Every two years, Iowa voters are asked to vote on whether justices on the Iowa Supreme Court, judges on the Court of Appeals, and District, District Associate and Associate Juvenile Courts should be retained in office. The Iowa State Bar Association conducts its statewide Judicial Performance Evaluation of ISBA members before each of these elections and makes the results public.
Under Iowa’s judicial merit selection system, judges are appointed by the governor after going through an extensive interview and evaluation process by the Judicial Nominating Commission. Voters then decide during the November general elections in even years whether the judges should remain in office. Since Iowa adopted this merit system for selecting judges in 1962, the ISBA has conducted the performance review as a way of giving voters firsthand information on which to base their decisions about keeping a judge in office.
In order to be eligible to rate a judge or justice, attorneys must have appeared before him or her frequently enough that the judge or justice can evaluate the attorney. Attorneys rate the judges on eight questions (six for appellate court judges) related to their professional competence and four questions related to their demeanor.