On roughly a five-year cycle, the Law Journal asks federal court litigators in New Jersey to give us their perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the judges of the District of New Jersey.
The survey was conducted by a web-based questionnaire made accessible to a target list of lawyers who appear in the courts of the district. Each lawyer was contacted by email and provided with a unique entry portal.
The contact list was garnered from Pacer, the federal judiciary’s electronic docketing and data management system, which provided attorneys’ names and contact information from papers filed in civil, criminal cases and bankruptcy cases in the district.
The result was a list of 11,137 attorneys, each of whom was sent an introductory email in early August with instructions for completing the survey on SurveyMonkey.com, an Internet company based in Portland, Ore. The survey closed on Sept. 9.
We received a total of 1,161 replies, making for a return rate of 10.42 percent. That’s roughly the same as the 10.77 percent return rate garnered in our last federal judicial survey, in 2008, and the 10.6 percent rate in the previous survey, in 2001.
The questionnaire listed the 25 district judges (including those on senior status), 12 full-time magistrate judges and eight bankruptcy judges sitting in the District of New Jersey as of April 1, 2013.
Contacted lawyers were instructed to grade the judges in each of nine categories. We asked to what extent a judge:
(1) Fairly weighs evidence and arguments.
(2) Properly applies procedure and evidence rules.
(3) Is knowledgeable on substantive law.
(4) Is capable of handling complex cases.
(5) Is familiar with pleadings, briefs and record.
(6) Skillfully fosters settlement when appropriate.
(7) Moves proceedings and makes decisions promptly.
(8) Is courteous and respectful to litigants and lawyers.
(9) Is unbiased as to race, gender and party identity.
Grading was on a 1-to-10 scale, with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest.
The lawyers were told, “Rate ONLY judges with whom you have had at least one case and base your ratings solely on that experience. DO NOT rate any judge with whom you have never had a case.”
Responses were anonymous. SurveyMonkey tabulated and reported to us the scores for each judge in each of the nine categories. SurveyMonkey also tabulated the number of responses received per category per judge, and those counts are included in the charts herein.
For each judge, we averaged the nine categorical scores to produce an overall score, with each category weighing equally. Those scores appear in the far right columns of the charts, though the judges are listed alphabetically.
Though the survey results are published without identities of the respondents, for control purposes we correlated the data received with the original email contact list, in order to assure that the responses were genuine. I am thus confident that the survey was completed by those for whom it was intended.
Questions or comments about the survey are welcome and may be directed to me personally by email at email@example.com.
— Ronald J. Fleury