Evaluations

Evaluations of Judicial Performance

The following matrix 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 each of the incumbent justices 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…

The following judicial evaluations scorecard lists key Colorado Supreme Court cases and how each of the incumbent justices seeking retention (for another 10-year term) voted in 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 and recommendations on other judges are below the Supreme Court matrix)

KEY COLORADO SUPREME COURT CASES


JUSTICE BENDER


JUSTICE MARTINEZ


JUSTICE
RICE


Summary of Judicial Performance
Voted 7-0 against the Constitution.

Recommendation:

Do NOT Retain

(Vote NO)

Voted 7-0 against the Constitution.

Recommendation:

Do NOT Retain

(Vote NO)

Voted 4-2-1 against the Constitution.

Recommendation:

Do NOT Retain

(Vote NO)

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

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

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

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)

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

Voted Yes

(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.

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

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.’

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

CEA V. RUTT (May 2008)

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

Voted Yes

(contrary to Colorado campaign laws)

Voted Yes

(contrary to Colorado campaign laws)

Voted Yes

(contrary to 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 Yes

(against the Constitution)

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

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 broke the law by declaring that its word was lawwhat I say goes, in a stunning power grab.  (See also:

Supremes use semantic gymnastics)

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)

Voted Yes

(against the Constitution)


Other Views

State Commission on Judicial Performance “evaluations” (published in the “Blue Book”)
Bender’s “evaluation” Martinez’ “evaluation” Rice’s      ”evaluation”

(Some viewers may wonder why we include the recommendations and “reviews” of the State Commission on Judicial Performance, since their conclusions are the opposite of 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).

Evaluations and Recommendations on other Colorado Judges:

Colorado Court of Appeals:

Four judges on the Colorado Court of Appeals are also appearing on the statewide ballot seeking retention in office (the term of office for Colorado Court of Appeals judges is 8 years, contrasted with terms of 10 years for Colorado Supreme Court justices).

The names of the four judges seeking retention to the Colorado Court of Appeals are:

Judge John Daniel Dailey, Judge Richard L. Gabriel, Judge Nancy Lichtenstein, and Judge David J. Richman.

Based on our analysis of the cases which have come to our attention, Clear The Bench Colorado makes the following recommendations on Colorado Court of Appeals judges, with the caveat that our research has not been nearly as comprehensive as at the supreme court level:

  • Judge John Daniel Dailey: CTBC recommends a yes (“retain”) vote
  • Judge Nancy Lichtenstein: CTBC recommends a yes (“retain”) vote

CTBC has no recommendation (either for or against) on Judge Richard L. Gabriel and Judge David J. Richman, due to lack of data (these two judges have only been on the Court of Appeals since 2008).

District and County Judges:

On judges in district and county courts, we’ve received some input from people across the state, and have collected those in a separate page below.   Anyone wishing to comment on any judges on this year’s ballot are welcome to submit comments and responsible, documented articles of reasonable length (please, no rants or diatribes) to our Know Your Judge: Citizen Input page, or our Sound Off! page – but in general, unless we receive compelling, documented evidence, CTBC takes no official position on any of the 100+ district and county court judges seeking retention this year.

One exception: CTBC has recommended a “NO” vote on Larimer County judges Blair and Gilmore (who, as prosecutors, are reported to have conspired to hide evidence which may have sent an innocent man to jail for ten years).  Ask yourself whether the unanimous recommendation of “retain” by the district performance review commission undermines the credibility of the “evaluation” process.

Opposition to these judges is led by the Committee on Judicial Justice (http://www.judicialjustice.org/).

For information on District and County judges provided by input from other citizens organized by judicial district, visit our “Know Your Judge: Citizen Input on District/County Judges” page

39 Responses to Evaluations

  • Pete Ross says:

    Many thanks for the work that you have done. We–my wife and I–have heard you speak and are impressed with your knowledge and drive on these issues. We also appreciate your comments on the Appeals judges.

  • Lorenzo says:

    Great job. On a local judge (10th Judicial District), you may want to recommend against Judge Jill Mattoon. Judge Mattoon has done such a poor job that even the 2010 State Ballot Information Booklet, which almost always recommends retaining judges, calls for her dismissal. The Court of Appeals has twice reversed her orders and has criticized her for neglecting her responsibilities.

  • Anita Lamprell says:

    Judge Munsinger is an excellant judge. Recently he gave our community a chance to defend ourselves against tyrannical HOA and agressive law firms taking over neighborhoods for profit. Final decision has not been ruled yet, but at least he listened and gave homeowners a chance to be heard. Anita

  • helen sabin says:

    Anita – tell us more about your situation. These kinds of abuses of homeowner rights have to stop!

    Clear the Bench – this is a great summary. You are right. Most of us don’t realize the impact judges have on our lives. I am copying this and sending it out to all the groups I belong to and to my email list. I hope these three in particular get bounced out on their tough feeding behinds and they actually have to work for a living. God help anyone who gets them as a judge!! Thanks for your efforts on our behalf.

    HSabin
    Colorado Springs

  • Pat says:

    Judge Katherine R. Delgado, 17th Judicial District. My recommendation is to not retain her for the Nov 2010 election. Worked in her court a few years back on her staff. She regularly violates labor laws by not giving staff work breaks by using her position to convince them to work past their alloted breaks or relinquishing part or all of them.

  • Cyndy P says:

    Thank you so much for your work. This site was invaluable to me as I’ve been faced with the decisions about which judges to retain. I have become increasingly irritated at the lack of information about judges in the “blue book” sent out for voters. I don’t really care if their colleagues like them-I want to see a summary of their PERFORMANCE! I’ll be directing everyone I know to this site!

  • Frank Russell says:

    Thank you for your evaluations, which I have used in making my decisions on whom should be retained and whom should be axed. I, too, will share your website with my network.

    Additionally, I have an input regarding one of the judges in the 4th Judicial District here in Colorado Springs based on my juror duty in a 2008 murder trial where Judge David A. Gilbert presided. During my week experience in Judge Gilbert’s court, I found him to be professional, fair, unbiased, and knowledgable of the law. Moreover, during the jury selection and trial, he showed a great deal of patience and understanding with the attorneys on both sides, as well as with us jurors, many of whom had never been jurors before, including me. Accordingly, I recommend that Judge David A. Gilbert be RETAINED and urge a YES vote.

  • Jeff Sacco says:

    Jeffco Voters and Friends,

    I could use your help! Other than Clearing the Bench at the Colorado Supreme Court level, do you have any strong convictions or are you aware of any activist judges up for retention in Jeffco or at the Court of Appeals level? Yes, I do support our constitutional judges and appreciate your assistance.

    I have had personal experience with two Jeffco judges. Unfortunately, Judge Oeffler is not up for retention and will continue to overstep her boundaries as a judge, IMHO.

    On the other hand, I find that Judge Munsinger is respectful, patient, fair, and that he will follow the rule of law. Once again, IMHO, I urge Jeffco voters to vote “yes” on Judge Munsinger. My personal experience suggests that Judge Munsinger is a proponent of transparency and the rule of law – enough said.

  • Jimmy Wright says:

    Thank you for presenting not only your conclusions, but the information you used to reach those conclusions.

  • sharon rocchi says:

    As I was filling out my absentee ballot, I was at a loss whether to retain these judges or not. I was near my computer so I looked up Michael Bender and there you were! Thanks for the info…I’ll pass it on to my conservative friends.

  • Robert says:

    Thank you. I’ve been looking for this type of information. The evaluations from their peers are useless. I don’t agree with your ideology, so I will be voting the exact opposite of your recommendations, but thanks for the information.

  • Ed Roland says:

    Thanks for providing the recap on the Supreme Court justices’ decisions.

    I really think that if you could position your organization as a more objective resource it would be a valuable tool for voters going forward. The State Ballot Information Booklet is worse than useless in that regard. I really don’t care what the attorneys who appear before these judges think.

    I’m not making this comment because I disagree with your recommendations . . . it’s because I do.

    Most citizens are not aware of the constitutional issues involved, much less how to access information on specific decisions.

    In general, independents like myself do not want judges who legislate from the bench in any of our courts.

    A simple recap of the constitutional issues involved (view A vs. view B) and where these judges came down on the issue would be extremely helpful. As informed voters, we could take it from there.

  • anonymous says:

    Thanks for providing this. It appears that if I vote exactly the opposite way from what you recommend, I’ll be fine. Somehow conservatives only talk about the constitution when they think it supports them, and conveniently forget it when it doesn’t.

  • CTBC Director says:

    You’re welcome –
    but you already had a source of information for rubber-stamping a “retain” vote for judges, in the “Blue Book.”

    If you prefer to mindlessly and reflexively cast your vote in a sheep-like manner, that’s your guide…

  • Tracie says:

    Having trouble finding more info on the Court Of Appeals judges. Who does CTBC recommend NOT retaining?

  • Jim says:

    Your site is a great resource. If we could only get more information in order to vote them up or down.

  • E. D. Coz says:

    This is a great idea. May this site grow to include quality evaluations of judges at all levels. As a rule of thumb when I don’t know I generally just vote no, to send the judges a shot over the bow I guess, that we are watching, which I know isn’t the best at all.

    Next time, something CTBC could do is just list all judges up for election and whether they were appointed by Conservatives or Liberals. I know that is not perfect but would be better than nothing and I’m guessing would be more correct than nothing.

    I do think we need to focus in the future on the lower levels, because if we could vote the bad ones out at that level it might prevent them from ever getting appointed to higher levels.

    Apparently we need people like conservative attorneys watching and reporting on every level and in every jurisdiction.

    Good job Matt and all the others.

  • R Maxville says:

    I saw a sign in a neighbor’s yard with your website address on it and I’m so grateful. Thank you for the work you are doing to help educate the public on specific cases and how the justices voted on them. I agree with one of the previous posts, I don’t want judges to legislate from the bench. Again, I as so grateful for your help. Thank you!

  • Tim Roberge says:

    Thank you for taking time to research the record on the judges – you have shed light on an area that most people simply ignore as it doesn’t matter.

    When judges begin to legislate from thier bench – it definitely matters.

    Thank you for educating us all on which judges are trying to make laws – versus the good ones that merely interpret existing laws. Let’s keep it this way!

  • keith says:

    Thanks for all the work!
    Please do not give up!
    I look forward to an update as to what you feel went right as well as wrong.

  • PETER COULTER says:

    Congratulations Matt!!

    You put a huge crack in the shell of the Judicial Performance Commission. And in so doing, you gave notice that activist judges will no longer be tolerated. The overwhelming vote to remove Blair and Gilmore and the lowest retention vote ever for the Supreme Court judges, despite the 100% retention recommendation by the JPC. The inroads you have made will enable future efforts to add transparency and accountability to the selection of Judges and the way they do business. I predict a review by the Legislature or a Constitutional ballot question. Thanks again for all your efforts.

  • Harry Pool says:

    My general policy is to vote against every judge on the ballot for retention. I only vote to retain judges I’ve personally observed deciding cases fairly and acting respectfully toward plaintiffs and defendants in their courts, which came to two of the dozen or so judges on the most recent general election.

    For those who care, I live in El Paso county, east of Colorado Springs.

  • Christopher says:

    Completely disagree with the comment about Judge Monica Gomez. She is a disgusting person with absolutely no moral compass – much less a neutral one. Total failure – she should be investigated much further.

  • Joann says:

    I take back what I previously wrote. I found what I needed on your website. Thanks for providing this information. I normally don’t vote on the judges because I’ve never known enough. This website helps.

  • Kay Martin says:

    We live in or own properties in Jeffco and Denver. I know about Bender, Martinez and Rice…did so 4 years ago before I knew of Clear the Bench. Need info on Nathan B Coats/Co Supreme Ct,
    Court of Appeals: Booras, Casebolt, Graham, Miller, Taubman, Webb, Frick, Gilman, Hoffman, Laff, Lemon, Mullins, Ashby. County Judge: Burd, Crew, Jr., Hada, Harrell, Jordan, Marcucci and Rudolph. These are much in the County of Denver voting on my ballot. I want to give kudos to the right, and remove what’s left. Please help!! by Nov. 1. No long stories, just final decisions.
    Thank you.

  • Kay Martin says:

    Didn’t see until now the breakdown between ’10 and ’12. THANK YOU, Matt. Heard you after
    Jan ’08. It did make a difference. Thank you so much.

  • Marlene Hardimon says:

    Just saw the question re Judge Randall C. Arp. I have had personal experience with him. He is up for retention in 2014. CTBC will hear more from me closer to the election.

  • Ronnie Shepard says:

    Hiya! I simply want to give an enormous thumbs up for the nice information you might have right here on this post.

    I will be coming back to your weblog for more soon.

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