The Chattanooga Bar Association gave the majority of area judges satisfactory marks in a poll rating the judiciary’s abilities, but not everyone fared well.
Among those at the top of the poll is Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, who received “superior” ratings from more than 83 percent of respondents, while receiving “unsatisfactory” ratings from less than 4 percent.
“I’m appreciative of the lawyers and their opinions,” said Judge Shattuck, who has been on the bench for more than 25 years.
In fact, 11 of the 15 area judges received a “superior” rating by the majority of the lawyers responding.
At the other end of the poll is Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon, who received just 23 percent of “superior” ratings and more than 36 percent of “unsatisfactory” ratings.
His lowest categories are “objective and unbiased” as well as “judicial temperament,” where he received more than 45 percent of “unsatisfactory” votes in each.
Judge Moon pointed out that only a small fraction of the Chattanooga bar took part in the poll.
“I have a great deal of admiration for most attorneys, but in all due respect, the only poll I concern myself with is the people’s poll on election day,” he said.
The bar association submitted the survey to its 843 members, but only 121 members completed and returned the polls. The poll was conducted in 2007, and the results recently released after the accounting firm of Johnson, Murphy & Wright tabulated the votes.
More than 150 attorneys returned polls for the previous survey in 2005.
Chattanooga Bar Association President Cynthia Hall said the CBA’s bylaws require them to conduct a poll every odd-numbered year.
Ms. Hall said the organization rates judges on their objectivity, legal ability, moral character, diligence and judicial temperament.
“Those are the required factors,” she said. “We could have included others, but those are what we based the poll on.”
The results are posted on the Bar Association’s Web site as a public service to inform area residents about how attorneys view the judiciary.
Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman said he welcomes the critique from attorneys who practice before him.
“I think it is very helpful to me to have some understanding of how my work is perceived,” he said. “The subjects addressed in the poll are certainly relevant when evaluating whether a judge is performing effectively.”
District Attorney Bill Cox said he is unsure if the poll gives the public an accurate portrayal of the judiciary’s abilities. He said the percentages could be skewed because respondents who have “no opinion” about a judge were factored with the totals.
“I’m no statistician, but I just thought that was an odd way to do it,” he said. “It seems to skew the percentages.”
The Times Free Press recalculated the percentages to exclude the “no opinion” votes for the purpose of this story.
Ms. Hall said the “no opinion” option is designed for attorneys who may have never practiced before a particular judge.
“That prevents people from just checking ‘satisfactory’ if they don’t know how they are as a judge,” she said.