By Denise Torres and James Hall
New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission
Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
This year, we hope every eligible voter will take the time to cast a vote in the November 6, 2012 election. The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission recently completed their evaluations of Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Bosson, and Court of Appeals Judges Roderick T. Kennedy and Michael Vigil who are scheduled to stand for retention. Under the state’s constitution, these three appellate judges must receive at least 57 percent voter approval to remain on the bench.
Unlike other elected officials, these individuals are not running against an actual opponent. Instead, they are asking voters to allow them to remain in their current positions on the bench. Judges and justices standing for retention typically do not make campaign speeches, take a position on issues, or run advertisements. They run on their record of performance; however, many voters may not know where to look for information about their performance so they may make an informed decision.
That is where the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) can help. JPEC was established in 1997 by the New Mexico Supreme Court as a nonpartisan volunteer commission charged with providing voters with fair, responsible, and constructive evaluations of individual judges seeking retention, and providing judges with useful information concerning their performance.
We evaluate judges in four main areas: 1) fairness, 2) legal knowledge, 3) communication skills, and 4) preparation, attentiveness, temperament and control over the proceedings. To do this, the JPEC reviews information from several sources: written opinions, caseload statistics, interviews, judges’ self-evaluations, and independent surveys. The results of confidential mid-term surveys from past years are also reviewed. Our evaluations are based on the overall performance of the justice or judge instead of focusing on specific decisions or opinions. The JPEC then produces a narrative for each appellate judge with a recommendation of “retain,” “do not retain,” or “no opinion.”
In 2012, the Commission makes the following recommendations to voters:
- Honorable Justice Richard C. Bosson, Supreme Court of New Mexico – Retain
- Honorable Judge Roderick T. Kennedy, New Mexico Court of Appeals – Retain
- Honorable Michael Vigil, New Mexico Court of Appeals – Retain
Our retention recommendations are not intended to imply that every judge received excellent or perfect marks from all groups surveyed. Instead, they indicate that their overall ratings were sufficient to recommend retention and that they responded positively to suggestions for improvement based on confidential mid-term evaluations.
The narratives, recommendations, and complete statistical survey results are available on the JPEC website at www.nmjpec.org, or can be requested in writing by calling (505) 827-4960.
It is important that citizens take the time to review the information the JPEC has provided so that they can make an informed decision and cast a vote in the November election. Those votes determine whether the appellate judges will be retained for another term.
The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission encourages every voter to do their part in improving our judiciary by making their voice heard. Each vote doescount, so please vote in all races and ballot measures, including the judicial retention elections.
Denise Torres is a partner in the Saenz & Torres law firm in Las Cruces and is chair of the New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission. James Hall is a former New Mexico District Court judge who currently has a private law practice in Santa Fe and is vice-chair of the New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission.