PEC proposes ending the Confidential Judicial Feedback Program Dec 13, 2019 By Jim Ash Senior Editor Top Stories A program that since 1998 has encouraged lawyers to give anonymous feedback on judicial performance could be ending.The Program Evaluation Committee voted unanimously at a December 5 meeting in Orlando to terminate the Confidential Judicial Feedback Program.According to its page on The Florida Bar website, the program “is a way to provide a confidential means by which Florida Bar attorneys can communicate with appellate or trial court judges concerning their perceived specific strengths and weaknesses.”Melina Buncome, chair of the Constitutional Judiciary Committee, told the PEC that her committee recommended eliminating the program in June due to “sub-phenomenal” participation.“We did a lot to try to get the numbers up,” Buncome said. “The program was just crumbling before our eyes.”The program allows attorneys to provide feedback in two ways: by filling out a form and mailing it to The Florida Bar or by completing an online feedback form.A Bar report shows the response has been lacking.In 2018, circuit court judges in Florida received just 26 anonymous evaluations, none of which were submitted online. County court judges received no evaluations.Lawyers submitted 11 evaluations of appellate judges in 2018, nine of them for judges sitting on the Third DCA and two in the Second DCA. The Supreme Court justices received no evaluations.“The participation rate in this voluntary program has been appallingly low with fewer than 1% of cases across the entire state each year since 1998,” according to a Bar staff analysis. “Most Florida lawyers are unaware that an evaluation and feedback program even exists and there is a lack of participation even among lawyers who are aware of its existence for a number of reasons.”Buncome said lawyers remain fearful that the surveys will leak and the “ramifications could affect their practices before that particular judge.”Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.051(c) (4) exempts from public records, “Periodic evaluation implemented solely to assist judges in improving their performance, all information gathered to inform the basis for the evaluations and the results gathered therefrom.” 651 So. 2d 1185 (1995).The Judicial Evaluation and Education Committee conducted its own research and concluded that only mandatory evaluation programs generate “meaningful substantive and satisfactory” participation.PEC member Jay Kim told the committee that in past years, chief circuit judges have instructed trial court judges to encourage the attorneys who practice before them to submit evaluations, all to no avail.“Obviously, the lawyers are not comfortable enough with that anonymity guarantee, they just were reluctant,” Kim said.The PEC recommendation to terminate the program will go next to the Board of Governors.