Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission fills vacancy, set to review applications to replace resigning Justice Martinez

Although three more vacancies will open on Colorado’s Supreme Court Nominating Commission (along with 42 other vacancies on judicial district nominating commissions across the state) when the terms of several current commissioners expire, the appointment last week of Ira J. Paulin to fill the non-attorney slot from the 4th Congressional District fills the final vacancy before the commission begins reviewing applications (beginning October 3rd) to replace outgoing Justice Alex Martinez, who announced at the end of August that he is resigning to take the job of Denver Manager of Safety.

Another vacancy (the attorney slot from the 7th Congressional District) was recently filled (by joint action of Governor John Hickenlooper, Attorney General John Suthers, and Chief Justice Michael Bender) by Deputy District Attorney Charles Tingle of Jefferson County.

(H/T to Law Week Colorado for covering the news of these recent appointments and profiling the current members of the Commission (”Meet Those Who Will Help Select Colorado’s Next Justice“)

The resignation of Justice Alex Martinez, who was retained in office last November with 59.2% of the vote (the lowest percentage of “retain” votes received by an incumbent supreme court justice in state history) will provide Governor Hickenlooper with his first opportunity to select a state supreme court justice, once the commission pares down the list of applicants to three “finalists” from which he’ll make the final pick.  Governor Hickenlooper’s Colorado Supreme Court appointment will not only provide some insight into the governor’s views on judicial philosophy and the rule of law, but also provide a preview of the likely direction of the state’s highest court.

Will Governor Hickenlooper reinforce the stated desire of new Chief Justice Michael Bender to “de-politicize” the court (responding to criticism of the court’s performance by Clear The Bench Colorado and other observers) or will he succumb to the temptation to place another partisan, activist judge in the mold of disgraced former Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey on the bench?

Only time (and the announcement of the Nominating Commission’s selection of three “finalists”) will tell.

Citizen participation in the judicial nominating commissions (either at the district level or statewide) is essential to ensuring that good judges – who understand that their role is to fairly & impartially uphold and apply the law – are elevated to hold judicial office, instead of more politicians in black robes.

This is particularly important in selecting the next Colorado Supreme Court justices – who all too frequently have exercised unrestrained power in violation of constitutional limits on their authority.

Our judicial system depends more than any other branch of government on public trust and confidence that the law is being applied fairly and impartially for all citizens – that our supreme court justices are fulfilling their proper roles as referees upholding the rules rather than players attempting to score for their “team’s” agenda.

Our view: an informed citizenry and active citizen participation is vital in restoring accountability and transparency to the 3rd branch of state government, the judicial branch – most particularly for the Colorado Supreme Court.

Clear The Bench Colorado will, with your support, continue to promote transparency and accountability in the Colorado judiciary, informing the public to increase awareness of the substantial public policy implications of an unrestrained activism and political agendas in the courts.  We will continue to work to educate voters and provide information of relevance related to the judicial branch, and to provide useful and substantive evaluations of judicial performance.

However, we can’t do it alone –  we need 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.

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