The state commission that recommends whether voters should keep or fire judges up for retention elections in Colorado wants to make some changes to help voters decide. F.A.C.E.U.S. advocates, Coffergroup, The Fourth Branch, Transparent Courts, Judicial Integrity Project and Matt Arnold Clear The Bench showed there support for new change in the way judges are retained in Colorado. The question now is “what changes do we want?”
December 7, 2016 by Lulu
DENVER – The state commission that recommends whether voters should keep or fire judges up for retention elections in Colorado wants to make some changes to help voters decide.
LINK: Offer suggestions for judicial reviews here
Before the 2016 election, 9NEWS reported that voters tend to keep judges with failing reviews, sending them back to the bench with an average 54 percent of the vote.
This year, two judges with failing reviews had to face an election. 9NEWS published the information in our voter guide. Voters fired one and kept the other.
Before this year, seven of the last 10 judges recommended for firing kept their jobs.
The judicial performance system comes up for renewal by lawmakers in 2019, but some on the commission are pushing for changes sooner.
They may find a friendly ear on the first floor of the state Capitol. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) expressed concern about the system’s effectiveness after 9NEWS scrutinized the election results and how the reviews are presented to voters.
In a public hearing Monday, the commission heard a lot of concern about the opinion surveys that are used to help decide whether judges should keep their jobs. It was the last in a series of statewide meetings to take feedback on the reviews.
There was wide agreement that not enough surveys come in to guide the official reviews for judges. Some advocated that people who have business in court should be required to turn in surveys, or be given the survey before their cases are closed.
Judicial performance commissioner Scott Gessler (a Republican and former Colorado secretary of state) said he was hesitant to require people to turn in anything, but said he might support mandatory surveys for attorneys because they have a sworn duty to serve the court.
Gessler also said he wants to extend the performance reviews to senior judges, retired judges who occasionally pick up cases to help reduce workload, who are currently exempt from reviews.
“We don’t evaluate them and they need to be evaluated I think just like everyone else,” Gessler said.
Commissioner Mike Maday (a Democrat) agreed that the commission should re-examine surveys and possibly use different kinds of questions for different kinds of courts.
For example, Maday says appellate courts want to poke at arguments from lawyers, but local courts often deal with people who’ve never been in court before.
“Things like demeanor, patience, that sort of thing is really important at that level,” Maday said.
9NEWS also testified to share feedback from viewers about making the material easier to read.
As we reported in August, the current rules require any negative information about a judge to be buried in the fourth paragraph of the judge’s review after a bunch of information that is less useful to voters.
The commission is done holding public hearings to take ideas, but they’ll still take your suggestions online. Suggestions are most helpful if they’re received by mid-January of 2017, before the state legislature starts passing bills.