The King County Bar Association released a report card last Friday that shows Seattle Municipal Court justices with strikingly lower ratings than their counterparts on county benches. The lowest rated of the city judges was Edsonya Charles, who presides over our court and has been fighting against the city council's efforts cut one of the city's eight judges.

On a scale of one to five—rated by attorneys who go before the court—Charles received a 2.7 in legal decision making, a 2.3 in legal demeanor and temperament, a 2.8 in administrative skills, and 3.0 in integrity and impartiality. Her worst category was maintaining control over the courtroom (59 percent of respondents gave her an "unacceptable" rating and another 20 percent rated her "poor"). She also got low marks in the categories of timely decision making and attentiveness during proceedings. (Full report in this .pdf)

In contrast, Seattle Municipal Court Judge Jean Reischeil ranked highest. In the range of one to five, she ranked from 4.4 to 4.5.

Still, Seattle judges tended to rate lower (mostly between 2.7 and 3.8 out of five) than their counterparts on the county bench (which largely rated between 3.3 and 4.2 out of five). Other municipal court judges also got consistently higher marks.

The ratings don't bode well for the clout of Charles, who recently lobbied the city council to retain all the judges despite the need for major city budget cuts. Each justice costs the city about $1 million including staff. The city council cut one of the judge positions anyway in May, thereby removing the seat of the Ron Mamiya (who was sued for having an affair with an employee).

The court may stand to cut another judge (only three are required by law). A study by the city auditor released in December shows that Seattle judges had fewer cases filings per judge than all but one other local city studied (Kent, Renton, Auburn, or Federal Way—Kirkland had slightly more cases per judge). Moreover, time-consuming jury trials have declined for the past decade. If we do need to cut a judge, this report released by the bar association give a good sense of where to begin.