Government

Judicial evaluation aims to guide Iowa voters on judge retention

Five from 6th Judicial District up for retention vote in November

Lawyers who participated in this year’s Judicial Performance Evaluation said the 67 Iowa state court judges up for retention this November — including five in the 6th Judicial District — should remain on the bench.

The evaluation is conducted by the Iowa State Bar Association to provide voters with information on the 64 district and associate district judges and three court of appeals judges who must get a majority of “yes” votes in the Nov. 6 election to remain on the bench. Any judge that receives a simple majority of “no” votes is removed at the end of the year.

Under Iowa’s nonpartisan merit selection and retention process, every judge and justice must stand for retention in the next general election after serving a full year on the bench. In a retention election, voters decide to retain based on a judge’s professional competency.

All 12 districts in Iowa have at least one judge standing for retention in the November midterm elections.

For a lawyer to be eligible to make an evaluation, he or she must have appeared frequently before a judge, according to the bar association. The judges were evaluated in early September.

All the judges are evaluated on their knowledge of the law; perception of factual issues; attentiveness to arguments and testimony; management and control of courtroom; and promptness of rulings and decisions. They are rated from 1 — “very poor” — to 5 — “excellent.”

Up for retention in the 6th District are three district judges — Andrew Chappell, Paul Miller and Mitchell Turner — and two associate district judges — Nicholas Scott and Deborah Farmer Minot. All three district judges and Scott rated at least a 4 and above, which is considered “performance above average.” Minot rated below 4 on all of the professional competence questions, except the category regarding promptness of rulings, where she rated 4.06. None of the judges received a 5 rating.

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The judges are also rated on their demeanor, with the evaluation asking if a judge avoids undue personal observations or criticisms of defendants or litigants, judges and lawyers from the bench or in written orders; decides cases on basis of law and fact — not affected by outside influence; and treats people equally regardless of race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.

The ratings for the demeanor evaluations range from 1 — “strongly disagree” — to 5 — “strongly agree.”

Chappell, Miller, Turner and Scott also received 4 and above on the questions regarding demeanor. Minot’s ratings were all below 4. Minot rated the lowest — 2.99 — for being courteous and patient with litigants, lawyers and court staff. None of them rated a 5.

About 92 percent out of 145 lawyers voted in favor to retain Chappell; 97 out of 161 for Miller; 92 out of 157 for Turner; 58 out of 138 for Minot; and 96 out of 130 for Scott.

Turner was appointed to the bench in 2005, Miller in 2010, Minot in 2010, Scott in 2016, and Chappell in 2017.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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