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JP Election Brief: Retentions, retirements and ratings

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Portal:Judicial elections

September 20, 2012

by: the State Court Staff

Every Thursday, Judgepedia's State Court Staff examines events in the world of judicial elections across the nation. Make sure to use Judgepedia's Election Central the rest of the week as a hub for all your judicial election needs.
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Mississippi Supreme Court races heats up


Mississippi: The race to replace retiring Mississippi Supreme Court Justice George Carlson is on, pitting 39-year-old attorney Josiah Coleman, son of a federal judge and governor, against veteran lawyer Richard "Flip" Phillips.

Though judicial elections are nonpartisan, Coleman has been pegged as conservative and received a notable endorsement from the Mississippi Business and Industry Political Education Committee. He currently works for the law firm of Hickman, Goza and Spragins. If elected, he would be the youngest justice to serve on the state's Supreme Court.

Phillips has spent 40 years as an attorney and currently works in Batesville. As of July, he had raised approximately $145,000 for his campaign, overshadowing his opponent's $51,000.[1]

In their own words:
Coleman has stated,

Judges should not act to make public policy as though they were members of the legislative branch; they should fairly interpret our current laws.[1][2]

Phillips stated,

I want us to keep the Mississippi Supreme Court with those who have a wide range of experience, qualifications and maturity.[1][2]

In the News

Iowa Supreme Court drama reminiscent of 2010


Iowa: Though a new poll of 600 likely voters shows that the justices up for retention this year are likely to be confirmed, the campaign to unseat Supreme Court justice David Wiggins is well underway.

Groups both for and against Wiggins are campaigning hard, and the fight is likely to continue up until election day.[3][4][5][6] Wiggins is the final remaining judge on the Supreme Court who voted in favor of legalizing same sex marriage. The other three justices who did so, David Baker, Marsha Ternus, and Michael Streit, were ousted in the 2010 elections.[7]

This year, activists have enlisted the help of Senator and former presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, as well as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. The two men will be part of a "NO Wiggins" bus tour, sponsored by various conservative groups, which will make stops in 17 Iowa communities next week.[8]

Judge stands for retention regardless of negative performance review


Judge Karla J. Hansen of the El Paso County Court still plans to stand for retention this year. She will be the only Colorado judge with a "do not retain" recommendation to stand in this year's retention election.[9]

In a 7-2 vote, the State Commission on Judicial Performance decided not to recommend Judge Hansen for retention. In the survey for judicial retention Hansen scored below average in the areas of "treating parties with respect" (2.79/4) and "conducting her courtroom in a neutral manner" (2.68/4). Her overall score was 2.96/4 while the average judge scored 3.29/4.[10][9]

In her defense, Hansen wrote a letter saying,

I have felt honored to serve the citizens of this county for eleven years. The Judicial Performance Commission has chosen not to include my overall combined survey score of 3.43, compared to an average statewide of 3.45. My survey scores are above average in the areas of work ethic, legal analysis, and efficient case management. I am a no-nonsense judge who follows the letter of the law. I incarcerate dangerous drunk drivers for the protection of the public. Attorneys and non-attorneys who have appeared in my Court recommended retention by a significant majority (72 percent and 93 percent respectively).[11][9][2]
Read the 2012 Judicial Survey Performance Report for Karla Hasen

Judge's retirement takes race off ballot


An interesting situation is shaping up in the now defunct race for the Chippewa County Probate Court. That court was one intended to lose a judge through attrition, as recommended by a bill signed into law earlier this year. Regardless, Judge Lowell R. Ulrich filed to run for re-election to the Chippewa County Probate Court. Before the August primary, incumbent Ulrich decided to retire instead of running for re-election.[12]

Once Ulrich announced his intention to retire, the state Director of Elections ordered the Chippewa County Clerk to remove the race from the ballot. Director Christopher M. Thomas succinctly summarized the issue:

Simply put, the position that was initially scheduled to be filled by an election no longer exists. There is no legal authority to conduct an election to fill an office that has been abolished.[13] [2]

Now, Patrick M. Shannon, who would have challenged Ulrich in the general election, is suing the Michigan Election Bureau. In a suit filed in the 50th Circuit Court, Shannon accused the director's order of being "undemocratic and def[ying] any concept of a free and honest election."[14]

The challenger contends that the retirement of Ulrich leaves an open seat on the Probate Court, which he believes is still needed to represent the citizens of Chippewa County.[14]

Pima County judges make the grade


The Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review has given a passing grade to all 18 of the Pima County Superior Court judges who are up for retention this year.[15]

The Commission distributes written surveys to jurors, witnesses, parties, and attorneys, and asks them to rate the judges on various factors including integrity, communication skills, legal ability, administrative performance, and judicial temperament. The respondents can rate the judges' performance in each area as poor, satisfactory, very good, or superior. Based on the scores received, the Commission then determines whether each judge meets predetermined performance standards.[15]

The survey return rate ranged from 14 to 46 percent throughout the county for individual judges. More surveys were distributed for judges with greater caseloads. With a few exceptions, Judges Karen Adam, Gus Aragon, Deborah Bernini, Kyle A. Bryson, Carmine Cornelio, Jane L. Eikleberry, Richard S. Fields, Richard Gordon, Howard Hantman, Jan E. Kearney, Kenneth Lee, Leslie Miller, Michael O. Miller, Scott Rash, Sarah R. Simmons, Christopher P. Staring, Paul E. Tang, and Stephen C. Villarreal all received scores of 85 percent or higher in all categories.[15]

Visit the Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review's website for all the scores.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Clarion Ledger, "Coleman, Phillips in hotly contested judicial race," September 13, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  3. Radio Iowa, "Democrats get pep talk about judicial retention election (AUDIO)," September 16, 2012
  4. The Cedar Rapids Gazette, "New group launches ‘Yes on Retention’ campaign for Iowa judges," September 13, 2012
  5., "New group works to keep judge on Iowa Supreme Court," September 15, 2012
  6. Quad-City Times, "Santorum, Jindal join efforts to oust Iowa judge," September 18, 2012
  7. TPMMuckraker "Anti-Gay Groups Defeat Iowa Supreme Court Justices," November 3, 2010
  8. WCF Courier, "Santorum, Jindal join effort to oust an Iowa Supreme Court justice," September 18, 2012
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 The Gazette, "El Paso County judge should be ousted, reviewers say," September 16, 2012
  10. Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation, Karla J. Hansen
  11. Law Weekly Colorado, "Judge Receives A ‘Do Not Retain’ Recommendation In Evaluation," August 7, 2012
  12. Mackinac Town Crier, "Shannon Has Good Chance To Win Election, But Will he Be Seated as Judge?," August 4, 2012
  13., "Probate judge eliminated from ballot," September 12, 2012
  14. 14.0 14.1, "Shannon files suit: Probate court judge candidate seeks shot at Nov. election," September 14, 2012
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Arizona Daily Star, "18 Pima Superior Court judges pass review, are up for retention on ballot," September 17, 2012