Midweek update – Citizens respond to Denver Post guest commentary defending Colorado Supreme Court incumbents

Recently, defenders of the judicial status quo weighed in with a guest commentary in the Denver Post promoting the retention of judicial incumbents generally (and defending Chief Justice Mullarkey specifically).  The piece (written by a career politician) called “Criticism of retiring Judge (sic) Mullarkey unfair” and attempted to characterize any critique or assessment of judicial performance outside of the lawyer-and-political-insider-dominated Judicial Performance Review Commission as “attacks” and “over-the-top charges.”  (So much for the 1st Amendment and accountability to the citizens, eh?)

Informed voters discount the Judicial Performance Review Commission reports not only for their pro-incumbent bias (recommending for retention about 99% of the time) but also for the lack of substantive information provided on which to base an informed decision – as noted in an earlier Denver Post Guest Commentary article (published February 13th) entitled “Evaluating the Performance of Justices.”

The Denver Post has yet to publish our response (Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold submitted a rebuttal article for the “My Turn” section, since our organization was indirectly attacked in the piece) – possibly they remain committed to defending the interests of their largest renters (yes, the Colorado Supreme Court rents office space from the Denver Post – currently holding court in the Denver Post building).  Conflict of interest?  No, no conflict of interest there…

However, there has been a robust discussion and debate in the online comments section for the article, as well as an informative letter to the editor (published, unfortunately, only in the online edition).  Apparently, citizens of Colorado are both better informed and more willing to engage on this topic than the Post editors give credit.

Some of the comments:

Why is it wrong to criticize judges like Mullarkey who helped Ritter to raise our property taxes and helped subvert the Tabor Bill? Since the voters of Colorado didn’t trust the politicians and their spending and we didn’t want them raising our taxes without voter approval. Just think of all the new fees that the Dems pushed through in the last year from the new vehicle fees and all of the other 30 fees that they approved in the dead of night this past year. The voters were right no to trust the big spending politicians and judges like Mullarkey made things worse. So it is to bad that she retired before we could fire her and the other judges who legislated against the will of the voters… [by: all American]

Democrats have had Tabor in their sights for many years. When given the opportunity to decide whether the will of the people should trump the will of politicians, liberal Supreme Court judges voted to uphold the obvious wordplay and stretch of legal definition that Ritter designed to undermine the basic tenants of Tabor. And our property taxes were increased, which was the intent to fashion an end-run around our Constitutional mandate to put all tax increases to a vote.

I think that is an eminently fair criticism of the political-tinged partisan decision made by Mullarky and Co. Their judicial neutrality was abandoned for a reactionary treatment of a constitutional amendment that they as tax and spend liberals did not like. [by: COindy]

In my experience, the Judicial Performance Commissions are an expensive fraud on the public.

Members are indoctrinated by the administrator that ANY citizen making a complaint against a judge is a “loser who is trying to retry his case” I had a civil case that took eight years to get to trial because the judge wouldn’t make timely decisions, defined in state law as no more than 90 days after the motion. One decision took 27 months and another two years. Court records were quite plain on the issue, and I provided them to the commission to prove what was happening.

The commissioners were so prejudiced against the public that one commissioner later wrote me an email stating that I was a loser and he hoped I could put the issue behind me. He hadn’t examined the documents closely enough to discover that my lawsuit hadn’t come to trial yet and that I was just trying to force that to happen. I eventually won my lawsuit, so I wasn’t even a loser but the judges delay cost me tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees that I didn’t recover.

The judicial performance law itself helps judges coerce favorable outcomes from commissions by making it unlawful for a commissioner who votes against a judge and later finds himself in that judges court to request a change of judge. Let me say that again: Commissioners who try to protect the public interest with an honest appraisal put themselves in future peril by law that creates the commissions.

It is also against state law for commissioners to individually or as a group report judicial misconduct they may discover in the course of their duties.

Citizens can best protest this kind of fraud by voting against the retention of EVERY judge, and certainly against EVERY Supreme Court justice. Blue book recommendations are NOT worth the paper they are printed on.  [by: A Watcher]

… and several others in the same vein.  The Citizen response to a career politician’s attempt to defend a process (Judicial Performance “Review” Commissions) meant to minimize transparency, accountability, and citizen oversight and involvement is highly encouraging – not just for the particulars of the judicial retention elections, but for the status of representative, democratic government in general.

Finally, the Denver Post did publish (albeit only online) the following letter to the editor on June 18th (“Judging Colorado’s Supreme Court justices“) :

Re: “Criticism of retiring Judge Mullarkey unfair,” June 11 Susan Thornton column.

Susan Thornton’s column criticizing those who would criticize Colorado Supreme Court justices misses the mark. Taking issue with Supreme Court decisions that are contrary to the language of the Colorado Constitution is not ideological.

While telling us how local judicial district performance commissions operate, Thornton misses the point of the increasing criticism of certain supreme court justices. For one thing, the job performance evaluation for Supreme Court justices is different from analyzing the performance of trial judges. When it comes to giving a Supreme Court justice another 10-year term, scrutiny of the important decisions that the justice makes is a responsibility of the voters. Because Supreme Court decisions more and more impact all Colorado citizens, both young and old, careful consideration of a Supreme Court justice’s decisions far outweighs whether the particular justice is a member in good standing of the Possum Lodge or whether the justice raises money for UNICEF.

In a U.S. Supreme Court case – Bridges vs. California, 314 U.S. 252, 290 n. 5 (1941) – Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote that “judges must be kept mindful of their limitations and of their ultimate public responsibility by a vigorous stream of criticism expressed with candor however blunt.”

So in deciding this November whether to retain Supreme Court justices for another 10 years, voters will need reliable information and constructive criticism of the justices’ decisions on school funding, eminent domain, unapproved tax increases, redistricting, and other issues of statewide concern. If the voters do not receive critical and “vigorous” information about Supreme Court decisions, they will be unable to carry out their responsibility to assess the job performance of the Colorado Supreme Court justices who want their votes.

Bill BantaGreenwood Village

This letter was published online only. For information on how to send a letter to the editor, click here.

That letter even received a comment:

The Absolute RIGHT of “We The People” to CRITICIZE…ANY….member of Our Government….or ANY Policy, Law, or Viewpoint they may render…..is what makes the United States the United States…..and NOT North Korea, Iran, or any other country.

At least….”We The People” in the US….have moved AWAY from the ancient idea that our “leaders” are ‘gods’ the way the pharoahs and the ceasars were once considered……and the way “The Great Leader” of North Korea is still considered.

A Supreme Court Justice is just a ‘person’ like any one of us are ‘pesons’….people who are human, prone to make a mistake here and there, and it is that FACT that they CAN be CRITICIZED that helps to keep them….honest, ethical, and moral.

There is NOTHING that leads to Absolute Corruption FASTER….than NOT being able to CRITICIZE those who deserve to be criticized.  [by: Robtf777]

Clear The Bench Colorado obviously agrees – Citizens do have the right (and, we would argue, the duty and the responsibility) to criticize our elected (and appointed) officials, to hold them accountable.   The attitude expressed in Thornton’s column – attempting to de-legitimize criticism of public officials – is the attitude of a ruler toward a subject, not a citizen.

Be a citizen, not a subject – get informed, then exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four (er, three remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority”- (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Continue to support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions – and vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

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