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Newark, N.J.-Most law school academics wish there were no such thing as the U.S. News & World Report rankings. But a recent court directive advising New Jersey judges not to take part in the law school survey has local educators worrying that the judges’ lack of input may hurt New Jersey schools’ rankings. In Directive 12-04, published on Nov. 15 [178 N.J.L.J. 712], Acting Administrative Director of the Courts Philip Carchman told assignment judges to advise judges it would be “inappropriate” to complete the survey. The U.S. News rankings have a high profile. Even critics acknowledge that a school’s rating can influence students’ choice of school, graduates’ job opportunities and the schools’ ability to hire faculty. Law school officials say the edict puts New Jersey schools at a disadvantage because the state’s judges are in the best position to appreciate local law schools’ strengths. Carchman cited no canon or ethical constraint. New Jersey’s Code of Judicial Conduct does not mention surveys but perhaps comes closest to the issue in Canon 2, which says judges should avoid impropriety and its appearance in all activities. It states, “A judge should not lend the prestige of office to advance the private interests of others.” Carchman’s directive does, however, refer to a 1966 directive, No. 33-65, which barred judges from participating in Martindale-Hubbell‘s attorney-rating system. The new directive notes that the 38-year-old proscription remains in effect. “I agree with the Martindale directive about using the prestige of office,” said Ronald Chen, associate dean at Rutgers School of Law-Newark. “But it is so much more attenuated when you participate in an anonymous survey and your responses are merged in with other judges and lawyers.” U.S. News has been ranking law schools for about 15 years, and it is not clear what prompted the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts to take a stance now. It is likewise unclear why Carchman’s directive went to assignment judges. The questionnaires typically go to the chief justice, one federal district judge and one bankruptcy judge in each state, said Richard Folkers, U.S. News‘ director of media relations. “Judges apparently get requests to participate in surveys all the time and Judge Carchman knows that,” says state Administrative Office of the Courts spokeswoman Tammy Kendig. “Anything that asks judges to express some type of partiality toward attorneys or the law schools they attended, particularly for a commercial purpose, is generally injudicious.” A Garden State solo New Jersey appears to be the only jurisdiction to muzzle judges when it comes to the survey. No similar advisory has gone out to federal judges, says Dick Carelli, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Cynthia Gray, director of the American Judicature Society, is unaware of any state court with a comparable proscription. And Chen says participants in a listserv for associate deans had not heard of a similar measure elsewhere.

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