Judge Judy Draper was appointed an associate circuit judge for the 21st Judicial Circuit in April 2004 and has been retained by Missouri voters since then. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Carolina and her law degree from Howard University. Prior to her current appointment, Judge Draper served as municipal judge in the municipalities of Berkeley and Northwoods.
Her professional affiliations include membership in the Mound City Bar Association, National Bar Association and Missouri Asian American Bar Association. She also served as an American Bar Association delegate. Judge Draper’s civic involvement includes: service to Hope House (an organization focused on transitional housing for women); Covenant Community Church; Korean American Association; and The Links, International (a civic, educational and cultural organization). She has been a speaker for several bar associations locally and nationally on various topics, including diversity, women’s issues and international trends. She wrote the article, “Ordinance Violation Right to a Jury Trial in Missouri” for Benchmark, a publication for the Missouri Municipal and Associate Circuit Judges Association. In her biographical information, she notes that from 2007-2010 she cleared a docket of 11,000 more cases than the other five judges handling the civil docket.
Attorneys responding to survey questions were asked to rate the judge on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing “Strongly Disagree” and 5 representing “Strongly Agree.”
Judge Draper received her highest scores for: addressing individuals (e.g. attorneys, court staff, litigants, public, witnesses) respectfully in the courtroom (3.76); treating the parties equally (3.58); and maintaining a professional demeanor in the courtroom (3.56).
Her lowest scores were for: rulings cite the applicable substantive law (2.53); decisions followed logically from evidence presented (2.64); and was prepared for court (2.65). The 21st Circuit Judicial Performance Evaluation Committee identifies these as areas of needed improvement.
In addition to the lawyer survey, the committee reviewed survey responses submitted by jurors who were seated in jury trials before Judge Draper. Each judge was also able to submit up to five evaluations from court staff. Five staff members completed favorable two-page surveys that asked staff to rate positive and negative experiences with the judge. The survey also asked staff to rate the judge’s performance relating to 15 separate criteria on a 1 to 5 scale regarding treatment of court employees, addressing concerns of courtroom staff and overall professionalism.
The committee also reviewed three written opinions submitted by Judge Draper, which dealt with various issues of constitutional law.
In reaching a recommendation, the 21st Circuit JPE Committee considered that while higher than during the previous evaluation period, Judge Draper’s attorney survey scores were the lowest. The committee also considered written comments contained in the attorney survey, personal comments from attorneys experienced in practicing in Judge Draper’s court. The circuit committee forwarded its proposed recommendation to Judge Draper on August 1, 2014, after which she appealed to the Missouri Judicial Performance Evaluation Appeals Panel.
On September 3, 2014, the Missouri Judicial Performance Evaluation Appeals Panel convened pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 10.55(a)(6) and heard the appeal of Judge Judy Draper from the recommendation of the JPE Committee of the 21st Judicial Circuit. The Appeals Panel considered all the documentary evidence that was before the circuit committee. The Appeals Panel interviewed Judge Draper and received information presented in her behalf. The Appeals Panel also interviewed the chair of the circuit committee about the circuit committee’s recommendation and how it was determined.
The judicial performance evaluation process is intended to evaluate judges based on their attainment of identified performance standards. The process is not intended to evaluate judges based on whether a particular judge’s evaluation scores were higher or lower than other judges. Ranking judges against each other is inconsistent with best practices from JPE model programs and is not supposed to occur in Missouri. Yet, Judge Draper and two other St. Louis County associate circuit judges were given a negative recommendation by the Circuit Committee because they were deemed to fall below a statistical range compared to the other nine St. Louis County judges evaluated in 2014. No other JPE evaluation committee in Missouri used this method. The JPE committees for Jackson, Platte, Clay, and Greene counties, the City of St. Louis, and the appellate committee, did not make negative recommendations for judges who were at the lower end of a statistical range compared to other judges.
The judicial performance evaluation process is supposed to be fair and impartial in its application statewide. The use of a method by the 21st Circuit JPE Committee that resulted in one-fourth of the judges being given a negative recommendation was an inappropriate methodology. To apply this method statewide would mean that a number of merit-selected judges would be given a negative recommendation across the board during every evaluation cycle, which is not how the system is intended to work under any known JPE standard, and there is no precedent for it in Missouri. Therefore, the negative recommendation for Judge Draper should be reversed.
The next question before the Appeals Panel is whether Judge Draper’s evaluation should be remanded to the circuit committee or decided by the Appeals Panel. Six of the seven members of the Appeals Panel are the chairs of the other six JPE committees, each of whom were elected by their respective committees and collectively represent 72 diverse JPE committee members, 36 of whom are lay persons and 36 of whom are lawyers. The Supreme Court has entrusted the chairs with appeal authority under Rule 10.55(a)(6). There is no provision in Rule 10.55(a)(6) for a remand. Therefore, final authority over a matter under appeal rests with the Appeals Panel.
Having considered the evidence and being fully advised, the Appeals Panel determines that Judge Judy Draper should be given a “do retain” recommendation for 2014.
 On the advice of a nationally recognized JPE consultant, Missouri changed its evaluation methodology to discontinue rating judges on whether they were perceived to be “average” or above or below “average.” If a judge meets the objective performance standards evaluated in the JPE process, he or she should be recommended for retention. The JPE process does not use a bell curve or similar method under which judges at the lower end of the curve are presumed to fail.