The bill addresses issues related to the state commission on judicial performance and the various district commissions on judicial performance (state commission, district commissions, or collectively all commissions), including:
- Procedures and duties common to all commissions are combined in a more user-friendly fashion.
- The current membership of all commissions is left in place as-is until January 31, 2019, at which time the governor's attorney appointment to a district commission and the chief justice's two nonattorney appointments to a district commission expire. The terms of all other existing commissioners continue until such time as the commissioner's term was originally set to expire. Beginning February 1, 2019, the membership of the commissions is structured as follows, with new appointing authorities making appointments on or before March 1, 2019:
- The state commission consists of 11 members, one attorney and one nonattorney each by the president of senate and speaker of the house of representatives; one nonattorney each by the minority leader of each house; two attorneys appointed by the chief justice of the supreme court; and two nonattorneys and one attorney appointed by the governor.
- Each district commission consists of 10 members. The make-up of each district commission is the same as that of the state commission except that the governor only appoints two nonattorneys to each district commission and makes no attorney appointment.
- In the case of a vacancy, the original appointing authority shall make an appointment within 45 days after the date of the vacancy. If the original appointing authority fails to fill the vacancy within 45 days, the governor shall make the appointment.
- Other conditions related to the membership of state and district commissioners remain as they exist in current law.
- Duties of all commissions are outlined. The state commission is tasked with developing uniform rules, guidelines, and procedures,, including those related to the development and distribution of surveys for persons affected by justices and judges; promulgation of rules concerning the evaluation of justices and judges, the creation of a standards matrix related to statutory performance criteria and a description of the thresholds for the recommendations of 'meets performance standard' or 'does not meet performance standard', and the continuous collection of data for use in evaluations; and the development of a systemwide judicial training program and a systemwide volunteer courtroom observer program.
- The state commission is tasked with developing surveys to provide to persons who are affected by justices and judges and to develop guidelines and procedures to make such surveys readily available to those persons. The state commission shall develop rules, guidelines, and procedures to provide attorneys, pro se litigants, and clients with accessible and timely opportunities to review the surveys.
- Current law requires the state supreme court to approve rules promulgated by the state commission. That requirement is removed. The state commission may, however, at its discretion and within existing appropriations and resources, retain independent legal counsel to review any rules, guidelines, or procedures adopted. The state commission shall post a notice of any proposed rule, guideline, or procedure, allow for a period for public comment, and give the public the opportunity to address the state commission at a public hearing on the proposed rule, guideline, or procedure.
- The bill adds retired judges who have returned to temporary judicial duties per contract with the judicial department, as allowed by statute, also referred to as senior judges, to the list of judges that commissions are to evaluate. Every third year following the initial appointment of a senior judge to the bench through a contract, the state commission shall conduct a performance evaluation of such judge. The performance evaluation shall be completed and communicate the related narrative to the chief justice no later than 45 days prior to the expiration of the senior judge's contract for that year.
- Judicial performance evaluation criteria is retained, as is the requirement for all commissions to perform election-retention-year evaluations as well as initial and interim evaluations. Narratives and recommendations stemming from such evaluations are still required.
- The option to develop an individual improvement plan (improvement plan) for a justice or judge is authorized. If the state or a district commission recommends that a justice or judge receive an improvement plan, the commission shall communicate that recommendation to the chief justice or appropriate chief judge. The chief justice or chief judge shall then develop an improvement plan for the justice or judge in question and forward such improvement plan to the state commission for review. After the state commission reviews and approves an improvement plan, the chief justice or chief judge has the responsibility for implementing the improvement plan. A copy of the improvement plan and a statement of the results of such plan will be maintained in the appropriate commission's files. If a justice or judge is required to complete an improvement plan and he or she fails to satisfactorily do so, the appropriate commission shall automatically issue a 'does not meet performance standard' designation on his or her performance evaluation summary.
- The state commission is required to gather and maintain statewide data and post a report of the data on its website at least 30 days prior to each retention election; and
- Beginning in January 2019, and every 2 years thereafter, the judicial department shall include a summary of the commissions' activities in the department's 'State Measurement for Accountable, Responsive, and Transparent (SMART) Government Act' presentation to the joint judicial committee.
- A private right of action is established in which final actions of the state commission are subject to judicial review if a person is adversely affected or aggrieved by such final action. A 'final action' for purposes of the private right of action is defined as a rule, guideline, or procedure adopted by the state commission. A 'final action' does not include a final recommendation regarding a justice or a judge, an improvement plan, surveys developed by the state commission, or any aspect of an individual justice's or judge's judicial performance evaluation.
(Note: This summary applies to the reengrossed version of this bill as introduced in the second house.)