Colorado’s top judges win endorsement for new terms
DENVER, Colorado ” Voters across Colorado are being asked whether to keep two state Supreme Court justices and six state Court of Appeals judges in their jobs for up to 10 more years.
All got positive reviews from the State Commission on Judicial Performance and were recommended for retention. The 10-member commission, appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the governor and legislative leaders, reviews an array of evaluations and statistics before making a recommendation.
Also up for a retention vote on the Nov. 4 ballot are 95 district and county judges. Unlike the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges, who appear on ballots statewide, the district and county judges appear only on ballots in their individual districts.
County judges must stand for retention every four years, district judges every six, state Court of Appeals judges every eight and Supreme Court justices every 10.
State law mandates that all state judges undergo performance evaluations twice each term. Recommendations on retention, also required by the state, are posted at http://www.cojudicialperformance.com.
Only one judge who’s standing for retention this year got a “do not retain” recommendation: Jefferson County Judge Judy Archuleta.
The judicial performance commission for the 1st Judicial District, which includes Jefferson County, said Archuleta’s weaknesses “far outweigh her strengths.” It said attorneys and non-attorneys who appeared in her court described her in questionnaires as impatient, rude, unsympathetic and belittling.
Archuleta says the negative comments come from repeat DUI offenders and their attorneys.
“I’ve been a judge for eight years and haven’t had any issues except that I am the toughest judge on this bench on sentences for drunk driving,” she told The Associated Press.
“My position is that the majority of the people that appear in my courtroom have the opinion that I’m a fine judge and should be retained,” she said.
The commission said it did not consider information that was “obviously from unhappy defense attorneys” upset by her sentencing practices.
Colorado has 23 judicial performance review commissions ” one for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals and one for each of the 22 judicial districts. By law, six members of each commission must be non-attorneys.
The commissions review self-evaluations by each judge who’s up for a retention vote, along with results of questionnaires completed by attorneys, litigants, jurors, victims, peace officers and others who have been in the judges’ courts.
Commission members interview the judges, observe them in action and review their decisions or opinions. They also look at statistics including caseloads, case types, number and length of trials and other information.
The panel then makes a recommendation ” retain, do not retain, or “no opinion” if members are evenly split.
Judges see their performance evaluations and retention recommendations before they are made public. If a judge decides not to stand for retention after seeing the recommendation, the recommendation is not disclosed.
Thirteen judges who would have been up for retention elections this year declined to run again. The state doesn’t record their reasons, although one was a county judge who was elevated to district judge.
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