Week(end) News in Review: Clear The Bench Colorado, judicial “merit” selection & retention nationwide and “CEW round two”
Media coverage of Clear The Bench Colorado, the Colorado Supreme Court, and the issue of “merit” selection & retention of judges nationwide came in a veritable torrent over the weekend, instead of trickling in over the course of a week…
Leading off the weekend’s coverage of Clear The Bench Colorado was, somewhat surprisingly, the New York Times lead editorial (by none other than NYT publisher A. G. Sulzberger himself!) online on Friday 24 September and again on page A1 of the Saturday 25 September print edition. The editorial (“Voters Moving to Oust Judges Over Decisions“) noted:
Around the country, judicial elections that were designed to be as apolitical as possible are suddenly as contentious as any another race.
Among the three “judicial elections” profiled in the piece discussing the “merit selection system” (which Sulzberger appears to uncritically support, despite concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability in the process as it has been implemented in several states, especially Colorado):
…a conservative group called Clear the Bench Colorado is citing a host of decisions in seeking to oust the full slate of justices on the ballot there, urging voters, “Be a citizen, not a subject.”
Sulzberger bemoans the “the amount of money spent on retention elections this year” upsetting “previously quiet judicial elections” around the country. Rather than applaud the increase in transparency and accountability now being applied to an increasingly active and powerful one-third of our government, and the exercise by citizens in many states of their constitutional right to hold incumbent government officials accountable, Sulzberger quotes an academic who maintains that the retention vote was only “meant as an extreme measure.”
However, a leader of the movement to oust Iowa justices on the ballot this year (coincidentally, also three) ably summed up the mood and motivation of the nationwide judicial accountability movement:
“It sends a powerful message,” he said, “That if justices go outside the bounds of their oaths, if the justices go outside the bounds of the U.S. and state constitutions they’re going to be held accountable.”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
The weekend news on the judicial (non)retention front was dominated by the stunning Friday afternoon announcement by the administrative law judge (technically, an appointed executive branch employee) hearing the series of “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) attacks on Clear The Bench Colorado that the rules under which we have operated for over a year now have to be changed.
The judge’s ruling – contrary to over a year of established practice, “reams of documentary evidence” and the testimony of the office of Secretary of State Elections Division director that Clear The Bench Colorado properly filed as an “Issue Committee” – decreed that, although we properly acted on guidance issued by the Secretary of State’s office, CTBC must RE-file as a “political committee.” Kinda late in the game for a complete rules change, wouldn’t ya think?
The ruling can be read as an attachment to the article by Law Week Colorado (“Clear The Bench Colorado Subject To Contribution Limits, Judge Decides“), one of the first to go to press on the issue.
Around the state, the story was also covered by:
- Grand Junction Sentinel (“Judge rules against group named Clear the Bench“),
- Westword (“Colorado Ethics Watch wins Clear the Bench case, but still may have to pay some legal fees“)
- Colorado Independent (“Judge rules against Clear the Bench in campaign finance case“)
- CBS-4 Denver television (“Colo. Group Fighting Judges Loses Funding Dispute“)
- Fox-31 KDVR television (“Clear The Bench Colorado, a group fighting judges, loses funding dispute“)
Nationally, the story was picked up by:
- Associated Press (“Clear The Bench Colorado, a group fighting judges, loses funding dispute“)
- Huffington Post (“Clear The Bench Colorado Subject To Contribution Limits, Judge Decides“)
- State Politics.com (“Judge rules against Clear the Bench in campaign finance case“)
- UPI (United Press International) (“Judge rules against Clear The Bench in campaign finance case“)
- Washington Examiner (“Colo. group fighting judges loses funding dispute“)
- even the Rockford, Illinois Register-Star (“Colo. group fighting judges loses funding dispute“)
… and that’s just on Friday!
On Saturday, some news outlets expanded their coverage, including this piece by the Colorado Independent (“Gessler shocked by Clear the Bench campaign finance smackdown“) which, despite the overwrought and hyperbolic title, actually provides some insight into the case and background on the overall issues at stake.
A more sleepy (or sports-obsessed) Sunday saw one additional article:
- Eagle County Times (“Does this seem right – to you?“)
On Monday, the coverage ramped up again, with new and expanded articles:
- Westword: (“Clear the Bench’s Matt Arnold: Court win for CO Ethics Watch a victory for big $ over little guy“)
- Colorado Independent: (“Clear the Bench ruling limits donations in key weeks before election“)
- and nationally, profiled on the George Soros-funded “Justice At Stake Campaign” site: (“Colorado Ouster Group is ‘Political,’ Judge Rules“)
Curiously, despite ALL of the coverage – in print, online, on the air – statewide and nationally, Colorado’s “newspaper of record” (the Denver Post) spilled not one drop of ink covering the story. (Perhaps they were distracted by noise from the loud and raucous celebrations upstairs by their $1.6 Million/year renters when the Colorado Supreme Court ‘unjust justices’ heard the news from real journalists).
Fortunately – despite setting a terrible precedent, and ensuring that the “big money” in judicial retention elections will continue to be non-transparent and unaccountable (such as the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands spent already by legal establishment special-interest groups promoting a “retain” campaign for judicial incumbents) – the ruling has little effect on the ongoing activities of the state’s only grassroots judicial accountability organization, Clear The Bench Colorado.
Clear The Bench Colorado has been consistently open, honest, and above-board in educating the public, and has scrupulously followed the rules under Colorado campaign finance law for over a year. In a campaign that has been conspicuous for its LACK of big-money interests and “large contributions” (Toro is whining about two - TWO! – contributions exceeding $500), CTBC has acted with complete transparency and absolute accountability to educate voters as to their right to hold judicial incumbents accountable for their performance in office, and to shed light on the records of judicial incumbents at the highest levels – providing substantive information on which voters can base an informed decision.
The legal establishment and the political ruling class don’t want you to get informed; they prefer to keep you in the dark, or failing that, convince you NOT to 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 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 contributions – and vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!