How judicial nominating commissions work
November 18, 2014
In the wake of Grand County Judge Ben McClelland not being retained by voters on Nov. 4, officials with the Colorado Judicial Branch forwarded this information to the Sky-Hi News about the process for filling the vacancy on the bench.
McClelland is scheduled to complete his term on Jan. 13, 2015.
In 1966, Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment which provides that state judges be appointed rather than elected on a political ticket. Now, when a vacancy occurs in a county or district judgeship, the judicial district nominating commission interviews applicants and recommends individuals to the governor for consideration and appointment.
Three nominees must be submitted to the governor for judgeships on the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court; two or three names can be submitted for county or district vacancies.
A judicial district nominating commission for each of Colorado's 22 judicial districts selects nominees for district and county judicial vacancies. Each district nominating commission is chaired by a justice of the Supreme Court, who is a non-voting member of the commission.
Each judicial district nominating commission consists of seven citizens residing in that judicial district. No more than four members can be from the same political party, and there must be at least one voting member from each county in the district. In all districts with populations of more than 35,000, the voting members consist of three people admitted to practice law in Colorado and four people not admitted to practice law in Colorado.
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Commission members serve six-year terms. Non-lawyers, who are the majority of every nominating commission, are appointed by the governor. Lawyer members are appointed by joint action of the governor, attorney general, and chief justice.
Colorado's method for appointment of judges focuses on the qualifications of judges and has specific time limits controlling when the commission and the governor must act. Within 30 days after a vacancy occurs, the commission must meet; select its nominees based on written applications, recommendations, and personal interviews; and submit the names to the governor.
The governor must select one of the nominees within 15 days after receiving the list of nominees. If the governor does not appoint someone within those 15 days, then the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court appoints one of those individuals to fill that vacancy. The judge so chosen serves an initial term of two years. The judge must then stand for retention at the next general election.
If retained by voters after serving an initial two-year term, state court judges serve the following terms: county court, four years; district court, six years; Court of Appeals, eight years; and Supreme Court, 10 years.
Application forms to fill the vacancy are available from the office of the ex officio chair of the nominating commission, Justice Monica M. Márquez, 2 E. 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203; and the office of the district administrator, Evan Herman, 1955 Shield Dr., Steamboat Springs, CO 80487. Applications also are available on the court's home page at http://www.courts.state.co.us/Careers/Judge.cfm.
The original, signed application form must be filed with the ex officio chair no later than 4 p.m. Dec. 5.
Any person wishing to suggest a candidate to fill the vacancy may do so by letter to be submitted to any member of the nominating commission, with a copy to the ex officio chair, no later than 4 p.m. Nov. 28.