A little insight into those judge ratings …

I pulled a little piece of nastiness out of my mailbox this week with a headline that screamed “Judge Rob Wilkins has been ranked one of the worst judges in North Carolina.”

Really?  Well, I decided to dig a little deeper into the matter.  The nasty flier cites the January 9, 2012 issue of North Carolina Lawyers Weekly as its source.   I found that article, and saw that it referenced a survey by the North Carolina Bar Association.  I went to the Bar Association’s web site to explore the matter a little further.  Here are the survey results for the two contested District Court seats in Moore, Randolph and Montgomery counties.

Let’s see what the survey says about the race between Judge Rob Wilkins and Randolph County attorney Jane Redding.   The Bar Association results show that Wilkins was rated by 96 attorneys, while Redding was rated by only 53.  The survey data also includes this important footnote: “[…]not all lawyers rated all qualities […].”  So, 96 attorneys may have rated Wilkins on “Integrity,” while only 83 may have rated him on “Professionalism.”  This thing is starting to look quite meaningless — in terms of its value as a candidate-evaluation tool.

According to the bar’s survey data,  only 46.9 percent of the lawyers who rated Wilkins gave him an “Excellent” or “Good” rating on “Integrity and Fairness / Impartiality.”   If you assume all 96 lawyers rated Wilkins on that quality,  he got “Good” or “Excellent” ratings from 45 participants. His opponent, Redding, got a rating of “Excellent” or “Good” on that same quality from 86.7 percent of the lawyers who rated her.  If you assume all 53 lawyers voted on that particular quality,  she got top ratings from  46 attorneys.  So, on that category, it’s essentially a wash.

Let’s look at the Professionalism category.  Redding gets an 84.8 percent rating while Wilkins gets 40.6 percent. If you assume 96 attorneys rated Wilkins on this quality, that means he got top ratings from 39 participants. If you assume 53 attorneys rated Redding on this quality, she got top marks from 45  participants. If my assumptions are correct, Redding gets a slight edge on this category.

But the bar association does not give us any idea of how many voted in each category, or what the geographic breakdown of the participants was. So, it would be quite easy for a cabal of attorneys, ticked off at a certain judge for not letting them have their way, to get together and skew a survey that can be used during a contested reelection campaign.

Let’s look at the ratings for the Skipper Creed seat Judge Creed was rated by 106 attorneys, while his opponent, attorney Bobby McCroskey, was rated by only 74.  (Again, we’re not told if every participant rated each candidate on every category.) On the “integrity” question, Creed got top marks from 57.5 percent of respondents while McCroskey got top marks from 77 percent. If you assume all 106 attorneys who rated Creed voted on this category, he got top marks from 61 respondents.  If you assume all 77 respondents rated McCroskey on this quality, he got top marks from only 57 percent.  So, if my assumptions are correct, Creed outperformed McCroskey here.  But presenting the data in terms of percentages makes it look like McCroskey came out on top. 

My sources tell me that the folks behind “Citizens for a Competent Judiciary”  — the sponsors of the anti-Wilkins mailing — are a bunch of Randolph County attorneys close to Redding.  It’s interesting that the group is pushing so hard against Wilkins — and not Creed.  Both men got “low” rankings in the survey.

The personality differences between the two incumbents likely provide a clue.   Both have a stringent, conservative view of the law.  Creed is very buttoned-down and soft-spoken.  Wilkins, on the other hand — well — if you’re acting like an idiot, he’ll tell you so, to your face.

This is good information for anyone in Moore, Montgomery and Randolph counties.  For readers from other North Carolina counties, review this data carefully to ensure you are not being misinformed about your judges.

Conservatives need to remember that judges like Clarence Thomas, William Rehnquist, and Antonin Scalia all fared poorly in bar association surveys like this.


38 thoughts on “A little insight into those judge ratings …

  1. As the target of that anonymous and biased lawyer survey, I was initially disturbed by the results. Then I realized that there was something going on other than a fair and accurate evaluation of my performance. Almost 25% of the respondents rated me as “poor” in EVERY category (including integrity), even though at the time of the survey (May 2011), I had decided about 28,000 cases without ever having a single case overturned on appeal and had never been sanctioned for any kind of impropriety. That same month, on May 26, 2011 my opponent announced on her Facebook page: “I don’t know what’s going on with me. I am listening to country music and am now a registered Republican.” Coincidence? As soon as the survey results were publicized in January 2012, a disgruntled defense lawyer in Asheboro began publicly attacking me. My opponent filed to run against me a few weeks later. That same defense lawyer then established the super PAC which paid for the mailer mentioned in the article, as well as negative newspaper ads and a website targeting me. Funny thing is, I have now decided about 45,000 cases, still never had one overturned on appeal, still have never been sanctioned for any kind of impropriety. In addition, about 30 law enforcement leaders and elected officials throughout Moore, Randolph and Montgomery counties are publicly endorsing me, including U.S. Congressman Howard Coble, the sheriffs of all 3 counties, 16 chiefs of police, Moore District Attorney Maureen Krueger, the N.C. Troopers Association, N.C. Sen. Jerry Tillman, N.C. Sen. Harris Blake and others. As quite a few folks have told me: “If some of the defense lawyers don’t like you, you must be doing your job!”. Thanks for helping shed some light on this issue!

  2. Please tell me how 45,000 (his own figures) cases could be “decided” in 4 years by one human. Do the math! IF he worked 365 days a year, that’s 30.8 cases a day, every day of the year. We assume he took weekends and holidays off, so the number becomes even more incredible.

    1. The numbers are those of the Administrative Office of the Courts. According to their Court Performance Management System, there were approximately 84,000 cases disposed of in District 19-B in the previous year. There are 7 district court judges. Thus, each of us disposes of about 12,000 cases per year (1,000 per month on average). I have been a judge for 45 months now, which is why I estimate that I have disposed of about 45,000 cases thus far. That number includes all kinds of cases from the 12 different types of court we handle (traffic tickets, child custody, criminal offenses, juvenile delinquency, child abuse/neglect, domestic violence, etc.). It does not include many other types of decisions we make which do not finally dispose of a case (rulings on motions, issuance of ex parte custody and domestic violence orders, etc.). If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me directly at wilkinsforjudge@yahoo.com. Thank you!

      1. I see. So you, personally, have not “decided” 45,000 cases as you stated. Thanks for the correction.

  3. In District Court in NC cases that are appealed get de novo review according to the statute. Judge Wilkins is grossly exaggerating his appeal record.

    1. Do you not know what you are talking about or are you deliberately trying to mislead?

      Civil appeals from District court go through an appelate review process to the Court of Appeals.

      Criminal appeals do not get a review of the district court’s judges actions by anyone. They go the Superior Court for a trial de novo, meaning a complete new trial starting from the beginning. No record is even made in Criminal district court that would allow an appelate review of that trial.

      1. I’m clarifying a misleading statement put out by the Wilkins campaign. Of the 45,000 cases that Judge Wilkins claims to have presided over, how many cases are actually eligible for “appeal”? I have no experience in the court system per se, but I would imagine the vast majority of those cases are criminal or traffic which result in de novo appeal. The type which Wilkins fails to consider when claiming he has never been overturned on appeal.

        That leaves us with family law and civil matters that go directly to the Court of Appeals. How many of these cases has he “presided” over are eligible for appeal? I would wager not very many.

        I would also love to know how many criminal cases Wilkins has decided in District Court have received a different outcome in Superior court. Isn’t that the very definition of being overturned? I understand this happens frequently with EVERY district court judge.

        His claim is misleading and should be either reneged or clarified.

        1. Well, no, an appellate court overturning a trial court means they have examined the record and the law and determined that the trial judge ruled incorrectly.

          A trial de novo simply means a new trial from the start. The rulings of the original trial court are never examined. The parties may call different witnesses, ask different questions, make different legal arguments. It is wholly a new trial. Plus in Superior Court there is a jury, allowing lawyers to play to emotional factors that don’t come into play in a judge trial as held in District Court. Getting a jury is often the very reason for the appeal to be able to play those emotional cards.

        2. How many has his opponent presided over? Did she switch parties just to run in this race? Got the mailer from the super pac. Talk about misleading.

  4. I’m really not trying to quibble here, but decisions in CRIMINAL cases are appealed for trial de novo to Superior Court. Unfortunately, the AOC does not have stats on such appeals (at least none that I could find, at any rate). Decisions in other cases (child custody, domestic violence, equitable distribution, juvenile delinquency, etc.) are typically appealed to the NC Court of Appeals. Of all those other cases I have decided (however many hundreds or thousands they may be), only 6 have ever been appealed and none has ever yet been overturned on appeal. I certainly don’t claim to be perfect, but the point is that if some participants in the survey rated me as “poor” in EVERY category (and a number of them did), there ought to be some actual evidence to support those grades. I submit there is not and that some other reason for such grades is apparently at play. There is no way to even confirm that the folks who graded me had ever actually been in my courtroom. Given the fact that some of the “officers of the court” supporting my opponent have flagrantly violated state laws by placing hundreds of campaigns signs along our roads starting in April (over 6 months before legally allowed to do so), who is to say that they would even blink at fudging an anonymous survery? However, folks are free to believe whatever they want, with or without any actual evidence (unlike the courtroom in which I work on a daily basis). I simply hope voters will do their own research and make an informed choice when casting their ballots. Take care and God bless!

    1. Judge it is clear that you are the target of a cabal in the defense bar that wants to put someone who will be their poodle in your seat. Voters need to put a stop to that.

  5. First, I am not involved in the contest between Redding and Wilkins, but I take exception with Mr. Clifton’s comments about my judicial race. Just prior to posting this comment, I emailed Mr. Clifton a document detailing the errors in his comments and the corrections that should be made as they were too numerous to list in this comment. I hope Mr. Clifton will share the information with readers, because if he does, readers will learn that my overall results were still superior to those of Mr. Creed despite receiving significantly less survey responses. In four of the six categories rated, I received more total ratings of “excellent” or “good” than Mr. Creed did, despite the fact that he had at least 27 more responses in each and every category than I did.

    1. *Sigh*. You provided a link — that I was not aware of prior to writing the article — showing how many people voted on each question. Thanks for the added info.

      It STILL doesn’t invalidate my point. This survey is meaningless as a comparison tool because it surveys different numbers of people for each candidate. If I have 60 people rate me a TWO while 50 people rate me a THREE, that leaves me with 110 respondents and a total of 270. The average ranking there is 2.45. If you have 10 people who give you TWO and 40 people who rate you a THREE, that leaves you with 50 respondents and a total of 140. The average ranking for you would be 2.8. So, if you and I are running against each other, what does that tell you? NOTHING.

      This is why pollsters — looking at races — ask THE SAME NUMBER of people about each candidate in the race. The anti-Wilkins mailer did not make the difference in the respondent numbers clear. THAT is what I had a problem with.

      I don’t know anyone in these two races other than Skipper Creed. I can testify that — from what I know of him — his integrity is impeccable. I behave myself, so I don’t spend much time in court. I can’t attest to any of the other qualities that were in the survey.

      1. Your reply reveals more flaws in your original post. First, that link that you weren’t aware of was on the very same page you went to in order to locate the list of judicial races by county, so it’s hard to understand how you weren’t aware of it.

        Second, you should have disclosed that you were a friend of Mr. Creed. It doesn’t invalidate your opinion, of course, but it does remove you from the realm of impartial observer to a friend making a recommendation. Again, a person with your journalistic background should know better than to fail to disclose that information.

        Third, your conclusion after applying your math was that the result DID prove something, that Mr. Creed had done better than I did in that category because he simply had 4 more people (only 25 percent of the additional 32 respondents in that category) rate him as excellent or good than did the same for me. But saying he “outperformed” me in that category is like saying a basketball player who makes 6 out of 10 free throws in a game is a better free throw shooter than the guy who “only” makes 5 out of 5 attempts. Nobody would draw that conclusion based on those facts. Your argument might have some validity if there was a wild disparity between the number of respondents for each candidate, but that’s not the case here.

        Finally, after you converted each rating to raw numbers rather than percentages – and if you didn’t actually do that, you can do it now or simply refer to the document that I emailed to you yesterday – I still “outperformed” Mr. Creed in 4 of the 5 remaining categories that you chose to omit from your post. You are trying to have it both ways, first by saying that in one category (out of 6) that percentages don’t tell the whole truth, which strongly implies that the same will hold true for the remaining categories. Then when I point out the error of your reasoning and provide the data to support it, you backtrack and say you don’t know anything about any of the other qualities on which the candidates were rated.

        Lastly, if you are truly interested in becoming informed about what goes on in the courtroom, you don’t have to wait until your own misbehavior brings you in there. Courtrooms are open to the public, and perhaps it would be a good idea for the “public” to take a little time to visit the courts once in a while to make sure the system is working the way it should.

  6. All these numbers are interesting, and I appreciate the Haymaker pointing them out, but there’s something else I question about the mailer. I thought it immediately, and I’m sure others did as well. We are supposed to decide who should be a judge, based on a survey of “defense lawyers”? Really? Why not cut out the middle man? Lets do a survey of habitual criminals, deadbeat dads, and all the people who have lost in a court of law. Let’s survey prisoners,ask them who should run a court of law. I would give such a survey about the same weight.

    1. So your position is that NO lawyer can be trusted to tell the truth about the judicial system even if it’s based on his or her firsthand experience? Or it just you don’t trust a lawyer if he or she isn’t echoing your opinion? It’s a survey sent to ALL licensed lawyers to complete, and that includes other District Court and Superior Court judges, district attorneys, assistant district attorneys, county attorneys, city attorneys, DSS attorneys, and anyone else who has an active law license in the state. The point of the survey is that voters have for years complained that they have no information about the judicial races before they vote on them and often don’t even know the names of the candidates running. The survey is part of an attempt to make more information available to the voters. I’ve never said that the survey was the end-all, be-all of what voters should rely on in casting their vote. I’ve merely said that it should be a part of the process, especially for voters who are not familiar with either candidate. But I find it odd that in everything else in life, whether it’s choosing a doctor, insurance agent, car, house, neighborhood, college or other important decision, we encourage people to consult with someone who’s knowledgeable in that subject area. Here, everyone critical of this survey seems to be saying that when it comes to the referral of who would make a good judge, only lawyers who provided a favorable rating (whether deserved or not) to the incumbent candidate can be trusted to have told the truth. If that’s your view, then perhaps our General Assembly should abandon its efforts to pass a Voter ID Law and look instead to implement a Voter IQ Law.

      1. As I said before, the self-interested clique of defense lawyers want a judge who will be their poodle, not one who will look out for the victims.

        1. That’s pretty brave talk coming from a person not courageous enough to use their real name when posting comments.

          Lawyers want judges on the bench who know the law and give everyone a fair hearing in court, nothing more and nothing less. In case you’ve been in a coma the last 20 years or so, there are actually some times when a person charged with a crime is not guilty, which is why we have a judicial process that requires the government to prove someone is guilty before we can punish them. In addition, we’re talking about more than just criminal court here. District Court judges hear divorce cases, domestic violence cases, juvenile cases, and other types of civil matters, and judges and lawyers must fulfill their respective roles in the process to ensure that it’s as fair as humanly possible.

          It’s real easy for people to sit back and lob grenades at “defense lawyers” because they’re an easy target and, as the adage goes, everybody hates lawyers until they need one for themselves. One person told me after a candidates’ forum where one of the questions involved ethics, “That’s all great, but if I ever get in trouble, what I’m really interested in is whether my lawyer can get me out of it, and I don’t care what it takes.”

          Not a single attorney asked me to enter this judicial race; that was a decision that I made on my own. My oath as a lawyer and, if elected, as a judge is to uphold and follow the law, not to be anybody’s “poodle.” Your decision to form an opinion about me without bothering to speak to me or find out anything about me probably says more about your judgment than it does mine.

          1. If you claim to be a Republican, how long have you been registered that way? If you claim to be a Republican, why is liberal Democrat Brad Crone’s firm connected to the website backing you and how much else is Crone’s firm doing for this Super PAC that is backing you? Or will you give ys the Sergeant Schultz response ”I know nothing, nothing!”

      2. So you want to be my judge. Well, keep the insightful comments coming Bobby. I’m sure you’re wining more votes with each respectful, well reasoned statement.

        1. While my comments may be a bit blunt and to the point, they are certainly more insightful than your assertion that these surveys were akin to letting criminals decide who should be elected to judicial seats. My point all along has been that voters should find out as much as they can about the candidates before casting their votes, and these surveys are a part of the overall picture. Voters should also try to attend the various candidates’ forums that have been held throughout the district. I’m more than willing to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me about the election or my candidacy. But I don’t have much tolerance for misleading information (especially as presented in Mr. Clifton’s original post on this topic), and I find it more than a bit frustrating that everyone feels free to direct personal attacks at lawyers while simultaneously feeling offended if they think they’ve been personally attacked. If you don’t put much stock in the surveys, that’s certainly your choice, although I would encourage everyone to read the surveys for themselves, instead of relying on secondhand accounts, before drawing any conclusion as to their value. There was no need to equate surveys done by lawyers to ones done by habitual criminals and deadbeat dads, to paraphrase you, and that’s what I took issue with from your comment.

          I welcome any discussion anyone would like to have about these matters. But I won’t sit idly by while posts and comments to this site either try to mislead readers or present information about me that isn’t accurate.

          1. We’re still waiting for an answer as to how long you have been registered Republican and why major Democrat consultant Brad Crone’s firm’s Super PAC is supporting you.

          2. Because this pair of phonies are rather obviously being run by the Democrats and are RINO’s.

            One of the things our legislature needs to reverse is this non-partisan election of judges. It makes it more difficult for the average voter to know who the conservatives are, and that was its intent by the Democrats, to confuse the voters.

  7. Mr McCrosky, I agree voters should be informed . This survey doesn’t come close to accomplishing this goal. When an official is challenged for office. I expect the challenger to tell me why the holder needs to be replaced, and why they would be a better choice.
    Why are you running for this district seat? Your video doesn’t give a good reason.

    1. Sorry for my delay in responding to these queries. I was busy watching my daughter play soccer and then coaching my son’s soccer game immediately after that. That was more important than waiting to see what comments would appear next on this site.

      Rather than play this “back and forth” over this comment board, I have a suggestion. I’ll be in Liberty on Monday evening at 6 for a Meet The Candidates event. Anyone who has any question for me is welcome to attend, and I’ll answer any question from anyone so long as the rules regarding judicial elections permit me to address the issue. I believe that will be better if we can all deal with each other face to face, as opposed to me replying to questions from people who choose to use pseudonyms for whatever reason. In addition, it often several hours before comments that are posted are actually displayed on this site, and I don’t know what editing takes place before they are displayed, so let’s remove the filter and talk in person. That way, no questions or answers are likely to be misconstrued.

      Hope to see you there. It’s at the 421 Havana Event Center, 10228 Old Liberty Road in Liberty.

      1. Well that’s something we agree on. Your kids taking priority over following these comments. I’d like to be in Liberty, but work will keep me from it. Thought my question was pretty straight forward. After the lengthy replies to previous comments, one would think you would welcome that question.
        BTW~ Brad McNeill is my name. Not a pseudonym.

        1. The problem isn’t your questions but rather the forum through which my answers must be conveyed. My comments sometimes appear to have undergone some editing before being displayed. Sorry you can’t make it to the Liberty event, but feel free to contact me directly at bobbymccroskey@northstate.net and perhaps we could meet at another time to discuss these issues. And by the way, my remark regarding pseudonyms was obviously not directed at you as it was contained in my reply to a comment other than yours.

          1. This is the second time you’ve made this statement about editing your comments. NO EDITING has taken place. Your comments have been posted AS-IS. Please don’t make me embarrass you by posting the raw data so folks can compare what you sent to what got posted. (We did, in a couple of cases, delete posts where you appeared to post the SAME THING two or three times in a row.)

            I expect my judges to take truth-telling seriously. Maybe you ought to look into a run for Congress.

          2. Uh huh. Well, I have to tell ya. Attention to detail, unassuming, straight forward, and to the point are things I look for in judicial races, as well as others. You haven’t helped yourself here. Good luck in your future endeavors.

    2. While you are there, I hope someone will ask you why you are being supported by a nasty hate-mail campaign by a flaming liberal Demoratic political consulting firm, and why you refuse to answer the simple question about how long you have been registered as a Republican? Could it be because you are a flaming liberal yourself and trying to keep that under cover? That is NOT what we need any more of on the bench. We have way too many of them already.

      1. Wow, where did this idea that there is some gigantic conspiracy brewing to replace all conservative judges with Liberal ones? Your previous comment,
        “One of the things our legislature needs to reverse is this non-partisan election of judges.”, clearly shows you don’t understand the purpose for this or the system for that matter. As for the, “flaming liberal,” comment, I can say that I have been a registered Republican my entire life and people like you make me embarrassed to admit that.

        1. First, my comment was directed at RINO judicial candidate McCroskey, not you.

          Obviously you need a history lesson on how the change to non-partisan election of judges came about, as well as the crappy new judicial race funding system. It was a ploy by the Democrats in the legislature to try to halt the fact that the electorate had clearly gotten to a point that they prefered to elect Republican judges, so they changed the system, so their candidates did not have to bear the burden of running on the Dem ticket.

          At the first election it was in place, I can recall hearing from angry voters who longer longer had any guidance on the ballot as to who was conservative and who was liberal. And I have heard similar complaints since.

          1. RINO, haha. You really are laughable. Take some time to really look at McCroskey, because you obviously haven’t.

            So if a candidate for any office works across the isle (as it really should be in partisan races) they are labeled as delinquents to their party? Well at least now I know what kinda of person you are and what I am dealing with. But seeing as this is a non-partisan race, that is irrelevant.

            Judges work in an environment where party lines shouldn’t exist. They work in an environment where their main concern should be the law on the books, not where their party stands on it. This is why this race is and should remain a nonpartisan race.

            Hearing someone being angered that they don’t know who the “conservative” and “liberal” judges are, tells me one thing. They are an uninformed voter. All of these candidates registrations are public record, their cases and rulings are public record, all they have to do is take the time to look. If they are angered because they don’t know their party affiliation, it’s because they are 1)too lazy to look, and 2)just voting on a party name which is one of the biggest problems with our system and country. If you are an advocate for this, you clearly are an advocate for perpetuating ignorance.

  8. There is no doubt that there is a delay between the time a person clicks the “post comment” button and the time it appears on the site. That is why I posted similar comments twice because it isn’t clear that comments won’t be displayed on here right away. I thought it was a computer error on my end the first time I tried to post a comment and didn’t see it displayed right after that. Only after my first comment appeared a few hours later did I realize there was such a delay.

    My invitation to meet with anyone in person to discuss any issues or concerns he or she may have with me remains open.

  9. I am a Republican in Randolph County. The smear campaign against Judge Wilkins is ugly and reflects poorly on the lawyers who formed the PAC to unseat him. Ms. Redding has distanced herself but cannot avoid the appearence that she is being bought. I wonder, if these lawyers are spending all this money on her exactly what is expected of her in return?
    Since when is a candidate running for judge rated as though she is doing the job? This entire sleazy attempt to unseat a judge who won’t play ball has been attempted before and failed once and suceeded once. I think that judges should not have to run for their job but be appointed by a group of retired judges at the state level. It should not be the lawyers in that county. That leads to cronies banding together and picking judges favorable to them and their deal making.

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