Local News

Louisville attorneys  are generally pleased with the performance of most federal and  district court judges who preside in the city.

But not all. Twenty-six percent of responding attorney’s said they were “generally satisfied” with the overall performance of Jefferson District Judge Sandra McLaughlin, according to judicial evaluations released Wednesday by the Louisville Bar Association. 

Annette Karem was the only District Court judge other than McLaughlin to receive below 77 percent approval.  Just more than half of respondents—54 percent—said they were satisfied with Karem’s overall performance.

On the other hand, 94 percent were “generally satisfied” with Jefferson District Judge Anne Leitsch Haynie. 

The full evaluations for all Jefferson district and Louisville-based federal court judges can be found at the bottom of this story.

McLaughlin could not immediately be reached for comment. We’ll update when she responds.

The evaluations were conducted by the Thoroughbred Research Group.  Nearly 300 practicing attorneys in Jefferson County participated in evaluating the 30 judges.

The attorneys answered questions about the judges on  overall performance, judicial temperament and integrity, court management, legal ability and the skills exhibited in handling criminal and civil cases.

The attorneys’ responses are anonymous, said Martin Johnstone, a retired  Kentucky Supreme Court justice and chair of the Louisville Bar Association’s judicial evaluations committee.

“I certainly hope the judges look at these and evaluate them for themselves and they make modifications to their performance after reviewing these, if there is some indication to them that would make them believe there should be some other type of performance in the courtroom,” he said.

Johnstone said the evaluations are not only for the judges to gauge their performance, but also to provide information to the public to encourage informed voting practices during election time.

The process of the evaluation began with the Thoroughbred Research Group sending out more than 4,800 evaluation notices to attorneys with Jefferson County addresses.  Nearly 570 attorneys expressed interest in participating.  In the end, Jim Lunger, vice president for data analytics at Thoroughbred Research Group, said the near 300 attorneys that actually responded to the survey was “comparable” with previous evaluations.

Attorneys could only evaluate judges if they had spent a “substantial” amount of time in their courtroom, According to the researchers.  Louisville Bar Association member Greg Haynes said he would consider a substantial amount to be “three or four” appearances in a judge’s courtroom.

Here is a comparative summary of the evaluation:

Here is a more detailed look at the findings:

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Sandra McLaughlin’s name.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.