Evaluation program provides judges with valuable feedback October 15, 2002 Managing Editor Regular News Evaluation program provides judges with valuable feedback Mark D. Killian Managing Editor Designed to provide judges with substantive input concerning perceived strengths and weaknesses, The Florida Bar’s Judicial Evaluation Program is seeking greater participation from the membership.Created in 1997 by the Bar and the judiciary, the program provides confidential evaluations of judges by the lawyers who appear before them.“It is like a suggestion box,” said First DCA Judge Marguerite Davis, the committee’s chair. “Judges appreciate receiving this confidential information because it makes them aware of perceived problems and criticisms, and they use the information to improve their performance of their judicial duties.”The Bar, which staffs and funds the program, has forwarded more than 15,000 completed evaluations to Florida judges in strict confidence.The Supreme Court of Florida, the five district courts of appeal, and many trial judges are already participating in the evaluation program.Judge Davis said the program is a way for those who work in the system to provide the judges they practice before with constructive feedback for self-improvement.“Our job is to serve the public and be as good as we can and if someone can tell me what to do to improve, well okay,” Judge Davis said. “Every judge reads what they get and they look at it and they think about it. . . and if it is something that is bothersome and they can improve on, then that’s our job.”Davis said the program not only helps judges evaluate their performance, but it also gives the lawyers a chance to “say their piece.”The evaluation program works like this: The court distributes the evaluation form at the close of a dispositive hearing. The lawyers complete the evaluation and return it to the Bar if it relates to trial judges, or to the clerk if it relates to district courts of appeal judges and Supreme Court justices. After receipt by the Bar or the clerk, the unopened envelopes containing the evaluations are accumulated and forwarded to the judges quarterly. The evaluations are confidential under Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.05 1(c)(4).You may participate in the program even if the judge you are appearing before is not. Just download an appellate or trial court evaluation form from the Bar’s Web site, and using plain white paper, fill it out following the instructions on the form. Mail the trial court evaluations in a plain white envelope to: Judge (Name), County/Circuit, c/o Judicial Evaluation Committee, P.O. Box 11067, Tallahassee 32302-3067. Do not put a return address on the envelope and mark the envelope “Confidential: To Be Opened Addressed Judge Only.” Mail the appellate court evaluations following the instructions given on the evaluation form.In order to keep the program confidential, do not use letterhead or firm envelopes and refrain from making any identifying comments. Evaluations not following these instructions will be discarded.Evaluation forms and instructions are available from the local clerk’s office, from www.FLABAR.org, and from Doris Maffei at The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee 32399-2300, telephone (800) 342-8060, ext. 5670. Maffei is also available to answer questions about any aspect of the program.