Frequently Asked Questions about the
Judicial Candidates Rating Coalition and Judge4Yourself.com
Who is behind Judge4Yourself.com?
Judge4Yourself.com is a service of the Judicial Candidates Rating Coalition (“JCRC”), which is made up of The Norman S. Minor Bar Association, The Ohio Women’s Bar Association, The Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.
Why should voters care who is elected judge?
Any one of us, our child or our business, could have a case in front of any judge. Judges decide, for example, whether to hold or release a defendant before trial, the sentence to be imposed on someone convicted of a crime, temporary and permanent custody arrangements, and whether a child is delinquent and how that delinquency will be punished. Judges decide whether a case can be heard by a jury, and whether a jury verdict should be reduced or thrown out. The decision that a judge makes in any one case affects the people or businesses in that case, and may be precedent for future cases. As citizens, we want and need good judges and well functioning courts.
Although judges are public officials, voters often know little about judges and judicial candidates when it comes time to vote. Voting without information is a poor use of our right to vote, and not voting because we would rather not guess wastes that right. The Judge4Yourself.com process of rating judicial candidates is rigorous, impartial and fair, and reported in understandable terms.
- Integrity - Integrity refers to a candidate’s character, ethics and general reputation in the community. A candidate with integrity demonstrates fairness and independent judgment, honesty and trustworthiness, compliance with the law, and a commitment to equal justice under the law.
- Judicial Temperament - A candidate with judicial temperament is dignified and even-tempered, respectful to others, courteous, tactful, patient, yet firm, objective and even-handed, open-minded, and compassionate.
- Diligence - A diligent candidate is hard working and efficient, reliable and punctual, and well prepared for pretrials and hearings.
- Professional competence - To be a competent judge, a candidate should have strong legal knowledge and analytical ability, sound personal and professional judgment, ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing, administrative and organizational skills, and trial and courtroom experience and/or distinguished accomplishments in a relevant field of law, particularly in the court for which the candidate seeks office. The candidate should not demonstrate, or tolerate bias or prejudice.
JCRC organizations may also take into account a candidate's community involvement and understanding. For more detail click here.
Don’t the rules for who can be a judge give voters some assurance of quality?
Not much. Ohio law only requires that a candidate be a registered voter, reside in the jurisdiction served by the court, be admitted to the practice of the law and have practiced law in Ohio for at least (6) six years before he or she takes office. The requirement for experience in the "practice of law" is interpreted very broadly, and does not require that a candidate have ever represented a client in court.
Why should the public trust your ratings?
Our only agenda is a fair system of justice. Members of the four organizations that make up Judge4Yourself.com are a diverse group of men and women. Some practice solo or in a small group; others work for large firms, local companies or government. Our group includes non-lawyers who work with people or businesses whose lives or property are touched by court decisions. Although our perspectives vary, we agree on one thing: high qualified, fair and respectful judges are essential for our community. You should also know that those who participate in our interview process are not permitted to contribute to a candidate for judicial office or work on his or her campaign.
How do Judge4Yourself.com groups make their rating decisions?
Each judicial candidate who chooses to participate in the Judge4Yourself.com process completes a lengthy questionnaire detailing his or her background and experience (you can see the questionnaire here), and appears for a confidential interview by members of the organizations that make up JCRC. About 50 or 60 members of JCRC organizations participate in the interviews, including many who regularly represent clients in the courts in which the candidates are seeking or holding office. These interviews are rigorous and unflinching. We ask tough questions and expect candid answers in return. After each interview, the representatives of each member organization meet separately to discuss their impressions of the candidate, and to develop recommend ratings. Each organization reviews and approves its committee’s ratings using its own procedures.
Why are Judge4Yourself.com deliberations confidential?
We keep our interviews and deliberations confidential to ensure the free flow of information between the candidate and those doing the interviewing. In fact, everyone who participates in the process must sign a pledge of confidentiality. We share our concerns with the candidates and they’re encouraged to be candid with us.
When are Judge4Yourself.com ratings available to the public?
Judge4Yourself.com rates candidates before every judicial election. Our ratings are available on this website at least 30 days before each primary and each general election.
Why doesn’t Judge4Yourself.com include party affiliation in its candidate information?
Our focus is on whether the candidates have the qualities of good judges – professional competence, high integrity and fairness, diligence, good temperament and community understanding. These qualities cross party lines, are the most important and have the biggest impact on the administration of justice.
Why do you rate only candidates on the Cuyahoga County ballot?
There are nearly 90 judicial positions on the ballot in Cuyahoga County, taking into account Cuyahoga County courts, municipal courts, and the Ohio Supreme Court. So our volunteers have their hands full! Bar associations in other counties may rate judicial candidates, and we encourage voters to seek out that information.
Is Judge4Yourself.com trying to get the judges out that you don’t like?
Absolutely not. This process is about getting qualified judges INTO office and retaining those who are qualified. The Judge4Yourself.com process also strives to encourage qualified people to run for judge in Cuyahoga County, with increased confidence that voters have the information they need to elect them, instead of just guessing who to vote for.
Is Judge4Yourself.com trying to put “lawyer-friendly” people on the bench?
Absolutely not. Our only purpose is to provide information for voters that will help them choose hardworking judges with integrity, competence, good temperament for our courts. This isn’t about lawyers – it’s about justice for those who live, work or get involved in a dispute in our community.
How will you know if this process works?
When we stop hearing from citizens – and even from some lawyers – “I don’t know who to vote for...so I didn’t vote.” We’ll also know when the candidates who receive our highest ratings are consistently elected to office.
How do you get your funding?
Thus far, Judge4Yourself.com has relied on volunteer efforts and in kind contributions by those who support our voter education work, and on financial contributions by its member associations and their members.
Community members who recognize the value of our work help our mission by sharing our information and making financial contributions.
How do I get involved?
You can print and copy the ratings, or e-mail Judge4Yourself.com ratings or the Judge4Yourself.com website address to your family and friends.
Your financial contribution will help Judge4Yourself.com publicize its ratings and help more voters judge for themselves. Send your check payable to the Judicial Candidates Rating Coalition to:
c/o Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
1375 East Ninth Street, Floor 2
Cleveland, Ohio 44114-1785