CLINTON — Voters who face the names of 11 area judges on the ballot Tuesday may never have appeared before any of them and may wonder how to vote.

Iowa judges must stand for retention every six years, but they cannot, by law, actively seek the approval of voters. To fill the information gap, the Iowa Bar Association conducts what is called a judicial Plebiscite.

“The information found in the judicial Plebiscite is meaningful and relevant to the retention system we have in Iowa,” Chief Justice Marsha Ternus of the Iowa Supreme Court has said.

The association canvasses attorneys who have stood before the judges and asks them to rank each judge according to: n knowledge and application of the law;

• perception of factual issues;

• punctuality for court proceedings;

• attentiveness to arguments and testimony;

• management and control of the courtroom;

• temperament and demeanor;

• clarity and quality of written opinions; and

• promptness of rulings and decisions.

Four more categories focus on personality traits:

• avoids undue personal observations or criticism of litigants, judges and lawyers from the bench or in written opinions;

• decides cases on the basis of applicable law and fact, not affected by outside influences;

• is courteous and patient with litigants, lawyers and court personnel; and

• treats people equally regardless of race, gender, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or disability.

Finally, the attorneys have an opportunity to state whether a judge should be retained in office. The votes range from 5 as excellent to 1 as very poor.

Of the 11 judges on the ballot, three are based in Clinton County.

Judge David Sivright received a 98 percent approval vote for retention from 117 attorneys who answered the final question on the Plebiscite. His scores on the specific questions ranged from 4.38 to 4.62.

He was appointed to the bench in 1992. He serves on the Judicial Ethics and the Courts and the Community committees of the Iowa Judges Association. He was awarded the Key to the City of Clinton in 1989 and the Stan Reeves Gold Key Award from the Clinton School District in 1990.

District Associate Judge Arlen Van Zee received approval for retention from 93 percent of the 58 attorneys who voted on the issue. His scores on the specific questions ranged from 4.06 to 4.29.

He serves on the Juvenile Laws Committee of the Judges Association and on the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules of Juvenile Procedure.

Judge Charles Pelton received approval for retention on the bench from 68 percent of the 112 attorneys who voted on the issue.

On the specific questions, he received scores of 3.38 to 3.83.

He served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1966, the year he received his law degree, until 1972, and chaired the OSHA Review Commission for a year.

He is a member of the American Law Association, the American Law Institute and sat on the board of directors at the National Center for State Courts.

Another familiar name on the ballot is Gary Strausser, now of Wilton, who was first assistant county attorney in Clinton County until he was appointed to the bench in 2005.

One hundred percent of the 39 attorneys who voted on the retention issue approved him. His scores on the specific questions ranked from 4.09 to 4.54.

Other judges on the ballot and the retention scores they received from the attorneys are: Bobbi Alpers, 96 percent; Mark Cleve, 95 percent; James Kelley, 89 percent; John Nahra, 95 percent; Nancy Tabor, 88 percent; Mary Howes, 96 percent; Douglas McDonald, 82 percent and John Mullen, 99 percent.

Voters also have an opportunity to cast ballots for or against the retention of three members of the Iowa Court of Appeals: John Miller, Anuradha Vaitheswaran and Van Zimmer.

The full Plebiscite report can be found on the Iowa State Bar Association Web site,

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