Small samples and The Palm Beach Post
The results of a poll ranking Palm Beach County judges has come out.
Those bold rulings this year by Circuit Court Judge Jorge Labarga and County Court Judge Barry Cohen, respectively, did not hurt their standing among attorneys, according to a biannual poll by Palm Beach County Bar Association released Wednesday. Labarga and Cohen were among the most highly regarded judges.I agree with Mr. Rampell, the 10% sample is far small to draw any reliable conclusions.
Labarga, for example, has an excellent knowledge of the law, 81 percent of the respondents said. Almost the same number gave Labarga the same grade for diligence and preparedness, while more than three-quarters did likewise for impartiality.
A much smaller number of respondents rated Cohen, but nearly 95 percent said his knowledge of the law is excellent. Almost 93 percent said he is excellent in diligence and preparedness, while 86 percent gave him the same mark for impartiality.
The survey asked attorneys to rank judges and magistrates as either "excellent," "satisfactory" or "needs improvement" in nine different areas.
Only 499 of the county's more than 5,000 attorneys completed the survey, but that's a good percentage of those who frequently appear before judges, said Manuel Farach, president of the local Bar group.
Chief Circuit Judge Kathleen Kroll was more circumspect: The less-than-10-percent response "should make everyone cautious about drawing conclusions from these numbers," she said.
The Palm Beach County court system "has historically been viewed as one of the best in the state, and any analysis of our performance should keep that in mind," she added in a prepared statement.
Numbers professionals also cautioned against attaching too much meaning to the survey results.
Accountant Richard Rampell noted it is not a genuine statistical sample. Rampell often works with attorneys in forensic accounting cases and has appeared in court as a witness.
"We have to understand it's not perfect, but it does give some sense of the quality of the judges," Rampell said. "What confirms this for me is that the ratings are similar to what you hear around the water cooler from lawyers."
That won't stop the Palm Beach Post from using these polls if they don't like a local judge. Let me remind you of Art Wroble.
It is rare for a circuit judge in Florida to face a challenger, much less a very qualified challenger. Fortunately for Palm Beach County, Circuit Judge Art Wroble is facing such a challenger.So why does Randy Schultz and the Post editorial board use ratings that can be unreliable as the basis for whether a judge is fit or unfit for office? I guess if you have an agenda, anything goes and the truth be damned.
Six years ago, Judge Wroble got on the bench by paying the standard candidate qualifying fee, which is 4 percent of the office's salary. A judge was retiring, and Judge Wroble lined up support early. When no one else filed to run, Judge Wroble had his robe without having to face the voters or, ideally, the much more stringent merit selection process.
In one term, Judge Wroble has shown that he doesn't belong on the bench. Last year, just 7.3 percent of lawyers responding to the Bar poll rated him as excellent in knowledge of the law. Nearly 70 percent gave him a negative rating.
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