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Engaging Ideas

Judging the Judges

A blueprint for judicial excellence

This Engaging Idea explores the importance of an independent judiciary and looks at a plan that emphasizes nonpartisan, merit selection of judges and relevant performance evaluation processses.


Rebecca Love Kourlis Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis believes in the foundations of the American legal system and has dedicated her career, both in and out of the courts, to ensuring that the system provides justice for all. She served Colorado's judiciary for nearly two decades, first as a trial court judge and then as a justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

During her time on the bench, Justice Kourlis witnessed a system increasingly under attack from outside forces—one that was often failing to deliver the justice she swore to uphold. So, in January 2006, she resigned from the Supreme Court to do something about it. She established the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), where she serves as Executive Director.

Her work at the helm of IAALS is resolute in its focus on continuous improvement of the American legal system, and a logical off-shoot of her accomplishments on the bench where she spearheaded significant reforms in the judicial system.

More on the Subject

  1. The O'Connor Judicial Selection Plan
  2. Transparent Courthouse Revisited

Questions for personal reflection or group discussion

  1. Do you view the role of judges to be the same as that of elected officials like governors, state legislators, and members of Congress? If not, how is the role of judges different?
  2. What qualities do you want in a judge?
  3. What method of selecting judges do you think is best suited to seating a judge with those qualities?
  4. On what information should voters base their decision to retain or not retain a judge?

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