Every once in a while I actually open one of those seemingly hundreds of spam emails that I get from legal publishers each week. Today, I had the even rarer occasion to come across one that was advertising a resource I might actually use.
The resource in question is a website called The Robing Room, operated by North Law Publishers, Inc. With the tagline, “where judges are judged,” The Robing Roomis a forum for lawyers, litigants, and members of the public to provide anonymous feedback and commentary on various aspects of a judge’s performance, including the judge’s temperament, competence, intellectual ability, and even-handedness. Judges are rated on an overall scale from 1 to 10. Viewers can also see specific comments provided by other users. Users who comment are identified by whether they are a lawyer, litigant, or other, and if a lawyer, by type of practice. Ratings are available for many federal district court judges and magistrates, as well as state court judges in selected states.
Of course, like any other online forum, the ratings and comments have to be taken with a huge grain of salt. The rating methodology is not–as far I can tell–scientific. The anonymous nature of the site means that any nut job with an axe to grind can give a judge an unfair review. Conversely, any judge who wants to boost his or her ratings can no doubt find ways to improve them with the help of a few friends. However, with those caveats, the site could provide helpful information that, used in connection with other resources, can be of some strategic benefit for a lawyer or litigant faced with an unfamiliar judge.
Colorado practitioners will be familiar with the Commissions on Judicial Performance, which also uses feedback from lawyers, litigants, and members of the public to review the performance of judges, for the purpose of recommending whether or not they be retained in retention elections. The Robing Room appears to have added Colorado state judges only fairly recently, so there isn’t enough data yet to analyze whether its ratings are at all similar with the feedback provided by the Commissions. Lawyers or parties facing litigation in Colorado would be well-served to consult both sources in researching a judge.