June 11, 2021
Judicial Candidate Rating System Gets an Update
by Christina Corl, Esq., Plunkett Cooney
In Ohio, judges serve six-year terms and are elected by voters in a partisan primary, followed by a non-partisan general election. This means that judges do not have a party label next to their names on the ballot. Common Pleas Court judges are elected in even-numbered years, and Municipal Court judges in odd-numbered years.
The Columbus Bar Association believes voters deserve impartial, nonpartisan information about local judges and judicial candidates. JudgeTheCandidates.org is a great resource to help voters make an informed decision when it is time to elect judges for Franklin County courts.
For more than 20 years, the Columbus Bar has provided voter education tools to help voters make informed decisions when electing local judges. Every spring, Franklin County attorneys are asked to evaluate the performance of sitting judges, and the results of this evaluation are also an element considered by the Columbus Bar's Judicial Screening Committee when interviewing judicial candidates prior to the fall elections.
Each year, the CBA’s Judiciary Committee meets to personally interview candidates for judgeships in Franklin County. The committee has an extensive protocol for evaluating the qualifications of judge candidates and issues evaluations of the candidates who have screened with the committee. The committee considers many factors when evaluating judge candidates such as integrity, professional experience, legal knowledge, legal ability, judicial temperament, diligence, public service and sensitivity to issues of bias. Many members of the voting public do not have the opportunity to evaluate judicial candidates with this level of scrutiny and detail prior to casting their ballot. The CBA publishes the results of the committee’s evaluation of judges and views this as a valuable resource for voters.
Periodically, the Columbus Bar examines these resources to ensure they continue to be helpful for local voters. This year, we asked the voters themselves how we could improve the judicial screening process to make it more user friendly. The committee spent time interviewing voters in Franklin County to determine what type of judicial ranking system would be most understandable and effective. The overwhelming majority of voters agreed that a “star” rating system would be the best and most understandable method by which to rate judicial candidates. So this year’s judicial candidate ratings will see the following star rating system beginning in August 2021.
1 star (Fails)– the candidate does not possess the education, experience, training, character and fitness, and/or temperament necessary [to carry out the duties of a judicial officer]
2 stars (Lacks)– the candidate is significantly lacking with respect to either their education, experience, training, character and fitness, or temperament [necessary to carry out the duties of a judicial officer]
3 stars (Meets)– the candidate offers the minimum education, experience, training, character and fitness, and temperament [necessary to carry out the duties of a judicial officer]
4 stars (Exceeds)– the candidate’s qualifications exceed those necessary to carry out the duties of a judicial officer whether due to education, experience, training, character and fitness, or temperament
5 stars (Superior)– the candidate offers superior qualifications for carrying out the duties of a judicial officer whether due to education, experience, training, character and fitness, and/or temperament
Look for the judicial candidate rankings from the committee in early fall at www.JudgeTheCandidates.org. The site contains a wealth of information about the judicial candidates in Franklin County and about the important role judges play in our communities.