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Judging the Jurists

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  • | 6:00 p.m. January 20, 2006
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Judging the Jurists

By Sean Roth

Real Estate Editor

Few areas of our democracy are more opaque to the electorate than gauging judicial performance.

As the recent congressional hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito reinforced, judges are expected to make few if any comments on policies that may come before them and that translates all the way down to local municipal judicial-seat elections.

On top of that, except for a very few high-profile cases, the general public will never hear about even a few specific judicial decisions candidates make. But all it takes is a threat of a lawsuit or criminal act to realize just how important these decision-makers ultimately can be.

So how do voters get the necessary information to make an informed decision with their vote?

One tool comes thanks to several local bar associations, who asked their member attorneys to rate judges on legal performance. The Sarasota County, Manatee County, and Venice-Englewood bar associations recently released their 2005 Judicial Evaluation, modeled after the Sarasota County Bar Association's 2004 evaluation and state and local association efforts.

The evaluation rates the 28 circuit and county judges and 12 magistrates and hearing officers in the 12th Judicial Circuit, which covers Sarasota, Manatee and Desoto counties.

The 2005 evaluation was mailed to the 1,700 members of the Florida Bar in the circuit. These members were asked to rate the judges on a scale of one (unsatisfactory) through five (outstanding) in ten categories and one overall rating. About 17% of the members (282) responded to the mailing.

The survey results were overwhelmingly positive in their appraisal of jurists. The vast majority of judges received an average 4 or above in all 11 categories and only two judges - Paul Logan and Judy Goldman - received an average ranking below 3 in any of the categories. Logan was the only judge to receive two less than average figures, for Temperament/Patience and Courtesy/Civility.

The lowest total average for all 11 rankings, which went to Goldman, was 3.63.

The best total average of all 11 categories was given to Kimberly Bonner, Don Hall and Lee Haworth.

Art Hardy, president of the Sarasota County Bar Association, suggested that the results indicated that attorneys are "overall" pleased with the performance of the judiciary.


Bar Association members scored the judges on 11 total categories. Here are the names of the three judges who scored the highest and lowest in each category.

Top Three= BEST/Bottom Three=WORST


Legal Ability/Knowledge

Durand Adams 4.6

Lee Haworth 4.57

Kimberly Bonner 4.5

Deborah Bailey 3.65

Julian Broome 3.59

Judy Goldman 3.5


Durand Adams 4.76

Julian Broome 4.73

Lee Haworth 4.69

Peter Dubensky 4.14

Judy Goldman 4.12

Diana Moreland 3.93

Impartiality/Lack of Bias

Robert Bennett 4.5

Durand Adams 4.49

Kimberly Bonner 4.49

Diana Moreland 3.79

Judy Goldman 3.71

Julian Broome 3.15


Kimberly Bonner 4.62

Susan Swartz 4.57

Rick Defuria 4.56

Andrew Owens 3.81

Paul Logan 3.71

Julian Broome 3.59


Kimberly Bonner 4.73

Charles Williams 4.71

Don Hall 4.7

Julian Broome 3.63

Andrew Owens 3.54

Paul Logan 2.83

Courtroom Procedures/Administration

Kimberly Bonner 4.59

Lee Haworth 4.53

Thomas Bell 4.52

Paul Logan 3.65

Julian Broome 3.52

Judy Goldman 3.36


Kimberly Bonner 4.6

Lee Haworth 4.6

Don Hall 4.59

Julian Broome 3.89

Andrew Owens 3.76

Judy Goldman 3.34

Decisiveness/Timely Decision Making

Kimberly Bonner 4.57

Don Hall 4.57

Lee Haworth 4.56

Andrew Owens 3.9

Julian Broome 3.85

Judy Goldman 3.35


Kimberly Bonner 4.65

Durand Adams 4.64

David Denkin 4.62

Julian Broome 3.89

Andrew Owens 3.46

Judy Goldman 2.73

Temperament/ Patience

Robert Farrance 4.68

Don Hall 4.67

Charles Williams 4.66

Julian Broome 3.41

Andrew Owens 3.28

Paul Logan 2.69

Total Average Score


Kimberly Bonner 4.61

Don Hall 4.54

Lee Haworth 4.53

Durand Adams 4.50

Thomas Bell 4.47

Charles Williams 4.47

Bottom 5

Nancy Donnellan 3.94

Paul Logan 3.75

Andrew Owens 3.75

Julian Broome 3.71

Judy Goldman 3.63

Note: Gloria Demedio, Robert Hoffman, Rebecca Hunt, Kimberly Miller and Julianna Ross were omitted from these charts because they received less than 20 responses, which could unfairly distort their results. Also, Overall Evaluation was an actual category asked of respondents, while total average is a calculation based on the average of the rankings in all 11 questions.


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