JUDGE'S PAY AND TRUTH
Those judges that give you that steely eye and pinched look as they rule against your client; who determines whether they should get a raise? You knew they hadn't read that key case cited in your brief that should have won the case for your client. Who do you tell, so that judge's malfeasance is considered in their next performance evaluation? The answer lies below. What about that appellate judge that not only understood your arguments, but actually read the record (ugh) in addition to the cases you cited? You want that judge to get the academy award. To whom do you report judicial excellence?
Public Officials Compensation Commission (POCC)
The Oregon legislature gave Oregon judges a huge raise in 2007 then turned the responsibility for judicial raises over to the Public Officials Compensation Commission. Moribund since 2000, the POCC is composed of eleven citizens picked by the Secretary of State and the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court among others. The POCC makes salary recommendations to the Legislature for the Governor, the Legislature, Oregon judges and other top public officials. Of the seven criteria the POCC uses to determine whether somebody gets a raise, notably absent is merit. Now let's pull the curtain back and give this process a closer look.
National Center for State Courts (NCSC)
This is the lobbying organization for judges. NCSC provides salary information to legislatures and others for use in determining an appropriate salary for state court judiciaries. Their studies show that judicial salaries have kept pace with inflation for the last 16 years.
The Oregon Process
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Oregon has the bully pulpit. The Chief Justice issues an annual address, yclept "State of the Oregon Courts"; in 2009, to the City Club of Salem. This report outlines the case for judicial raises in Oregon. Moreover, the Oregon Court of Appeals issues an Annual Report. In addition, the Judicial Department has a strategic priorities program entitled ‘Justice 2020: A Vision for Oregon's Courts' that you could ask your Oregon State Bar Board of Governor's member about..........if they are aware of it.
The Oregon State Bar Public Affairs Newsletter for Bar Leaders is entitled "Capitol Insider" and reports on judicial salaries after they are decided.
And finally, Associate Oregon Supreme Court Justice Thomas A. Balmer reported to the Public Officials Compensation Commission in lieu of Chief Justice De Muniz and referred that body to the Chief Justice's 2009 annual report from the bully pulpit mentioned above. Associate Justice Balmer told the POCC that the Chief Justice "....shares some of his concerns about the impact that the issue of judicial pay in Oregon is beginning to have on the judicial branch of government."
The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth
Did Chief Justice Paul De Muniz and Associate Justice Thomas Balmer tell their audiences the Whole Truth? For example, did they tell them that Chief Justice De Muniz is against a formal statewide system for judicial evaluations in Oregon even though the Oregon Bar leadership is in favor of formal judicial evaluations in Oregon. Did Mr. De Muniz and Mr. Balmer tell their audience that over the last eight years statewide lawsuit filings in Oregon have dropped from 653,367 to 605,753. But most importantly, did they tell their audiences that Oregon rated 47th (out of 50) in productivity (# of written opinions in a year) in the Nation. Finally, did they tell their audiences that Oregon courts are the least influential in the Nation save only two other states (# of times Oregon cases are cited as authority by other top state court written opinions).
The Truth -- What the witness knows and tells in a given forum.
The Whole Truth -- What the witness should not, with all integrity, leave out in the telling.
Nothing But the Truth -- Above all else, the teller should not lie.
So, the answer to the questions posed above: Don't bother because nobody in Oregon is tracking judicial performance even though the American Bar Association in 2005 recommended that each state adopt a statewide system of judicial evaluations. Now what about that Vision thing in Oregon.......??. Half of the states in the union have formal performance evaluation systems for judges. Oregon should be next. But, where is the leadership in Oregon to hold their judges to account?