Clear The Bench Colorado helps Colorado voters “Know Your Judge” with substantive evaluations of judicial performance
“Know Your Judge” with substantive evaluations of judicial performance
(UPDATE: this article was also published as a Guest Commentary both online and in the Sunday, 19 October Denver Post print edition)
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 2014 elections, despite being bombarded with political ads and mailers, 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 “performance reviews” produced by the state’s Commissions on Judicial Performance (published and disseminated, at significant 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?”
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 certainly 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 a third straight election cycle, Clear The Bench Colorado has researched and evaluated the performance of the appellate court (statewide) judges appearing on the 2014 ballot (2 Supreme Court justices, 2 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:
- Elections and voting rights issues (including recent legislative election, special district election, and school board election cases)
- Tax increases without constitutionally-required voter approval (property taxes, vehicle registration taxes – er, “fees”, energy taxes, and the recent proliferation of taxes (er, “fees”) on shopping bags
- The right to start and run a business without needing government permission
- Free Speech issues (including both academic and political speech rights)
- School funding and school choice issues
- Self-protection or “gun” rights issues (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 legislative district boundaries for a decade and exerting tremendous influence over Colorado’s electoral destiny
View Clear The Bench Colorado’s Evaluations of Judicial Performance 2014 for substantive evaluations of judicial performance – to better “know your judges” before casting your vote this year. (http://www.clearthebenchcolorado.org/evaluations-2014/)