Colorado Governor fills Judicial Nominating Commissions

Colorado’s Governor filled vacancies on Colorado’s statewide and 3rd Judicial District Judicial Nominating Commissions earlier this week.

According to information released by the governor’s office,

The 3rd Judicial District Judicial Nominating Commission selects nominees for district and county judicial vacancies. The commission is chaired by a justice of the Supreme Court, who is a non-voting member of the commission and consists of seven citizens residing in that judicial district. The members appointed for terms expiring Dec. 31, 2017:

  • James S. Colt of Trinidad, to serve as a non-attorney and as a Republican member from Las Animas County.
  • Raymond M. McMillan of Trinidad, to serve as a non-attorney and as a Democrat member from Las Animas County.
  • Sisto J. Mazza of Trinidad, to serve as an attorney and as a Democrat member from Las Animas County.

The Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission recommends candidates to serve as judges for the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The chief justice of the Supreme Court chairs the commission and is a non-voting member. The member appointed for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2017:

  • Scott C. Johnson of Greeley, to serve as an attorney and as an Unaffiliated member from the 4thCongressional District.

The Judicial Nominating Commissions – established by constitutional amendment in 1966 as a replacement for direct, contested elections of judges – are responsible for reviewing applications (and interviewing applicants) for those wishing to become judges under Colorado’s selection/retention system.  As such, they are the first line of “vetting” prospective judicial officeholders – selecting nominees (2 or 3, depending on the level of court) from whom the governor picks to make the final appointment.

The Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission – which recommends candidates to serve as judges for the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals – consists of one citizen admitted to practice law in Colorado and one citizen not admitted to practice law residing in each of the state’s seven congressional districts, and one additional citizen not admitted to practice law in Colorado, for a total of 15 members.  The commissioners serve 6-year terms.

Unlike on the judicial review commissions – which are often heavily biased and politically unbalanced – there is a legal requirement for partisan balance on the nominating commissions: no more than 7 (at the statewide level) or 4 (at the judicial district level) may be registered as members of the same political party (there is no restriction on ideological leaning for unaffiliated or minor-party members), and at nominees for judicial office must receive at least one vote from commission members of a different party.

Once the nominating commissions have submitted their list of nominees to the governor,

The governor must select one of the nominees within 15 days after receiving the list of nominees. If the governor does not appoint someone within those 15 days, then the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court appoints one of those individuals to fill that vacancy. The judge so chosen serves an initial term of two years. The judge must then stand for retention at the next general election.

If retained by voters after serving an initial two-year term, state court judges serve the following terms: county court, four years; district court, six years; Court of Appeals, eight years; and Supreme Court, 10 years. All Colorado state judges must retire by age 72.

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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