Evaluations 2012

Evaluations of Judicial Performance – 2012

Colorado does not elect judges to office in contested elections (they are appointed by the governor from a list of 3 nominees selected by a judicial nominating commission), but they are required to receive voter approval to retain office (on a 4, 6, 8, or 10 year schedule based on the level of the court).

(NOTE: click here for 2014 Evaluations of judicial performance)

The Colorado judges seeking retention in 2012 (appearing on the November 2012 general election ballot with a “Yes” or “No” vote option) are:

  • 1 Supreme Court Justice
  • 6 Court of Appeals judges
  • 83 District & County judges

Colorado Supreme Court:

The following judicial performance review scorecard summarizes some of the Colorado Supreme Court cases over the last decade which have had the greatest impact on the largest number of Colorado Citizens, and how the incumbent justice appearing on the November ballot voted in each case.

Clear The Bench Colorado realizes that it is impossible to present an analysis of every case on which these justices voted; we have selected those cases addressing important constitutional questions.  Our methodology closely tracks that supposedly used by the state Commission on Judicial Performance (reviewing cases as the benchmark for assessing judicial performance).

The difference is that we actually publicize the decisions and votes in each case…

For information on each case, click the link (case name) for a brief analysis of the constitutional issues and impact, a link to the ruling’s full text, and links to related commentary for additional information.

(Information on judges from other levels of court are below the Supreme Court matrix)

KEY COLORADO SUPREME COURT CASES
2002-2012


JUSTICE
COATS


Summary of Judicial Performance
Voted 6-2-2 upholding the Constitution.

HALL v. MORENO (December 2011) (Congressional Redistricting)

The majority ruling in this case usurped the authority of the legislative branch to conduct congressional redistricting, as specified in the Colorado Constitution.
Concurring opinion (Coats) opens the door to constitutional remedy by the legislature, to redraw congressional boundaries in a future legislative session.

Concurs in judgement (Concurring opinion opens door to constitutional remedy by legislature)

HUBER v. COLORADO MINING ASSOCIATION (October 2011)
(Severance tax increase)

The majority ruling in this case violated the Colorado Constitution (Art. X Section 20, TABOR) imposing a tax increase without the required approval by vote of the people.

See also: Colorado Supreme Court approves 40% tax increase

Voted No (upholding the Constitution)

VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA v. GARDENSWARTZ (November 2010)
(Plaintiff windfall)

The majority ruling in this case case created a windfall for personal injury trial lawyers (the “ambulance-chaser” set) and incidentally, some of the clients they represent, in collecting damage reimbursements above and beyond amounts actually paid.

See also: Colorado Supreme Court ruling produces plaintiff windfall

Voted No (upholding the Constitution)

LOBATO V. COLORADO (October 2009) (Judicial control of school funding)

The majority ruling in this case usurped the authority of the legislative branch to decide questions of policy (vs. law) in educational funding.

Voted No (upholding the Constitution)

MESA COUNTY V. COLORADO (March 2009)
(“Mill Levy Tax Freeze” property tax increase case)

The court upheld an unconstitutional property tax increase (”tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain“) and deprived Colorado citizens of their constitutional right to a vote on tax increases. The ruling also eliminated constitutional protections for existing tax credits and exemptions.

The Colorado Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that the tax increase violated the Colorado Constitution: District Court ruling by Judge Christina M. Habas
(30 May 2008)

Concurs in part and in the judgement (against the Constitution)

BARBER V. RITTER (November 2008) (“Fees” are not taxes case)

The majority ruled that fees collected for one specific purpose, but transferred later to other (general) purposes – like funds collected from a tax - are not in violation of the TABOR requirement to receive prior voter approval for “any tax policy change… resulting in a net revenue gain.”

Ergo, “fees” don’t count as taxes.

Concurred in judgement
(* 3 justices did not uphold the plaintiff’s challenge due to lack of ‘standing’)

TELLURIDE V. SAN MIGUEL VALLEY CORP. (June 2008) (“Telluride Land Grab” case)

The majority ruling in this case upheld the exercise of eminent domain by the town of Telluride over property OUTSIDE the town limits.  The upshot of the ruling is that ANY home rule entity (municipality) can exercise eminent domain ANYWHERE in the state.  Also, the ruling ignored a law passed by the Colorado Legislature expressly limiting extraterritorial condemnations and abusive ‘takings.’

Concurs (against the Constitution)

CEA V. RUTT (May 2008) (Illegal campaign finance coordination case)

Court ruled that a union could coordinate campaign activities with candidates, in violation of Colorado campaign finance law

Voted No (upholding Colorado campaign laws)

Initiative 55 (banning services to Illegals) case (June 2006)

The Colorado Supreme Court threw out the ballot initiative for violating the “single subject” rule, overturning the Title Board. Even the Denver Post (which vehemently opposed the initiative) decried the ruling.

Former Governor Dick Lamm panned the court as “Politicians in Black Robes“, saying “This is not justice; it is politics – of the worst kind.

Voted No (upholding the Constitution)

SALAZAR V. DAVIDSON (2003) (Congressional Re-Districting case)

The Colorado Supreme Court essentially declared itself part of the General Assembly in order to redraw congressional districts to its own liking – despite the clear words of the Colorado Constitution declaring this the exclusive power of the legislature (”General Assembly shall… reapportion districts”).  The court violated the clear language of the Constitution by declaring that its word was lawwhat I say goes, in a stunning power grab.  (See also: Supremes use semantic gymnastics)

Voted No (upholding the Constitution)

Other Views

State Commission on Judicial Performance “evaluations” (published in the “Blue Book”)
Coats’ “evaluation”

(Some viewers may wonder why we include the recommendations and rubber-stamp “reviews” of the State Commission on Judicial Performance, since their conclusions often vary from what our analysis indicates. Quite simply, we welcome the comparison – look at their “evaluations”, then compare them with our analysis. We think that discerning readers will agree: the “Blue Book” narratives lack substance and provide little or no useful information on which to base an informed decision).

 

Colorado Court of Appeals:

The following matrix lists the Colorado Court of Appeals judges appearing on the November ballot, with a representative sample of consequential cases decided by each judge.    Click the link (case name) for  the ruling’s full text; links to related commentary for additional information are included where relevant.

(Click the judge’s name for a link to their “official” government judicial performance evaluation)
CTBC’s summary rating for each Colorado Court of Appeals judge appears below their picture.
Ratings Code: X=strike against rule of law; O=upheld rule of law; M=Mixed

APPEALS COURT JUDGES ON THE 2012 BALLOT

KEY COLORADO COURT OF APPEALS CASES

JUDGE BOORAS

X-O-M

In 10CA1409, HENDERSON v. CITY OF FORT MORGAN, ruled that city council votes are NOT subject to Colorado open records laws in conducting official (public) business.

See also: Colorado appeals court upholds Fort Morgan city council’s secret ballots

In 08CA2689 and 09CA0384, COLORADO ETHICS WATCH v. SENATE MAJORITY FUND LLC, ruled that campaign finance limitations apply only to “express advocacy” activity and “express exhortations” to take action pro/contra candidates. In 09CA1713 CHURCHILL v. UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER, ruled that the University of Colorado had quasi-judicial immunity against wrongful-firing claims by ex-CU Prof Ward Churchill

See also: Colorado Supreme Court rejects Ward Churchill appeal – University of Colorado not forced to re-instate to faculty

JUDGE CASEBOLT

O-O-O

In 11CA1005 COLORADO MEDICAL SOCIETY v. HICKENLOOPER, ruled that Colorado law permits certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) to administer anesthesia without supervision by a physician (ruling reduces burdensome licensing and regulatory requirements) In 08CA2689 and 09CA0384, COLORADO ETHICS WATCH v. SENATE MAJORITY FUND LLC, ruled that campaign finance limitations apply only to “express advocacy” activity and “express exhortations” to take action pro/contra candidates. In 06CA0733 Lobato v. State of Colorado, ruled to dismiss claim to force higher state spending on education as a non-justiciable political question.

See also: Colorado Supreme Court Usurps Legislature’s Role and Authority (again!), claims power to set ‘proper’ school funding amounts

JUDGE GRAHAM

M-O-O

In 09CA1713 CHURCHILL v. UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER, ruled that the University of Colorado had quasi-judicial immunity against wrongful-firing claims by ex-CU Prof Ward Churchill

See also: Colorado Supreme Court rejects Ward Churchill appeal – University of Colorado not forced to re-instate to faculty

In 08CA1784 LAMBERT v. RITTER INAUGURAL COMMITTEE INC, ruled to overturn an earlier ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) ruling which had improperly dismissed a campaign finance complaint. In 04CA2169 PACIFIC LIFE ANNUITY COMPANY v. COLORADO DIVISION OF INSURANCE, ruled to reverse a trial court ruling that backed a Division of Insurance strong-arming a private insurer to pay more for services contrary to law and contract.

JUDGE MILLER

M-X-X

 In 11CA0892 CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS v. COLORADO ETHICS WATCH, ruled in favor of Colorado Ethics Watch against city motion to have campaign finance complaint reviewed by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). In 10CA2291 COLORADO ETHICS WATCH v. CLEAR THE BENCH COLORADO, ruled in favor of Colorado Ethics Watch that judges are “candidates for election” in applying campaign finance rules (despite phrasing of vote as yes/no ballot question). In 11CA1041 GRAY v. UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO HOSPITAL AUTHORITY, ruled that the University of Colorado Hospital Authority is immune from liability even for willful and wanton actions resulting in death under Colorado’s Government Immunity Act (GIA), § 24-10-101

JUDGE TAUBMAN

O-M-X

In 09CA1230 STUDENTS FOR CONCEALED CARRY ON CAMPUS LLC v. REGENTS OF UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, voted to overturn the CU Gun Ban (upholding Colorado state statute for concealed carry vs. University of Colorado)

Commentary/News: Colorado Supreme Court upholds Colorado Court of Appeals rejection of CU Gun Ban

In 07CA1151 INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE v. COFFMAN, ruled to uphold constitutionality of campaign finance law reporting and  disclosure requirements, restricting political free speech. In 04CA0078 DALEY v. UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER, ruled that the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center was entitled to immunity from claims of of invasion of privacy, extreme and outrageous conduct, and civil theft for circulating private medical records w/o authorization under Colorado’s Governmental Immunity Act (GIA), § 24-10-101

JUDGE WEBB

O-O-O

In 09CA0132 COLORADO MINING ASSOCIATION LLC LLC LLC v. HUBER, ruled to strike down a severance tax increase as a violation of the Colorado Constitution,
Art. X Section 20 (TABOR)

See also: Colorado Supreme Court prepares additional assault on taxpayer rights

In 09CA1396 J.S. v. Chambers, reversed district court ruling appointing special prosecutor, upholding prosecutorial discretion in pursuing criminal charges in highly politicized case.

In 06CA0733 Lobato v. State of Colorado, ruled to dismiss claim to force higher state spending on education as a non-justiciable political question (properly role of the legislature, not courts).

See also: Colorado Supreme Court Usurps Legislature’s Role and Authority (again!), claims power to set ‘proper’ school funding amounts

For those interested in reviewing the full listing of Colorado Court of Appeals rulings, the FindLaw website (with searchable database of court rulings) is a valuable resource.

District/County Judges:

Since District/County judges rule on a much larger number of cases, many (if not most) of which do not result in published opinions – and as there are a great deal more of them appearing on the ballot – the methodology employed by Clear The Bench Colorado in reviewing judicial performance at this level relies primarily upon inputs from concerned citizens and knowledgeable parties (including attorneys, court-watchers, and sources in law enforcement) and lists specific cases only by exception.

Our Know Your Judge: Citizen Input on District/County Judges 2012 page lists comments on each judge organized by judicial district.

Anyone wishing to comment on any of the judges on this year’s ballot are welcome to submit comments and responsible, documented articles of reasonable length (please, no rants, slams, or diatribes) to our Know Your Judge: Citizen Input page, or our Sound Off! page.

Comments on any of the judicial performance evaluations are welcome, below.

79 Responses to Evaluations 2012

  • Stan Rachesky says:

    I reside in Gardfield county which of the following judges does “clear the bench Colorado” suggest be retained :
    Coates, Booras, Casebolt, Graham, Miller,Taubman, Webb, Boyd, Petre

    Thanks for your help,
    Stan Rachesky
    970 945 4002

  • Dan Cochran says:

    Thank you, I’ve always voted NO for every judge since none ever gave me a reason to vote YES. I now know there are 3 that I can in good conscience vote to retain.

  • James says:

    This is great! Now I know which Judges to vote for and get rid of. The exact opposite of what you’re telling all your bone head followers. THX!

  • CTBC Director says:

    James,
    thanks for showcasing the intellectual depth and emotional maturity of CTBC’s opposition.
    ;-)

  • Dave Ellis says:

    Colorado and America need an electorate that is both informed and engaged. You have done a GREAT SERVICE to us all with your outstanding website and the in-depth information on each judge. I am no longer “wandering in the wilderness” in evaluating judicial candidates.
    THANK YOU! Now I can vote with confidence.

  • Stuart McHardy says:

    Appreciate research and analysis you have provided. It is a valuable service undoubtedly overlooked by 90% of those receiving ballots.

  • Ray and Rose Wong says:

    This site is not helpful to me at all unless I want to spend ten hours reading and trying to figure out who the conservative judges are. Unless I can get some more definitive information, I will leave all that portion of my ballot blank.

  • CTBC Director says:

    Ray and Rose –
    Review the ratings on our Evaluations page (http://www.clearthebenchcolorado.org/evaluations-2012/) to determine which judges uphold the constitution and rule of law in their decisions (which most people would define as the “conservative” judge – doing their job, not “legislating from the bench.”)

    Due to Colorado’s campaign finance laws, we can’t tell you how to vote, but by providing information and ratings, we hope to inform your vote and help you make the right decision.

  • Bob Marcus says:

    Thank you for doing the research and making their recorded votes available to the voting public. This is one area on the ballot each year that everyone just shrugs their shoulders on how to vote yet it is critical to our Republic. Again, thanks.

  • Lyn says:

    The reply to Ray and Rose was especially helpful for me. Thanks for your time and efforts. Really didn’t know anything about Judges before this.

  • RJH says:

    Great job Matt. This was very helpful! Anyone, who has been keeping track of the key issues, will know how to vote.

  • Ross Busby says:

    I’d like to know why my comment regarding Judge Robert Rand ignoring the 4th Amendment and violating someone’s Civil Rights by signing a bogus search warrant was removed.

    Ross Busby

  • CTBC Director says:

    Hi Ross –
    your comment wasn’t removed, just moved to the Know Your Judge: Citizen Input page since it was related to a district/county judge.
    Also, since comments on this site require moderator approval before posting, there is a delay of up to 24 hours (usually much less) for a comment to be seen, approved, and posted to the site.
    CTBC does not, as a rule, disapprove or remove comments, even when they disagree with our analysis (however, obscene, threatening or libelous language will be removed and reported to authorities).

  • Ross Busby says:

    CTBC Director,

    Thanks you. I appreciate your effort to appropriately place my comment.

    Ross Busby

  • CTBC Director says:

    Clear The Bench Colorado is a nonpartisan organization for judicial accountability.
    We view the proper role of judges as akin to impartial referees, upholding the Constitution that they are sworn to defend and applying the law as written.
    (See: What makes a good judge?)

  • Victor Nielsen says:

    The information you published was very helpful in deciding how to vote for judges. Anyone with less than a M O O score got my no vote.

  • S says:

    I wanted to use your website to make my voting decisions, rather than voting no for all judges as many people have told me to do. The information given did not give me clarity to know how to vote. The text needs to be in laymans language so everyone can understand how each judge voted.

  • CTBC Director says:

    S – even though the scorecards contain quite a bit of information, each one has a very simple summary: for the Colorado Supreme Court, the rating is the number of cases (out of 10 rated) the justice has upheld the law; for the Court of Appeals, it’s a simple “3 strikes” rating directly below the picture of each judge (ratings explained at the top of the scorecard).

    Due to Colorado campaign finance laws, CTBC can’t tell you how to vote (yes/no) – although, ironically, the state’s judicial performance commissions, a collection of government appointees rating other government appointees, ARE allowed, even required, to tell you how to vote) – but, in providing the ratings, it should be pretty clear which judges have a pattern of upholding the law & our Constitution, and which ones fail to do so on a consistent basis (inability to uphold the law more than half the time would seem to be a job performance fail).

  • Anders Ingemarson says:

    Very helpful – thanks! In the future, if not too much trouble, it would be great to see how the Supreme Court judges up for election stack up against the judges who are not. I think I may look differently at a 6-2-2 record depending on if the other judges are 8-0-0 or 0-0-8 (extreme example). Or is my reasoning incorrect?

  • Denver Ryden says:

    Thank you for this very valuable info. Helps to know some background on the judges before casting our votes. Appreciate your effort

  • Dale Comyford says:

    Wow! Very helpful information on this very important voter’s issue. I reviewed the case rulings shown in a few minutes and then went back to see how my opinions compared with your O, M, and X ratings. I was pleased to find I agreed with them in most all cases. My result: I will vote to remove 2 Appeals Court Judges and retain the rest.

  • David M says:

    I agree on your accessment of the Blue Book. It seems to rubber stamp all of them and does not give you any information of the judges performance. Worse it lets lawyers evaluate them on whether the lawyers get what they want.

  • Raymond says:

    They need to simply show what party these judges belong to on the ballots. Not everyone wants to go through the whole history of each judge!

  • CTBC Director says:

    Raymond –
    in Colorado, judges do not list their party affiliation (retention elections are nonpartisan, since judges are supposed to be and are officially – “apolitical”).
    It’s possible to look up the party affiliation of the governor who appointed them to office, or in rare cases research to find out the party affiliation of individual judges, but that’s at best a very unreliable guide to actual judicial performance, since some very good (even “conservative”) judges have been appointed by Democrats, and some bad judges have been appointed by Republicans.
    Clear The Bench Colorado reviews and rates judicial performance on whether or not a judge has consistently ruled to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law – in other words, acted as a fair and impartial referee – since we believe that is the proper role of the judiciary and what makes a good judge.

  • Sanna Barton says:

    I’m past 60, have some serious health issues, but sure would like to vote out activist judges. In the past I’ve attended Tea Party events. Have you any info on Douglas County judges Marilyn Leonard Antrim; Christopher Charles Cross; Justin Mark Hannen; Kurt Horton; and Michael Spear? I’m not good with a computer but I got this far. Your advice would sure help me and about fifteen of my older friends as well as younger family members of all of them.

  • Cyndy Pennington says:

    I really appreciate all this info! I am also a voter frustrated with the Blue Book recommendations. While I think that peer evals give some insight, it shouldn’t be the only info we get! Imagine if my boss decided to hire or fire based on what my colleagues thought of me instead of job performance! I’m telling everyone I know to refer to this site before voting. Thanks again!

  • Lora says:

    As I am new to Colorado, I found this information very helpful in my quest to obtain information to vote informatively in this election. Thank you!

  • Sandra says:

    Thank you for putting together an easy-to-navigate source on Colorado’s judges. My default has always been to vote “no” on everyone because I never had any information. I appreciate being able now to cast a much more informed vote. I also really like the “3 strikes” rating system–makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for your time and effort!

  • JT says:

    I am new to Colorado and extremely grateful to this site for helping me make an informed decision on this part of the ballot. Thank you.

  • John Dormer says:

    How can I find party affilation of any judge. I am hesitant to vote for a judge that will not make public their affilation. Why is this info so difficult to discern?

  • CTBC Director says:

    John –
    in Colorado, judges do not list their party affiliation (retention elections are nonpartisan, since judges are supposed to be and are officially – “apolitical”).
    It’s possible to look up the party affiliation of the governor who appointed them to office, or in rare cases research to find out the party affiliation of individual judges, but that’s at best a very unreliable guide to actual judicial performance, since some very good (even “conservative”) judges have been appointed by Democrats, and some bad judges have been appointed by Republicans.
    Clear The Bench Colorado reviews and rates judicial performance on whether or not a judge has consistently ruled to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law – in other words, acted as a fair and impartial referee – since we believe that is the proper role of the judiciary and what makes a good judge.

  • Paul says:

    Thanks for the information. It definitely gave me the tools I needed to make an informed decision. Out of curiosity, do you think the judge reviews in the blue book should be removed as you state they may be biased towards judges? If so, what would it take to make this happen? I will post a link to this site on my facebook page.

  • CTBC Director says:

    Paul –
    thanks for the comment, glad you found our Evaluations of Judicial Performance to be useful.

    As for the “reviews” published in the taxpayer-funded “Blue Book”:
    unfortunately, what started out as a well-intentioned effort to provide more information on the judges seeking retention has morphed into an incumbent-protection whitewash dominated by the legal special-interest establishment (as was clearly demonstrated by the massively-funded counter-effort to Clear The Bench Colorado in 2010 launched by the Colorado Bar Association and their allies).

    IF the “reviews” were reformed to actually provide a substantive evaluation of actual judicial performance, instead of providing complimentary “narratives” about judges on the ballot, they would continue to serve a purpose.

    IF the “reviews” presented both pro and con assessments (as is legally mandated for the other ballot questions summarized in the “Blue Book”) to provide balance, they would be more credible.

    IF the “reviews” were restricted to providing information, rather than a “recommendation” by political appointees telling Citizens how to vote, they would less resemble political ads.
    (The idea of the government telling you how to vote is – or should be – deeply disturbing)

    These reforms, and other proposals CTBC Director Matt Arnold presented at a national conference last year on “Evaluating Appellate Judges” at the University of Denver
    http://www.clearthebenchcolorado.org/2011/07/19/clear-the-bench-colorado-director-matt-arnold-featured-panelist-at-national-conference-on-evaluating-appellate-judges-aug-11/

    could be implemented by a combination of legislative changes and executive direction to the current structure of the judicial review commissions – reforms LONG overdue.

  • Dahlia Weinstein says:

    Matt: Thank you so much for such a helpful website. I went through a lawsuit the last four years and dealt with two Denver District Judges. One, whom I feel was just and fair and followed the rule of law, and the other — well, not so much. Neither Judge was up for retention this year, but I anxiously await the day that I can write reviews for each of them. Thanks again for all you do to provide informative information on Colorado Judges. Whether your site visitors agree with your assessments or not, at least they have the tools to make an informed decision.

  • Barbara Schwartz says:

    Love the clear the bench website!!! Takes out the “guessing” when voting! Keep up the super great work!!!

  • Dayna K. Vermilyea says:

    A big THANK YOU!!! ~ For this important information!!! Being a responsible voter, I always
    felt bad that I lacked the information to vote for/against the judges. You are empowering us with this information. Your efforts are greatly appreciated!!!!!!! I will be sharing this with others.

  • Martha E Johnson says:

    Thank you so much, Matt. Really appreciate the information. Am out of state for this election and the info is invaluable!!

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