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2:34 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

Louisville Bar Judicial Evaluations Show Lowest Overall Marks for Olu Stevens, Joseph O'Reilly

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Louisville's lawyers have judged the judges. Most of them, anyway.

The lawyers are most satisfied with James Shake on the Jefferson Circuit Court Stephen M. George on the family court.

They're least satisfied with Olu Stevens on the circuit court and Joseph O'Reilly on the family court.

That's some of the data released Thursday in the 2013 Jefferson County Judicial Evaluations from the Louisville Bar Association. This spring, the bar solicited 4,435 member lawyers with Jefferson County mailing addresses for the survey—433 attorneys ended up taking part, though they were only to answered for judges they had significant experience with.

This will be the only judicial evaluation of circuit and family judges that the LBA will release before 2014 elections for those offices.

Of those attorneys surveyed, 96 percent were generally satisfied with Shake's and George's performances.

On the other end, 69 percent were satisfied with Stevens' performance and 57 percent were satisfied with O'Reilly's performance.

Stevens had a significant decline from 2010, the last time LBA members were surveyed on Jefferson Circuit Court judges. 

In 2010, 81 percent of respondents were generally satisfied with Stevens' performance.

Stevens was appointed to the court in 2009 and was elected to a full term the next year.

In an interview, Stevens noted that he presides over the most jury trials of the Jefferson Circuit Judges—and he's taken a stance against "infinite continuances" (delaying, essentially) of cases.

And, to him, that's the root of his rating on the general performance question.

"I have denied them unless there's a reason—something unforeseeable, something affecting the substantial rights of the defendant or something unforeseeable at it relates to the attorney or a party. Lawyers are not used to that.

"And although that has resulted in a decreased number of causes, and the numbers are there to prove it and my high ranking in court management says that.  It has resulted in some discontent among certain segments of the bar."

He said his approached to continuing cases is because defendants may be in custody awaiting trial or civil litigants who may be paying hourly rates for their cases.

Something else interesting—10.3 percent of those who responded to the survey "strongly" agreed that Stevens "Lets personal relationships affect his ... judgment." The next highest responses to that question for a circuit judge was 4.5 percent for Judith E. McDonald-Burkman. The average for all circuit judges was 4.4 percent.

Stevens was surprised by that finding. He said he's "friendly" with Louisville's lawyers, but doesn't really have "personal relationships."

"I think I have a nice relationship with almost everybody that appears in front of me, but I've never allowed it to influence anything that I've done here, nor would I," Stevens said.

Stevens notes that the number of people who responded to the survey make up a small number of the attorneys in town. He adds that he'll use the data and review his approach to his job.

O'Reilly echoes that sentiment.

"I'm going to review the result s to the extent that there's some constructive feedback in there. I will study it and learn from it and move forward."

O'Reilly adds: "I wouldn't have given myself those marks, if that's what you're wondering."

Interestingly, Stevens and Shake were the only judges with lower satisfaction ratings this year than in 2010. In 2010, Shake's mark was 97 percent.

Circuit Judge McKay Chauvin had the largest increase in general satisfaction—with 90 percent responding that they were generally satisfied from 78 percent in 2010.

Also,  Martin McDonald, a circuit judge with senior status (basically, semi-retired) had a general satisfaction rating of 33 percent—compared to 53 percent in 2010. But McDonald has been a controversial figure.

Here are the general satisfaction ratings for the Jefferson Circuit Judges:

And here are the general satisfaction ratings for Jefferson Family Court:

(Image via Shutterstock)

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