Readers respond to Friday’s “Demand accountability from judges, too” Denver Post article from Clear The Bench Colorado
After a few weeks (and a Face The State article - ”Supreme Court’s temporary digs draw a dart from court critics“ - noting the Denver Post’s lack of critical coverage of the Colorado Supreme Court, and the issue of judicial retention elections, since the Colorado Supreme Court began paying the Denver Newspaper Agency $1.6 million in annual rent for office space in the Denver Post building) the Denver Post published our response this Friday (July 2nd) to a June 11th article defending incumbent judges and attacking critiques of the court (“Criticism of retiring Judge (sic) Mullarkey unfair”).
The guest commentary (published under the “My Turn” header as “Demand accountability from judges, too”) generated a fair amount of response and reader comments, considering its appearance at the start of the 4th of July holiday weekend. We’ve excerpted some of the most interesting comments below (since Post readership is declining, you may have missed it) and invite additional comment here or on the Post’s website. Also, the full version of the original article (the Post’s version was heavily edited for space) can be viewed here for purposes of comparison (Accountability, Transparency apply to the Colorado Supreme Court, too).
Comments on the Post website opened up with the obligatory salvo from the paid “trolls” who surf the comments section attempting to “spin” the message to their side:
by Corndogsaredelicious on July 2nd, 2010, 9:17 am
“CTBC’s message is: Get informed, using a variety of sources. Then do your duty as citizens.”
This is inaccurate. And it exposes CTBC’s political agenda. “Clear the Bench” would otherwise be named “Get Informed Before You Vote”. All appellate court decisions are published and available for review by the public. CTBC focuses on one or two of hundreds, and hopes that you will side with its disgruntled founder’s self-interested attacks on judges that he doesn’t agree with. CTBC’s arguments are intellectually and morally flawed, and should be ignored.
The commenter (Paul W., or “corndog”) works for one of the organizations supporting the current incumbents. Although he (correctly) points out that “all appellate court decisions are published and available for review by the public” (Clear The Bench Colorado also links to those decisions and other references in the interest of an informed electorate) he fails to mention that it is VERY difficult to find any useful information on the Colorado Supreme Court site unless you already know what you’re seeking. Clear The Bench Colorado does focus on a subset of the “hundreds” of Colorado Supreme Court cases – we have highlighted several (not “one or two”) decisions that have the most impact on Colorado citizens and the state as a whole, and that have most blatantly and egregiously violated the clear language of the Colorado Constitution. The fact that the “Supremes” might get it right on several cases of interest only to the parties involved does NOT excuse the fact that on the most consequential cases, dealing with core issues of constitutional law and affecting the entire population of the state, the current majority has repeatedly come down on the wrong side of the law and violated your rights.
The Colorado Supreme Court – and particularly, the Chief Justice – exercises enormous power (”clout”) over the lives of Colorado citizens. The current majority has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not exercise this power with restraint or consideration for your constitutional rights – ruling consistently against individual protections and in favor of expanded government power. Upholding tax increases (such as the “Mill Levy Tax Freeze” property tax increase, or the “Dirty Dozen” new tax laws) imposed without the required vote of the people, enabling taxes to be collected under the guise of “fees” (such as the Colorado Car Tax), expanding eminent domain abuse to seize people’s property, and grabbing the (legislative) power to draw up voting districts (aided by the recent “Mary-mandering” bill) – this court is acting like rulers, with you as the subjects; re-writing the laws, instead of upholding them.
Other comments reflected citizen interest in and understanding of the importance of the judiciary in our system of government and the need for citizens to take seriously their responsibility to hold these officials accountable:
Article Discussion: Demand accountability from judges, too
by infossh on July 2nd, 2010, 11:02 am
In general, judges have become complacent and often see themselves as lifetime justices. They also assume that their role is to change the semantics of laws to accommodate what they perceive in changes of social order and understanding.
That is certainly the case in Colorado’s Supreme Court. It’s time for a renewal of commitment to the wisdom of the rule of law rather than the vagaries of whim that have come to determine judicial ruling.
Re: Article Discussion: Demand accountability from judges, too
by jpa11074 on July 2nd, 2010, 11:24 am
CTBC does a great service to those of us that believe we should be an informed electorate. Finding information on judges has historically been very difficult, and for the life of me I don’t understand why some would want to silence anyone trying to get detailed information out to the public so they can make informed decisions. That is, of course, unless they don’t want that information made available to the voters. “Yup, just tell me how to vote and don’t get me mired any of the detail.” Right.
The many, not just “one or two” decisions, CTBC has highlighted clearly show why these 4 justices should not be retained. The light of day disinfects much, and in this case, hopefully our supreme court. I just wish we had similar information easily available (judges decision records) for all of our judges….
Many comments focused on the need for transparency and accountability, with information from a variety of sources:
The remedy for speech that you don’t like is your own speech! Anyone who doesn’t like CTBC’s message is free to create their own web-site. Retainthesegoodjudges.com is probably available. By all means, go for it. I’ll be the first to go read it. I’m sure it will be interesting.
Regardless of where I get my information, I consider the source. If I get info from a lawyers group, I think about the fact that they have to work with these judges (at their mercy). I can also evaluate the “disgrunt” factor of other sources. For once, I GET TO BE THE JUDGE!
Article Discussion: Demand accountability from judges, too
by polygirl on July 2nd, 2010, 12:53 pm
It seems to me that we “the people” have the right to retain or not retain judges who make decisions that affect all of our lives. Our political system is one of accountability through the electoral process. We should know as much about these judges as we do about any other candidate for office and make an informed choice in the voting booth. Clear the Bench is doing something that should have been done a long time ago — giving more scrutiny to politically appointed lifetime judges that we have the people have a right to retain or oust.
by jpa11074 on July 2nd, 2010, 12:58 pm
Somehow it just doesn’t ring true that hearing from a citizen’s group highlighting judicial decisions and sharing opinions as to whether the judges are good for us, will harm us and then jump to the conclusion we’ll have only judges “hired by the most money.” Considering how typically difficult and time consuming it is to sort through court decisions, I’m delighted to have someone do some of the work for me, then follow through with my own analysis of their opinions and recommendations.
Instead of generalizations from Corndogsaredelicious, maybe he would simply tell us what his substantive argument(s) is(are) with Mr. Arnold’s and CTBC’s opinions on these justices. That would be helpful. Is it only CTBC that Corndogsaredelicious does not want to air their synthesis in public, or is it any or all citizen groups? Or just some groups? Or should we just allow the State Commission on Judicial Performance decide who to retain, and not have the voters “bother” having opinions or retention votes?
Some readers also fired back at the attacks on the notion of outside citizen’s groups having a say in evaluating the judiciary:
by H J Ledbetter, J.D. on July 2nd, 2010, 12:51 pm
I have done far more than research Matthew Arnold, as Paul W suggests. Paul W has clearly never met Mr. Arnold, nor informed himself of what has been going on in the Colorado Supreme Court for the last few years. I know Matt Arnold. He is a gutsy man who doesn’t mind some sniping from positions of ignorance. He has done his research, and so have I. I read the cases that these folks decided. I didn’t read them as an uninformed observer either. I read them with the foundation of more than 35 years of the practice of law behind me, including a fair number of appellate cases. What’s more, even the justices themselves are identifying some of the worst aspects of what these justices are doing. Please refer to Justice Eid’s dissent in Mesa County v Ritter. She tells it like it is. She shows just how far the majority opinion went to make sure that no vestige of TABOR remains in Colorado. The will of the people of Colorado is being tossed aside like a dirty tissue.
Beyond that, I have had a personal conversation with Justice Bender, who told me (while looking me right in the eye), that the purpose of the Colorado Supreme Court was to "make Colorado law". So, if you are a left-leaning person who believes that the justice system should be as active at law-making as the legislature, he is your guy. But if you think that laws should be made in the legislature, and applied by the courts, then maybe it is time that these four (now three) justices should find new jobs where they can be less "active" in making Colorado law that neither you nor I want.
It is about time that someone started pulling back the curtain on the mysteries that surround us in government. Thanks Matt for doing so!
Finally, some commenters provided their own analysis of several court cases (particularly the “Mill Levy Tax Freeze” case which unconstitutionally increased property taxes without a vote of the people and ripped open a loophole through which the legislature rammed through the “Dirty Dozen” tax increase bills this year) and provided additional insight into the Judicial Performance Review Commission that was the subject of the dueling Denver Post articles:
by PETERCOULTER on July 3rd, 2010, 9:40 am
In order to fairly assess the results of the Judicial Performance Commission (JPC) one must be familiar with it’s rules (http://www.coloradojudicialperformance.gov/) and whether they comply with their respective State Statute. (CRS 13.5.501 ) Of importance here are the rules complete absence of real public input concerning the selection of appellate and supreme court justices. In fact, in an article (http://law2.fordham.edu/publications/ar … ub8522.pdf) about the JPC, ex-Supreme Court Judge, Jean Dubofsky wrote. “The primary structural problem with the JPC is that the appointing authorities have complete control over the political make-up of the commissions, as there is no requirement for partisan balance. Thus, the commission membership depends upon the political affiliation of the appointing authorities.” followed by “Experienced commissioners tend to think that the public hearings are a waste of time.” The result being that the public now feels that activist judges are being evaluated by activist (read political) commissions. This point is highlighted by Democrat’s reaction to Mr. Arnold and the CTBC organization. Democratic party attorney Mark Grueskin has teamed up with Democrat Jean Dubofsky in an effort to offset the increasing influence of CTBC. (http://www.lawweekonline.com/tag/jean-dubofsky/) They are prohibited from doing it directly so instead they have implemented a strategy to convince the public that they can trust the recommendations of the JPC. In order to do so one has to overlook that the commissioners were appointed by a majority Democrat Legislature, Democrat Governor, and Democrat Supreme Court Justice Mullarkey*.
The results of these actions are an activist Judiciary that holds no accountability to the citizens of Colorado, a self serving “country club” mentality. It should be of no surprise then that when it gets out of control, someone like Matt Arnold and CTBC pushes back. Another example of this are ballot questions 60, 61 and 101 which in reality restore the provisions of the TABOR amendment. If not for the activist Supreme Court gutting the intent of TABOR and the citizens of Colorado; these questions would not be before the voters again. In questioning by US Senator Whitehouse, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan defined the relationship of politics to the Court, ”the people need to trust the Court as a non-political body.” The outcome of retention voting for justices Bender, Martinez and Rice (and also Gilmore and Blair who acted as shameless prosecutors of Tim Masters) will not only indicate the voter’s confidence in the respective judges; but also their confidence in the objectivity and recommendations of the status quo Judicial Performance Commission or those of Clear the Bench Colorado. /Peter Coulter/
Clear The Bench Colorado very much appreciates the interest and engagement demonstrated by so many of the comments submitted to the Denver Post website, and encourages further discussion – after all, it’s YOUR rights that are at stake. Join the discussion – right here and/or on the Denver Post site.
We The People can (indeed, as citizens, we must) hold our public officials – both elected and appointed – accountable. 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 – soon to be minus 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!