Letter: Do not retain Judge McClelland
To the Editor:
The recent letter by Cary Laman makes some statements that could use some clarification.
First of all, a 3.0 GPA is not a B+ and Judge McClelland’s average rating by attorneys (his peers) is 2.61, which is a “C.”
But more relevant is this: That survey score is an un-weighted average of 17 different metrics, and some are far more important than others. Should one consider “setting reasonable schedules for cases” to be of equal importance to “Basing decisions on evidence and arguments?” We don’t believe so and obviously the Commission doesn’t either. Surveyed attorneys gave Judge McClelland 18 percent “D” grades, and 18 percent “F” grades on that latter question, which is probably the single-most important criterion of being a judge.
Think about it: What is the virtue of a judge who doesn’t base decisions on evidence and arguments?
Also, Judge McClelland’s statement that “The Appeals Courts have upheld all of my trial court rulings” is misleading. First of all, as a county judge, he should rarely, if ever, find his rulings appealed, yet he has. That’s telling in and of itself. But most of all, in a simple internet search you can find exactly two McClelland appeals. Yes, his ONE trial court appeal was upheld, however, the other, a divorce court ruling, was reversed/remanded in part. So not only did he make a deceitful statement implying that ALL of his rulings are somehow well-tested and well-supported by the appellate court, he appears to have purposely mislead the commission and the people of Grand County by ignoring the fact that his other non-trial-court appeal was partially reversed.
That is not the level of integrity we look for in a judge.
It is the Commission’s job is to evaluate judges, and then make informed recommendations to voters. Lynn Abbott, a member of the 14th Judicial District Performance Commission, addressed this in her Letter to the Editor in Sky-Hi’s Oct. 14 issue. In the 24 years since 1990, the Commission has evaluated 1,322 judges up for retention and has issued a “DO NOT RETAIN” recommendation on only 20 of those judges (about 1.5 percent). Judge Ben McClelland is one of those 20 recommended against retention and the people of Grand County would be foolish to ignore the Commission’s advice.
Remember, the Commission has interviewed him, interviewed attorneys, observed him in court as well as seen filings and complaints both for and against him. There is far more information out there than just the mere survey. The Commission reviewed his performance on the following criteria: integrity, legal knowledge, communication skills, judicial temperament, administrative performance, and service to the legal profession and public. Yes, there were good comments as well as bad, and different people no-doubt had different opinions. However, after taking all matters into account, they then decided he should not be retained. Of the 146 judges up for retention this year, Judge McClelland was one of only three that were recommended against retention. A “Do Not Retain” recommendation by the Commission should not be taken lightly.
Also, regarding whose names are associated with Grand County Deserves Better – who cares? Many people support GCDB but wish to remain anonymous because they are understandably fearful to speak out against a sitting judge, especially one who already has a well-established reputation for bias. It’s not about individuals nor is it personal; it comes down to the pure and simple fact that the professionals whose job it is to evaluate judges recommend his removal from the bench and the people of Grand County need to be informed about that.
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