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Lawyers to evaluate Nevada Supreme Court, county judges

Lawyers practicing in Clark County will be asked this week to grade the judges in whose courtrooms they appear, through the 2011 Judicial Evaluation Survey sponsored by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Individual pin numbers and passwords will be mailed to the lawyers, allowing them to access a website where they can rate judges with whom they are familiar. The website will go live Tuesday and lawyers must complete their ratings on or before Monday, Nov. 7. Signifi cant results will be published in the Review-Journal in December, and complete results will be available from the Review-Journal website.

For two decades, the evaluations have guided voters deciding whether to retain judges or replace them with challengers. Potential candidates consult the evaluations to decide which judges are most vulnerable to an election challenge. And judges themselves often study the results to improve their own performance, a fact noted by Nancy Saitta, chief justice of the Nevada Supreme Court in urging lawyers to participate.

The survey "provides attorneys in Clark County with an opportunity to offer important feedback about the judges that will benefit the public and the judges themselves," she wrote.

The chief justice encouraged the lawyers to maintain a high level of constructive commentary in responding to the survey.

The surveys originally were conducted in the spring of even-numbered years, before the filing period opened for state political offices. However, because the Nevada Supreme Court later moved the filing period to January for judicial offices only, the Review-Journal decided to conduct this survey, the 11th, this fall. That will allow judges and potential candidates to consult the scores before deciding whether to run for re­­-election or as a challenger to a sitting judge.

Invitations to participate will be sent to 4,625 attorneys. The number includes all lawyers on active status who gave Clark County addresses, the judges themselves, and members of the Nevada Supreme Court. Attorneys will be asked to rate only judges and justices with whom they have had direct and recent professional experience, such as appearing in trials before them.

The survey always has been confidential and the Review-Journal will not reveal, because it will not know, the rating any particular lawyer gives a judge, the author of any critical comment, or even which of the 4,625 eligible lawyers participate in the evaluation. As in past years, this survey is conducted by Downey Research Associates of Las Vegas, a professional polling organization, which provides the Review-Journal with amalgamated results, but not the scores given judges by individual lawyers.

The evaluation will cover 90 jurists: the justices of the Nevada Supreme Court, Clark County District Court judges, Clark County Family Court judges, and justices of the peace and municipal judges in Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas.

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