Post-Election Media Review: Colorado Supreme Court, judicial retention elections, and Clear The Bench Colorado in the news
Suppose they gave an election, and nobody (well, only a few) knew?
(Shamelessly paraphrasing Bertoldt Brecht’s epic quote, “Suppose they gave a war, and nobody came?“)
Sadly, we’ve just seen the question answered: the status quo wins – especially when the status quo is aided and abetted by big money.
Curiously (or perhaps not), there has been more extensive coverage of the failure to the oust three incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices on the ballot this year than coverage of the fact that they were up for a vote in the first place – much less coverage of their performance in office that gave rise to the call to remove them from the bench.
Although coverage of Colorado’s judicial retention elections picked up in recent weeks, for much of the last year awareness of the most consequential and far-reaching election on this year’s ballot was mostly restricted to the most active and observant portions of the electorate alone. Colorado’s major regional media (especially network television, but also major “news” publications) perpetuated the managed lack of knowledge about the elections – and the issues at stake – in the general public.
A sample of news coverage of this year’s Colorado Supreme Court retention election results – which achieved the highest percentage of “NO” votes in state history – follows:
The Denver Post’s court/legal affairs beat reporter Felisa Cardona was likely the first to post on the results, late Tuesday/early Wednesday: (“Three Colorado Supreme Court justices appear to retain seats“) and scooped most other coverage with a relevant quote:
Throughout the campaign, Arnold was concerned that voters didn’t know enough about the justices or their legal opinions and said the state evaluation system doesn’t go far enough in judging performance.
“People are finally paying attention for the first time ever,” he said. Arnold believes the 60-40 split reflected the highest percentage of no votes for a Supreme Court justice.
The justices have declined to comment.
The George Soros funded “Justice At Stake Campaign” also closely followed results from various judicial retention elections around the nation, highlighting the ouster of three incumbent state supreme court justices in Iowa by a well-funded campaign while noting the triumph of status quo forces against judicial accountability efforts in Colorado and half a dozen other states.
An editorial in Wednesday’s Aurora Sentinel misrepresented the facts (and demonstrated remarkable historical ignorance) in trumpeting the narrowest retention in state history as a “rejection” of judicial accountability (“Voters were clear on this failed partisan attack“). Although the writer is certainly entitled to an opinion (and in the Aurora Sentinel, the opinion is reliably left-wing), getting a few basic facts correct (such as characterizing CTBC as an “effort to oust members of the state’s supreme and appeals courts appointed by Democrats” when in fact CTBC did not recommend against ANY appeals court judges, and recommended a retain vote for both Democrat- and Republican-appointed appeals court judges, based on judicial performance and adherence to the law, not partisan affiliation) would have helped the writer’s credibility. Oh, and misreporting the election results by about 10% to support an assertion that the final vote was “unaffected by the campaign” doesn’t help on the credibility front, either.
An interesting but as-yet unreported fact is the variance in the retention vote across various counties and regions in the state; as more complete results become available, look for a more detailed analysis.
Meanwhile, it’s been a long week (capping a long and, ultimately, disappointing year).
Although the campaign (and the election) is over, the fight to reform Colorado’s out-of-control legal/judicial complex continues. In the near term, Clear The Bench Colorado is working to hold the consortium of legal-establishment special-interest groups who attempted (and may have succeeded in) buying the election for their buddies on the bench accountable for their violations of Colorado campaign finance law. Longer term, Clear The Bench Colorado will work with legislators and others interested in reforming the systemic shortcomings of Colorado’s “merit selection & retention” system to increase transparency and accountability to the public. For both of those endeavors, we would appreciate your continued support – via your comments (Sound Off!) and, yes, your contributions. Freedom isn’t free – nor is it always easy to be a Citizen, not a subject.
Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.