American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 47, Issue 4, 84-91


Copyright © 2011 American Judges Association. Used by permission.


The State of Utah has recently introduced several innovations to its judicial performance evaluation program. Since the 1960s, such programs have been used in a growing number of states to inform decisions about judicial retention and to provide feedback to judges about their performance. The evaluations have traditionally been limited to surveys completed by a variety of stakeholders in the court system. But several states have begun to expand the scope of their evaluation programs beyond surveys, and one of these innovations is to observe judges in their courtrooms.

Utah has developed its courtroom-observation program to become a major component of its overall judicial performance evaluation. This article describes the history of judicial performance evaluations in Utah, the introduction of courtroom observation by lay observers, and the recent innovations to the observation program, including its focus on procedural fairness, use of qualitative evaluation methods, and use of systematic content analysis of the observers’ narrative reports.