement of the legal ethics rules. On the other hand, Bill Ritter is enough of a flake that I'm operating under the better the devil you know theory.
I don't trust the state judicial performance commission enough to try to make any appeals court recommendations.