Letter: How judges are evaluated
To the Editor:
To All Voters in the 14th Judicial District: While perusing your Blue Book at election time, have you ever wondered about the judicial recommendations of “Retain,” “Do Not Retain,” and “No Opinion”? As a member of the 14th Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance, I would like to share with you some background on the program that makes these recommendations possible.
In 1988 the Colorado Legislature created Judicial Performance Commissions to provide fair, constructive and responsible evaluations to voters as they consider judges for retention. These are non-partisan commissions made up of ten volunteer citizens of whom six are non-attorneys and four are attorneys. They are appointed by the Chief Justice, the Governor of Colorado, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House. Members of each commission must be residents of the judicial district. Thus, our 14th Judicial District Commission members are all from Moffat, Routt and Grand Counties.
Every election year our Commission on Judicial Performance evaluates the district and county judges who are eligible to stand for retention. We have several means of evaluation:
• Surveys: As members of the commission, we study the results of surveys that have been sent to people who had significant contact with the judge. These include attorneys, jurors, defendants, litigants, law enforcement officers, victims, court employees, and employees of various local departments of social services. Commission members do not see the actual individual surveys, but review a retention report with the compiled results. To give you an idea of how extensive this survey process is, over 130,000 surveys were sent out statewide to potential respondents.
• Courtroom Observations: We sit in on trials conducted by the judge. This is a good opportunity to observe the judge’s courtroom demeanor, interaction with defendants, legal knowledge, communication skills and administrative abilities.
• Review of Written Materials: We read the judge’s written decisions and opinions to evaluate whether they are complete and fair, and to examine the clarity and quality of the writing. In addition, we review his or her individual case management statistics and we read the judge’s own written self-evaluation.
• Personal Interview with the Judge: This interview is often a very informative discussion between the judge and all of us on the commission.
Once we have completed these evaluations, we meet to discuss, compare, and analyze our findings. The ultimate result is our vote as to whether a judge should be retained, or not retained. If the commission is equally divided between these two, a recommendation of no opinion is recorded. Our recommendation and a narrative explaining our reasons for that recommendation are published in the Blue Book for your information. You may also consult the Office of Judicial Performance webpage, http://www.coloradojudicialperformance.gov/review.cfm?year=2014, for narratives and survey reports on each judge. As you can see, much study and review goes into our recommendations; we hope you find them helpful.
Member, 14th Judicial District Performance Commission
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