2012 Year in Review: Colorado Courts Continue to Play Politics
Colorado Courts Continue to Play Politics in 2012…
Another tumultuous year has come and gone for the Colorado judiciary – and once again, Colorado Citizens and taxpayers have been hammered by the gavels of Colorado judges pounding their personal preferences over the will of the people – and the rule of law.
2012 saw the advancement of a frivolous, groundless, and vexatious politically-motivated lawsuit attempting to overturn a Colorado Constitutional Amendment (the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, colloquially known as “TABOR”) through the Federal courts (with oral arguments on a Motion to Dismiss in February, and proceeding to trial on a ruling in July). The District Court judge still has not issued a ruling in the case, but whatever the ruling, the case is almost certain to be appealed, and may ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some good news came from the Colorado judiciary in March, as the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the Colorado Court of Appeals in striking down the CU Gun Ban. Unfortunately, the University of Colorado administration introduced policies designed to circumvent the ruling shortly thereafter, and the self-defense rights of Colorado citizens within the CU demesne continue to be threatened with the backing of many (if not most) of the CU Regents.
More good news in April, as a (Federal) court struck down Colorado’s unconstitutional “Amazon Tax” (as predicted by Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold in testimony before its passage in 2010).
In May, the Colorado Car Tax (a.k.a. FASTER vehicle registration “fee”) was challenged in court as a violation of the state Constitution (the case is still winding its way through the courts).
In September, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected Ward Churchill’s attempt to force the University of Colorado to reinstate him (Churchill recently announced his intent to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court).
Clear The Bench Colorado helped Colorado voters to “Know Your Judge” with substantive evaluations of judicial performance prior to the November elections – the ONLY source of reliable, substantive information on judges appearing on the ballot.
Remaining statewide elections were significantly impacted (if not effectively pre-determined outright) by the results of the Colorado Supreme Court’s December 2011 rulings on the reapportionment of state legislative districts – leading to lopsided majorities for Democrats in both chambers of the state legislature, despite actually receiving fewer votes overall.
Colorado courts continued to be a central battlefield for Education policy, as the ‘Lobato’ case advanced to the Colorado Supreme Court in the “Super Bowl of school funding litigation” and the Douglas County school choice voucher program case advanced to the Colorado Court of Appeals. (Interestingly, the Denver District Court judges involved in each case – Judge Sheila Rappaport in the ‘Lobato’ case, and Judge Michael Martinez in the Douglas County school choice case – are both scheduled to appear on the 2014 ballot).
Cases such as Lobato (particularly Rappaport’s biased ruling) and the politicized nature of the court’s involvement in the congressional redistricting and state legislative reapportionment cases – highlight the importance of fair and impartial courts and of judges who exercise proper restraint (in accordance with the rule of law) in considering – let alone deciding – issues of policy more appropriate for the elected, representative branches of government. Our courts have an important – even vital – role to play in our society and system of government. Deciding issues of policy – instead of fairly and impartially upholding the law – is not it.
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.
Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.