DAR File No. 41624

This rule was published in the June 1, 2017, issue (Vol. 2017, No. 11) of the Utah State Bulletin.

Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, Administration

Section R597-3-3

Courtroom Observation

Notice of Proposed Rule


DAR File No.: 41624
Filed: 05/12/2017 01:55:10 PM


Purpose of the rule or reason for the change:

The purpose of this rule is to outline a program change to Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission's (JPEC) Courtroom Observation Program.

Summary of the rule or change:

This amendment states that although volunteers, courtroom observers may be eligible to receive compensation from JPEC in exchange for specified amounts of additional courtroom observation work.

Statutory or constitutional authorization for this rule:

  • Sections 78A-12-101 through 78A-12-207

Anticipated cost or savings to:

the state budget:

These costs, estimated at no more than $5,000 per year, will be covered through existing budget allocations to JPEC.

local governments:

The Commission has no dealings with local government, so there is no cost or savings to those entities as a result of this change.

small businesses:

The Commission has no authority with respect to small businesses and no dealings with small businesses; consequently, there is no impact on such entities.

persons other than small businesses, businesses, or local governmental entities:

The affected persons are individual courtroom observation volunteers who may be eligible to receive limited compensation for the completion of specified courtroom observation work.

Compliance costs for affected persons:

The compliance costs for affected persons is the time taken to complete the specified courtroom observation work assigned to them and document the completion before payment.

Comments by the department head on the fiscal impact the rule may have on businesses:

The amendment has no fiscal impact on businesses.

John Ashton, Chairperson

The full text of this rule may be inspected, during regular business hours, at the Office of Administrative Rules, or at:

Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission

Direct questions regarding this rule to:

  • Jennifer Yim at the above address, by phone at , by FAX at , or by Internet E-mail at jyim@utah.gov

Interested persons may present their views on this rule by submitting written comments to the address above no later than 5:00 p.m. on:


This rule may become effective on:


Authorized by:

John Ashton, Chair


R597. Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, Administration.

R597-3. Judicial Performance Evaluations.

R597-3-3. Courtroom Observation.

(1) General Provisions.

(a) Courtroom observations shall be conducted according to the evaluation cycles described in R597-3-1(1) and (2), supra.

(b) The commission shall provide notice to each judge at the beginning of the survey cycle of the courtroom observation process and of the instrument to be used by the observers.

(c) Only the content analysis of the individual courtroom observation reports shall be included in the retention report for each judge.

(2) Courtroom Observers.

(a) Selection of Observers

(i) Courtroom observers shall be volunteers, recruited by the commission through public outreach and advertising.

(ii) Courtroom observers shall be selected by the commission staff, based on written applications and an interview process.

(iii) Courtroom observers, though volunteers, may be eligible to receive compensation in exchange for successful completion of a specified amount of additional courtroom observation work.

(b) Selection Criteria. Observers with a broad and varied range of life experiences shall be sought. The following persons shall be excluded from eligibility as courtroom observers:

(i) persons with a professional involvement with the state court system, the justice courts, or the judge;

(ii) persons with a fiduciary relationship with the judge;

(iii) persons within the third degree of relationship with a state or justice court judge (grandparents, parents or parents-in-law, aunts or uncles, children, nieces and nephews and their spouses);

(iv) persons lacking computer access or basic computer literacy skills;

(v) persons currently involved in litigation in state or justice courts;

(vi) convicted felons;

(vii) persons whose background or experience suggests they may have a bias that would prevent them from objectively serving in the program.

(c) Terms and Conditions of Service

(i) Courtroom observers shall serve at the will of the commission staff.

(ii) Courtroom observers shall not disclose the content of their courtroom evaluations in any form or to any person except as designated by the commission.

(d) Training of Observers

(i) Courtroom observers must satisfactorily complete a training program developed by the commission before engaging in courtroom observation.

(ii) Elements of the training program shall include:

(A) Orientation and overview of the commission process and the courtroom observation program;

(B) Classroom training addressing each level of court;

(C) In-court group observations, with subsequent classroom discussions, for each level of court;

(D) Training on proper use of observation instrument;

(E) Training on confidentiality and non-disclosure issues;

(F) Such other periodic trainings as are necessary for effective observations.

(3) Courtroom Observation Program.

(a) Courtroom Requirements

(i) During each midterm and retention evaluation cycle, a minimum of four different observers shall observe each judge subject to that evaluation cycle.

(ii) Each observer shall observe each judge in person while the judge is in the courtroom and for a minimum of two hours while court is in session. The observations may be completed in one sitting or over several courtroom visits.

(iii) If a judge sits in more than one geographic location at the judge's appointed level or a justice court judge serves in more than one jurisdiction, the judge may be observed in any location or combination of locations in which the judge holds court.

(iv) When the observer completes the observation of a judge, the observer shall complete the observation instrument, which will be electronically transferred to the commission or the third party contractor for processing.

(b) Travel and Reimbursement

(i) All travel must be preapproved by the executive director.

(ii) All per diem and lodging will be reimbursed, when appropriate, in accordance with Utah state travel rules and regulations.

(iii) Travel reimbursement forms shall be submitted on a monthly basis or whenever the observer has accumulated a minimum of 200 miles of travel.

(iv) Travel may be reimbursed only after the observer has satisfactorily completed and successfully submitted the courtroom observation report for which the reimbursement is sought.

(v) Overnight lodging

(A) Overnight lodging is reimbursable when the courtroom is located over 100 miles from home base and court is scheduled to begin before 9:30 a.m., with any exceptions preapproved by commission staff.

(B) Multiple overnight lodging is reimbursable where the commission staff determines it is cost-effective to observe several courtrooms in a single trip.

(vi) Each courtroom observer must provide a social security number or tax identification number to the commission in order to process state reimbursement.

(4) Principles and Standards used to evaluate the behavior observed.

(a) Procedural fairness, which focuses on the treatment judges accord people in their courts, shall be used to evaluate the judicial behavior observed in the courtroom observation program.

(b) To assess a judge's conduct in court with respect to procedural fairness, observers shall respond in narrative form to the following principles and behavioral standards:

(i) Neutrality, including but not limited to:

(A) displaying fairness and impartiality toward all court participants;

(B) acting as a fair and principled decision maker who applies rules consistently across court participants and cases;

(C) explaining transparently and openly how rules are applied and how decisions are reached.

(D) listening carefully and impartially;

(ii) Respect, including but not limited to:

(A) demonstrating courtesy toward attorneys, court staff, and others in the court;

(B) treating all people with dignity;

(C) helping interested parties understand decisions and what the parties must do as a result;

(D) maintaining decorum in the courtroom.

(E) demonstrating adequate preparation to hear scheduled cases;

(F) acting in the interests of the parties, not out of demonstrated personal prejudices;

(G) managing the caseflow efficiently and demonstrating awareness of the effect of delay on court participants;

(H) demonstrating interest in the needs, problems, and concerns of court participants.

(iii) Voice, including but not limited to:

(A) giving parties the opportunity, where appropriate, to give voice to their perspectives or situations and demonstrating that they have been heard;

(B) behaving in a manner that demonstrates full consideration of the case as presented through witnesses, arguments, pleadings, and other documents.

(C) attending, where appropriate, to the participants' comprehension of the proceedings.

(c) Courtroom observers may also be asked questions to help the commission assess the overall performance of the judge with respect to procedural fairness.


KEY: judicial performance evaluations, judges, evaluation cycles, surveys

Date of Enactment or Last Substantive Amendment: [February 17], 2017

Notice of Continuation: February 17, 2014

Authorizing, and Implemented or Interpreted Law: 78A-12

Additional Information

More information about a Notice of Proposed Rule is available online.

The Portable Document Format (PDF) version of the Bulletin is the official version. The PDF version of this issue is available at https://rules.utah.gov/publicat/bull_pdf/2017/b20170601.pdf. The HTML edition of the Bulletin is a convenience copy. Any discrepancy between the PDF version and HTML version is resolved in favor of the PDF version.

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For questions regarding the content or application of this rule, please contact Jennifer Yim at the above address, by phone at , by FAX at , or by Internet E-mail at jyim@utah.gov.  For questions about the rulemaking process, please contact the Office of Administrative Rules.