GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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February 17, 2009

Web site gives lawyers a chance to judge the judges

NEWBURYPORT — Local judges can now log on to find out what attorneys think of them.

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly recently launched a Web site called "JudgeCenter," which allows attorneys to register online and post comments about each judge, good or bad, as well as rank them numerically in a number of categories from "poor" to "excellent."

While local judges have mixed reaction to the site, local attorneys believe any feedback for judges is a good thing.

"It is a good tool for the Bar and for judges. It is just another opportunity for the two entities (lawyers and judges) to converse," Amesbury lawyer Mack McKay said.

McKay specializes in real estate law but has done district and criminal work as well.

"Everyone is trying to do the best job they can, and whatever tools are there are helpful," he said. "I think it is a positive for both entities."

Personal injury lawyer Dallas Haines said the key to feedback is making it constructive.

"In general, it is a good idea as long as the person doing the reviewing is basing it on honest assessment and not a result obtained in the courtroom," Haines said.

Currently, the Massachusetts court system gathers evaluations on judges from lawyers, court staff and citizens for each county every two to three years. Though the results are shared with the judges, the evaluations are not made public.

"In Massachusetts, we are on an island and it is under attack," said Lawyers Weekly Publisher David Yas. "No judicial elections. No retention elections. No term limits. No provision allowing judges to speak publicly about pending cases. And no public judicial evaluation, until now."

Lawyers who want to post on the site must register and provide their names, firm, phone number, address and e-mail. Mass Lawyer Weekly then cross-checks the information to verify the lawyer's identity but keeps the comments of the lawyers anonymous.

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