2005 Judicial Evaluation Poll - Executive Summary and Results
The Collin County Bar Association welcomes you to its first Collin County Judicial Poll. In light of the size of Collin County, the bar and the judiciary, the Collin County Bar Association (CCBA) determined that it would be appropriate to conduct a judicial poll in Collin County in 2005. The CCBA has studied and considered conducting a judicial poll for many years. The polling procedures, questions, responses and formats used by several other bar associations were reviewed. In the end, CCBA decided to base our poll on the questions, responses and general format used by the Travis County Bar Association in conducting their poll. The Travis County Bar Association judicial poll has evolved over the years and has been conducted periodically since 1978.
The CCBA poll gives Collin County attorneys an opportunity to evaluate the performance of area judges, and the results are then released to the public as a community service. The value of the attorneys' opinions of the judges' performance lies in their unique relationship with the judges; no other group of people observe judges' performance as regularly or as thoroughly as do attorneys. And because both plaintiff's and defendant's attorneys are included, the results are not influenced by reprisal or reciprocation.
In the 2005 CCBA poll, respondents were asked to evaluate each judge with six questions, then rate them choosing from the terms "Excellent," "Acceptable," "Need Improvement," and "No Opinion." The six questions were:
Some bar associations use and have used different questions, different responses and different formats. The CCBA board of directors believed this format would provide enough feedback on performance without overwhelming the respondents and had been tested by use by a major bar association.
The CCBA 2005 poll was executed differently from polls conducted by some other bar associations. Because most attorneys have access to the Internet in their office, home or a variety of public locations, the poll was exclusively electronic; no paper ballots were provided. The CCBA subscribed to an online voting service called BallotBox. The online voting service works like this: A related software collects the e-mail addresses of as many participants as the poll requires from the bar's membership database and other sources. The voting service then sends e-mails to each of the participants that contain instructions on how to reach the secure Web site to vote. When a respondent completes the poll, the online voting service sends an another e-mail message confirming that the vote was recorded. Secure cryptography ensures that no one can tie a voter to his or her vote, and allows the voting service to protect the poll's integrity against any accidental modifications or intentional tampering.
Respondents in the CCBA 2005 Judicial poll were predominantly CCBA members. However, since a number of other local bar associations exist in Collin County, we extended an invitation to those bar associations to allow their members to participate. Only bar members who were up to date in dues payments and had provided the bar with their e-mail addresses were included.
The online voting service sent e-mails to 337 bar members. In addition, significant efforts were undertaken to ensure e-mail addresses were as up to date as possible for members. Invitations and reminders were sent to members to encourage participation in the poll. However, members were all cautioned in the balloting process to only cast ballots as to judges they had personal knowledge of and had appeared before in the past four years.
Exactly 159 ballots were cast. In total, 159 of the 337 potential participants constitutes a 47 percent return. The percentage of bar members who responded is remarkable. BallotBox advises us that indeed these results are outstanding when compared with other bar associations' poll results.
A total of 19 judges were included from the state district, county, justice of peace, and probate courts. Voters were asked to vote only with regard to those judges with whom they had personal experience; so many judges received far fewer than 159 votes.
The bar believes the poll's execution provided a fair opportunity for any bar member who wished to cast a ballot. It also believes in the confidentiality of the ballots and the integrity of the results.
Every member in good standing of the CCBA and many attorneys who are not members of CCBA, but are members of other Collin County local bar associations, were able to participate in the poll. Members who had not provided updated or corrected contact information to the bar may not have received the invitation.
The online voting service used secure encryption to ensure respondent confidentiality, allowing neither respondent, poll officers, board members, software developers, or any member of the bar to view any ballots with voters' names attached to them. The online voting service outputs only who voted and the tallied results of the electronic poll.
The CCBA board of directors estimated that a paper judicial poll would cost several thousand dollars. It would also require significant manual labor of our members to handle the manual process and necessarily involve some fair amount of potential for errors, loss of ballots or fraud. Based on other bar associations' experience, we also anticipated a fairly low response rate.
By contrast, the CCBA's subscription to the online voting service permits us to use it for several polls in a year, at an annual cost that is less than what we anticipated one paper judicial evaluation costing. In addition, analysis of the ballots was virtually instantaneous because the ballots are cast electronically. More importantly, the CCBA board believes that electronic voting allowed for a higher voter participation than we would have experienced with paper ballots.
It is important to note that spam filters, wrong or duplicate e-mail addresses, and unfamiliarity with Web-based applications may have caused some problems in getting ballots to all eligible members. Prior to the poll, some in the legal community also expressed misgivings about a judicial poll. The CCBA board of directors is hopeful that the handling and execution of this poll has alleviated many of those concerns.
CCBA anticipates the creation of a committee to review any problems and concerns. CCBA is hopeful that the Collin County Judicial Poll will become an annual event. As this was the first poll conducted by CCBA, a few glitches may have been encountered. If you have any feedback, please feel free to contact us.
You will need the free Adobe® Acrobat Reader® in order to view the poll results. If you do not have the Reader installed, you may download it here.
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