Some of the best-known judges in Memphis are also some of worst, according to a survey released Friday by the Memphis Bar Association.
U.S.District Judge Jon McCalla, in the news this month for a simmering feud with the Burch Porter Johnson law firm, scored by far the lowest of any federal judge and lowest overall of any judge in any court in Shelby County. On a 1-5 scale, McCalla scored an overall rating of 2.27.
Attorneys rated judges on a scoring scale of 5 for excellent, 3 for satisfactory, and 1 for unsatisfactory. Of the 2,907 lawyers who received the survey, 695 responded. Attorneys were asked to rate only judges before whom they have practiced. Responses were anonymous.
McCalla has been criticized for his temper and for berating lawyers. He is currently presiding over the Shelby County jail lawsuit. All other federal judges scored 3.78 or higher, with David S. Kennedy the highest at 4.79.
Former state lawmaker Karen Williams (3.13 overall), Kay Robilio (2.57) and D'Army Bailey (2.52) fared worst among the Circuit and Chancery Court judges. Williams was rapped for being slow on rulings, Robilio for knowledge of the law, and Bailey, a part-time actor and former mayoral candidate, for convening court punctually.
The lowest rating among the Memphis municipal court judges went to Earnestine Hunt Dorse(2.80). In Criminal Court, W.Fred Axley brought up the rear (2.70).
"One of the obligations of the bar is to educate the public about the judicial system," said Linda Holmes, chairman of the Judicial Evaluation Committee. "This judicial evaluation is one way the bar association can give information to the public."