Clear The Bench Colorado invites comparison: our Evaluations vs. the ‘Commission on Judicial Performance’ “reviews”
Colorado voters are being subjected to a barrage of big-money, special-interest advertising on judicial retention elections this year – as decried in editorials from the New York Times and other media sources across the country, as well as in other news coverage statewide.
Special-interest groups are spending tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars attempting to influence Coloradans to vote their way on the question of whether to retain incumbent judges (including three incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices facing “stiff opposition” as they seek an additional 10-year term in office).
There’s just one problem with this narrative – and why you haven’t heard about it in the mass media.
All of this special-interest money is being spent in Colorado to prop up the judicial incumbents…
Legal establishment special-interest groups are spending tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars to convince Colorado voters that “all is well” with state courts – promoting the farcical rubber-stamp “reviews” conducted and published by the commissions on judicial “performance.”
Why are the “reviews” not a reliable source of information on judicial performance?
1. The “reviews” do not distinguish between good and bad judicial performance – and almost ALWAYS recommend a “retain” vote for the judges ‘reviewed.’ Colorado Commission on Judicial Performance Evaluations (CCJPE) Executive Director Jane Howell confirms that, over the decades-long history of the review process, Colorado Supreme Court justices “reviewed” by the commissions have received a “retain” vote 100% of the time.
(Similarly, Court of Appeals judges have also received a 100% “retain” recommendation, while all judges at other levels have received “retain” recommendations 99% of the time).
Even Fidel Castro and the late Saddam Hussein didn’t receive that level of “retain” votes!
(Although Colorado has plenty of good judges, at many levels – they’re not all that good.)
2. The “reviews” – published as a 5-paragraph narrative, only one paragraph of which even pretends to address actual judicial “performance” – provide very little substantive information on which to base an informed decision. The review criteria are shallow (“timeliness”, ‘orderliness’ and “demeanor”) rather than substantive and performance-based. The level of “evaluation” is more like a kindergarten report card (“Benny is punctual, keeps his area neat & tidy, and plays well with others”) rather than a serious look at judicial performance.
A Denver Post guest commentary written by a former State Judicial Performance Commissioner provided an insightful critique of the current process several months ago.
3. The “reviews” provide NO information on how the justices actually voted in important constitutional cases – rulings which have had a tremendous (and highly negative) impact on Colorado citizens.
Where can voters get substantive analysis of the performance of Colorado Supreme Court justices?
Clear The Bench Colorado has conducted an exhaustive analysis of Colorado Supreme Court decisions addressing important constitutional issues of interest to the greatest number of Colorado voters.
We invite voters to compare and contrast our Evaluations of judicial performance with the “reviews” perpetrated by the ‘performance’ commissions (and foisted upon voters, at great taxpayer expense and without opposing views, as is otherwise required by law for other ballot questions) in the “Blue Book.”
We are confident that discerning voters will find our Evaluations of much greater value.
Voters deserve to be provided with more extensive, informative, and useful information on which to base their voting decisions. “The high marks received by each justice through the system of evaluation in place” are NOT an endorsement of the justices, but rather an indictment of the weakness and inadequacy of the judicial performance review process. Despite the genuinely hard work and good intentions of the majority of the judicial performance review commissioners, the process (and end-products) are perhaps endemically flawed.
There has been a failure of real performance evaluation and a lack of analytical content in the write-ups for the voters. If narratives provide meaningful information about how a justice has decided cases, there will be accountability and the system will work as it is designed to do. Too often in the past, narratives have amounted to complimentary resumes instead of job performance evaluations. Some commentators and observers have denigrated the narratives as a “rubber stamp” exercise for retaining judges.
The ultimate responsibility – and authority – rests with the voters. Clear The Bench Colorado urges all Colorado citizens to become informed about how the Colorado Supreme Court has aided and abetted assaults on their rights (and wallets!) with a consistent pattern of not following the Constitution where it doesn’t agree with their own personal agenda – and drawing the necessary and logical conclusions.
As a Citizen, you DO have the right to vote “NO” on these incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices as they seek an additional 10-year term this November. Clear The Bench Colorado urges Colorado voters to exercise their rights on the ballot this November.