Clear The Bench Colorado helps Colorado voters “Know Your Judges” with substantive evaluations of judicial performance
[Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold’s article, below, was published Friday 26 October as a Guest Commentary by the Denver Post (“Evaluate the performance of Colorado judges before voting” in the Idea Log online opinion section, and in the Colorado Springs Gazette, in the Sunday 28 October print edition]
“Know Your Judges” with substantive evaluations of judicial performance
We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.
— Abraham Lincoln
As Coloradans prepare to cast their ballots in the 2012 elections, despite being bombarded with political ads, MOST voters have little to no information on up to a third of the people asking for their vote: our state’s 3rd Branch of government, the judges.
The official, government-sanctioned incumbent-protection “reviews” produced by the state’s Commissions on Judicial Performance (published and disseminated, at taxpayer expense, in the “Blue Book”) fail to provide much (if any) substance behind the published “recommendations” (almost uniformly in favor of “retaining” judicial incumbents in office). In that respect, the Blue Book “reviews” are little more than (taxpayer-funded) political ads for incumbents.
The Commissions on Judicial Performance (groups of political appointees charged with evaluating and reporting on the job performance of judicial incumbents) routinely fail to actually evaluate judicial job performance or provide adequate information sufficient for voters to base a decision. Summarizing an incumbent’s resume and tabulating the results of surveys sent out to a select group of lawyers and other judges fails to answer the question posed to voters, “do they deserve another term – and why?”
A Denver Post guest commentary by a former Judicial Performance commissioner (February 2010) noted,
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.
Why do we have political appointees (commissioners are appointed by the governor, attorney general, state legislators and the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court – the latter seeming to have a conflict of interest) telling Coloradans how to vote?
Colorado voters deserve better information on these unelected officials, who (usually with little notice) exert enormous influence over their lives. For the second straight election cycle, Clear The Bench Colorado has researched and evaluated the performance of the appellate court (statewide) judges appearing on the 2012 ballot (1 Supreme Court justice, 6 Court of Appeals judges), collected inputs on district and county judges from around the state, and published this information in an easy-to-read “scorecard” format as a resource for Colorado voters.
Our courts rule on important issues that seriously impact all Colorado citizens, including:
- Tax increases without constitutionally-required voter approval (property taxes, vehicle registration taxes – er, “fees”, energy taxes, and the so-called “Dirty Dozen” tax increases on everything from candy to doggy bags)
- Free Speech issues (including both academic and political speech rights)
- School funding and school choice issues
- Self-protection or “gun” rights (including overturning an illegal ban on concealed-carry by the University of Colorado)
- Healthcare issues (including insurance coverage, medical records privacy and liability for malpractice resulting in death)
- Congressional and state legislative redistricting and reapportionment, setting Colorado’s district boundaries for a decade
View Clear The Bench Colorado’s Evaluations of Judicial Performance 2012 for substantive evaluations of judicial performance – to better “know your judges” before casting your vote this year. (http://www.clearthebenchcolorado.org/evaluations-2012/)