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Judicial survey participation rises

The 2008 Judicial Performance Evaluation is attracting participation about 25 percent higher than that of the previous evaluation two years ago, said the statistician evaluating survey data.

“We’re encouraged by the increased enthusiasm and participation,” said Nancy Downey of Downey Research Associates. “We have 460 responses so far this year; by this point in 2006 we had only 366.”

Although the number of lawyers eligible to participate in the survey has increased, that increase was only about 11.6 percent, not enough to account for the greater participation.

“One thing we did different this time was invited lawyers to voice an opinion on whether judges should be appointed or continue to be elected,” Downey said, suggesting that this question might have increased participation by lawyers who did not wish to rate judges or whose field of practice gives insufficient time in courtrooms to form opinions on judges’ performance. “Even if they don’t rate judges, the survey allows them to weigh in on the issue of appointment or election, and we in fact urge them to do so.”

Another difference in this year’s survey is being the first conducted during the election campaign for judicial seats, because Nevada moved the filing date, for judicial offices only, to January starting this year. Survey results are announced about May 1, and because candidates previously didn’t have to file until later, they usually consulted the results before deciding which seat to seek. Jurists who did poorly on the survey were more likely to draw opposition, or to retire without seeking reelection.

The survey has been conducted in even-numbered years since 1992, and now evaluates Nevada Supreme Court justices, judges in the Clark County district and family courts, and justices of the peace and municipal judges in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson.

Invited to evaluate them are the 4,236 lawyers who listed Clark County addresses on their registrations with the Nevada State Bar, which provided a list of those bar members but does not participate in or endorse the survey. Each lawyer was mailed a unique pin number and instructions to access a Web site where the poll is conducted online.

Attorneys who did not receive pin numbers and instructions or who encounter other problems taking the survey can leave a message containing their contact information on Downey’s Las Vegas office phone, 736-7400. The deadline to complete the survey is March 10, but Downey urged lawyers to complete it as soon as possible.

Contact A.D. Hopkins at ahopkins@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0270.

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