“Unintended Consequences” or spreading ‘Intentional Disinformation?’ Denver Post editorial gets the facts wrong on Colorado Supreme Court retention election and appointment process following a “NO” vote
A few days ago – following the announcement of Clear The Bench Colorado‘s resounding win against the frivolous, groundless, and vexatious “complaint” filed by the legal attack group “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do), with the judge even going the extra mile and awarding Clear The Bench Colorado ‘tens of thousands’ in legal fees payable by CEW attorneys – Editor Dan Haley of the Denver Post left me a cryptic message stating that he “had a question” for me (unrelated to ‘this’). On returning to my computer that evening, I replied with my cellphone number and asked for the question – but didn’t hear back.
Today’s (Sunday) Denver Post provided some clues as to what Dan Haley’s question(s) might have been: his editorial in the “Perspective” section purports to address “Unintended consequences in judicial push” (meaning, of course, Clear The Bench Colorado).
Unfortunately, Haley probably would have benefited from first getting the answer(s) to his question(s) of Clear The Bench Colorado, as his editorial contains a few errors of both fact and interpretation.
Although Haley starts out with a reasonably accurate summation of the “judicial push” (to vote “NO” on the unjust justices of the Colorado Supreme Court subject to voter approval this November) he misses the mark on “unintended consequences”:
A conservative group called Clear the Bench Colorado wants Coloradans to clear the Supreme Court bench this November and oust three Supreme Court justices who are up for retention.
(They originally had four justices in their sights, but earlier this summer Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey announced her retirement as of Nov. 30.) [Ed. quitting rather than facing voters]
In Colorado, judges and justices are appointed by the governor, but they must be retained every few years by voters.
The justices’ crimes, according to the group’s website, include “aiding and abetting . . . unconstitutional property tax increases; the unconstitutional elimination of tax credits and exemptions; and unconstitutionally re-defining taxes as fees,” among other things.
Those three rulings, of course, came after controversial decisions by Gov. Bill Ritter – decisions many on the right derided as unconstitutional but the court upheld nonetheless.
Actually, those were only two rulings (the “Mill Levy Tax Freeze” property tax increase ruling also created the loophole the legislature exploited with the “Dirty Dozen” new tax laws; another ruling enabling taxes to be collected under the guise of “fees” led to the Colorado Car Tax and other “fees”) among many. Other key rulings expanded eminent domain abuse to seize people’s property, grabbed the (legislative) power to apportion legislative district boundaries (aided by the recent “Mary-mandering” bill) and set the state up for fiscal disaster by grabbing the power to set school funding levels (Lobato v. Colorado) for unelected judges away from elected legislators and school boards.
The Denver Post editorials have been appropriately critical of these rulings (neatly summarized in Vincent Carroll’s excellent piece, “Mary Mullarkey’s Troubling Legacy – Mullarkey Court altered Constitution’s true meaning“) so it is unfortunate that, until recently, the Post has given scant coverage to the very important issue of judicial retention elections for the authors of those rulings.
Where Haley most seriously misses the mark (and misstates the facts) in his editorial (which could have been avoided with that follow-up message or phone call) comes in his review of the process in the aftermath of a “NO” vote for the incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices in the upcoming elections. Although he starts out on solid ground,
If voters choose not to retain a justice, and the judge finishes out his term, the next governor would appoint the successor.
Haley then veers off into some tenuous territory:
Here’s the rub: Should a justice decide to resign after not being retained, it would trigger a 30-day clock for the Supreme Court nominating commission to propose replacements.
Three names would then be sent to Ritter for each vacancy, and he would have 15 days to appoint someone. If he failed to appoint someone, the Supreme Court chief justice would appoint someone within 15 days.
That strict timeline is laid out in the Colorado Constitution. So if an ousted justice resigns within nine days of the retention vote, Ritter would appoint the successor.
This is an implausible and, frankly, silly scenario. Once voted out, the justices have no office to resign – like any other lame-duck politician, they would serve out their terms (which, for the incumbent justices up for a vote this NOvember, expire the 2nd Tuesday in January) but lack authority to dispose of their office in such fashion. Otherwise, every officeholder losing a vote would “retire” instead…
Any attempt to repudiate the will of the voters in such blatant fashion would not only “look nakedly political” – it would likely trigger a constitutional crisis, if not “torches & pitchforks.”
Haley’s mention of such a ridiculously implausible scenario is most likely an attempt to “poison the well” for those few Republican backers of Clear The Bench Colorado who might allow a narrowly partisan view to cloud their judgement. It won’t work – Colorado voters are smarter than that. The prospect of ten more years of “the devil you know” – three Colorado Supreme Court justices with a consistent record of violating the constitutional rights of Colorado citizens, who would lock in a Democrat majority via their lock on the state-level legislative reapportionment and congressional redistricting process IF (but only if) the current majority remains in power to elect the next Chief Justice after that office comes vacant following retirement of the current chief – balanced against the chance to give a new governor the chance to appoint three replacements who will be subject to another vote in only TWO years (instead of TEN) will serve to remind Colorado voters that the MOST important votes on this year’s ballot are “NO” votes on the remaining three ‘unjust justices” who seek their approval for another decade’s leave to violate their rights. No matter who becomes governor, Clearing The Bench of these three incumbents is a net win for Colorado.
“Unintended consequences?” No. “Intentional disinformation?” Perhaps.
It’s nice to know, at least, that the Denver Post and editor Dan Haley “have no problem with groups like Clear the Bench trying to educate voters about judges and justices” – we’re looking forward to our opportunity to discuss these vital votes with the Denver Post editorial board and express the hope that they will (finally!) step up their coverage of this critically important issue on the news pages as well.
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.” Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and exercise your right to vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!