Opinion: Lehi volunteer courtroom observer urges vetting judges before voting
Watching others without saying a word has brought a lot of insight to me. That’s been my volunteer job over the past five years as I’ve observed judges in action throughout Utah.
After Utah judges are vetted and appointed by elected officials, they are constantly observed on several aspects, such as legal ability, temperament, integrity and procedural fairness. As a courtroom observer for Utah’s Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC), I have observed numerous courtroom proceedings and submitted my observations of procedural fairness, which is included in a formal evaluation that each judge receives every six years.
At election time, judges whose retention vote is due will appear on the ballot. And this is where we, the public, come in. Each voter has the chance to vote to “retain” the judge or to “not retain.” Information on the judge’s rating on key performance indicators is made public at judges.utah.gov. Even more important is a narrative that summarizes inputs from several groups of peer reviewers.
Utah is a model state in this regard. We do not allow judges to campaign for their position. Instead, judges are evaluated constantly and receive JPEC’s feedback on areas of improvement, which makes for a better judicial system for everyone. But the key part is for voters to review evaluations of judges serving in their county, finish the ballot and make informed votes.
I encourage my neighbors in the Lehi area to look at which judges appear on your ballot as soon as you receive it. Go to the website judges.utah.gov and study their evaluations. Then please join me in voting on all of your judges.