David Prince

Governor Ritter succumbs to special interests: Monica Marquez picked to be the next Colorado Supreme Court justice

Well, at least they won’t have to change the monogrammed towels…

Governor Bill Ritter appears to have proved the cynics right (those who argued that he would base his selection on politics, rather than judicial experience) by picking Deputy Attorney General Monica Marquez as the next Colorado Supreme Court justice (replacing outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who announced in June that she would resign rather than be held accountable by voters this November), bypassing what appeared to be two highly experienced, eminently qualified, and non-partisan judges (El Paso District Judge David Prince and Colorado Appeals Court Judge Robert Russel).

Clear The Bench Colorado was among the few who held out hope that the outgoing governor would set aside politics and do the right thing in basing his decision on qualifications and judicial experience. His apparent decision to knuckle under to special interests instead of siding with Colorado Citizens and promoting judges who will uphold the rule of law is disappointing.

Ritter’s pick of Marquez comes on the heels of an intensive lobbying campaign by the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association (Ms. Marquez is on the board of that group) both following and during the nomination process (apparently a bloc in the Supreme Court Nominating Commission advocated strongly for Ms. Marquez on the basis of politics, not qualifications).  This is not to say that Ms. Marquez is unqualified; she is undoubtedly a fine attorney.  However, there is a significant difference in temperament and approach in being an attorney (which involves taking sides, often aggressively, for a client) and being a good judge (sworn to fairly and impartially apply the law, as written – NOT taking sides).

Although it may be possible to overcome a lifetime habit of political activism and advocacy to become a fair, impartial judge who upholds the rule of law, it requires a significant mental shift – probably best reinforced by experience gained by being a judge on a lower court, rather than going right to the top.

Unfortunately, Ritter’s selection will only serve to further erode public confidence in a Colorado Supreme Court already damaged by a decade of highly-politicized, anti-constitutional rulings, since Marquez lacks any judicial experience and seems to have built her entire career on policy & political activism.

Many of her positions on constitutional issues raise concerns about how she might rule from the bench.  Marquez advocated in favor of the 2003 judicial takeover of legislative redistricting authority in the Salazar v. Davidson redistricting case, argued that “fees” are not taxes in the Barber v. Ritter case (which led to the 2009 Colorado Car Tax – er, vehicle registration “fee” – increases), and has sought to restrict the 1st Amendment rights of citizens seeking to speak out on ballot issues in recent and ongoing cases.  She is also the lead attorney in yet another attempt to impose an unconstitutional tax increase on Colorado Citizens.

Of course, to avoid running afoul of judicial ethics violations, she would have to recuse herself from ruling on any of these cases or related issues in which she has been directly involved when they come up before the Colorado Supreme Court – which emphasizes the importance of the remaining justices.

In any case, Colorado Citizens will render their verdict on prospective Justice Marquez when she must receive voter approval to remain in office after 2 years (the first term of any judicial appointment is the so-called “probationary” term – so Marquez will appear on the 2012 ballot).

In the meantime, Colorado voters have the opportunity to render their verdict on the three remaining incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices on this year’s ballot who are seeking an additional TEN year term in office.

Exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four (er, three remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority”- (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice – soon minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and exercise your right to vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

Last Chance to Speak Out – Governor’s Office seeks public comment on Colorado Supreme Court nominees before deciding

Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace…

Governor Ritter has asked for public comment on the three nominees (he’ll pick one of the three) put forward by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who announced in June that she would resign rather than be held accountable by voters this November.

Send E-mails to judicial.appointments@state.co.us with your comments, concerns, or suggestions.

The Denver Post profiled the 3 Colorado Supreme Court nominees in successive articles last weekend (in order of appearance: El Paso District Judge David PrinceDeputy Attorney General Monica Marquez, and Colorado Appeals Court Judge Robert Russel); additional, substantive information (including the public applications submitted to the Supreme Court Nominating Commission, which met in secret to evaluate and interview a total of 31 applicants) is available on the Law Week Colorado website (”Governor’s Office Makes Public Applications Of Justice Finalists“).

Don’t let your opportunity to weigh in on this important issue slip away by failing to act when you had the chance – indeed, when you were asked to offer your opinion.  Write the governor today to express YOUR views on selecting our next Colorado Supreme Court justice…

We The People can (indeed, as citizens, we must) hold our public officials – both elected & appointed – accountable.  Be a citizen, not a subjectget informed, then express your opinion on which of these three nominees the governor should be appoint to become the next justice of the Colorado Supreme Court (it will be another 2 years before you’ll be able to weigh in at the ballot box, at the conclusion of their first – probationary – term of office).

Exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four (er, three remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority”- (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice – soon minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and exercise your right to vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

Nominees to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey on Colorado Supreme Court profiled in Denver Post (part 3)

For the first time in the history of Colorado’s “merit selection and retention” process for placing and removing the occupants of judicial office, Colorado Citizens are being presented with substantive information not only on the three incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices who will appear on the November ballot, but also on the three nominees (the governor will pick one of the three) to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who announced in June that she would resign rather than be held accountable by Colorado voters this November).

Thanks to the increased attention on the Colorado Supreme Court this year, and the consistent efforts of the legal-affairs journal Law Week Colorado for longer than that, the public applications of the three finalists (complete except for removal of purely personal information shielded for privacy reasons – entirely appropriately) which include some relevant background on the candidates for judicial office – were made public.  The public applications may be viewed in their entirety on the Law Week website (“Governor’s Office Makes Public Applications Of Justice Finalists“) or downloaded to review in detail.

The governor’s office has even requested public input on the nominees – providing Colorado Citizens the opportunity to weigh in on who will become Colorado’s next supreme court justice; but act fast, the governor is expected to make a decision next week (“Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace… Governor’s Office seeks public comment on Colorado Supreme Court nominees“).

The Denver Post – which, after noting in February that “Four Colorado Supreme Court justices face a tough vote in elections” was largely silent on this important issue until very recently (possibly in response to criticism that their [lack of] coverage may have been influenced by the fact that the Post is being paid $1.6 million per year as the Colorado Supreme Court’s current landlord) when an article acknowledged that “four state Supreme Court justices [may not] survive an attempt to remove them from the bench this election.”

Bygones.

Denver Post courts reporter Felisa Cardona has written up a series of profiles of the three finalists to become the next Colorado Supreme Court justice – the third and last of which (“Supreme Court Finalists: Candidate’s writings show clarity of thought“) appears in today’s (Monday) paper.

Clear The Bench Colorado commends the Denver Post for (finally?) shedding some light on the individuals who may next be elevated to our highest court.  We have called upon the Denver Post editors to join us in requesting greater transparency in the process by which the nominees are selected, as well – and most importantly, to join us in holding the incumbent justices accountable to the Colorado Constitution, the rule of law, and (ultimately) to the citizens of Colorado.

We The People can (indeed, as citizens, we must) hold our public officials – both elected and appointed – accountable.  Be a citizen, not a subject – get informed, then exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four (er, three remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority”- (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice – soon to be minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and exercise your right to vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

Nominees to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey on Colorado Supreme Court profiled in Denver Post (part 2)

For the first time in the history of Colorado’s “merit selection and retention” process for placing and removing the occupants of judicial office, Colorado Citizens are being presented with substantive information not only on the three incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices who will appear on the November ballot, but also on the three nominees (the governor will pick one of the three) to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who announced in June that she would retire rather than be held accountable by Colorado voters this November).

Thanks to the increased attention on the Colorado Supreme Court this year, and the consistent efforts of the legal-affairs journal Law Week Colorado for longer than that, the public applications of the three finalists (complete except for removal of purely personal information shielded for privacy reasons – entirely appropriately) which include some relevant background on the candidates for judicial office – were made public.  The public applications may be viewed in their entirety on the Law Week website (“Governor’s Office Makes Public Applications Of Justice Finalists“) or downloaded to review in detail.

The governor’s office has even requested public input on the nominees – providing Colorado Citizens the opportunity to weigh in on who will become Colorado’s next supreme court justice; but act fast, the governor is expected to make a decision next week (“Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace… Governor’s Office seeks public comment on Colorado Supreme Court nominees“).

The Denver Post – which, after noting in February that “Four Colorado Supreme Court justices face a tough vote in elections” was largely silent on this important issue until very recently (possibly in response to criticism that their [lack of] coverage may have been influenced by the fact that the Post is being paid $1.6 million per year as the Colorado Supreme Court’s current landlord) when an article acknowledged that “four state Supreme Court justices [may not] survive an attempt to remove them from the bench this election.”

Bygones.

Denver Post courts reporter Felisa Cardona has written up a series of profiles of the three finalists to become the next Colorado Supreme Court justice – the second of which (“Supreme Court Finalists: Breadth of experience seen as balancing youth“) appears in today’s (Sunday) paper.

Clear The Bench Colorado commends the Denver Post for (finally?) shedding some light on the individuals who may next be elevated to our highest court.  We have called upon the Denver Post editors to join us in requesting greater transparency in the process by which the nominees are selected, as well – and most importantly, to join us in holding the incumbent justices accountable to the Colorado Constitution, the rule of law, and (ultimately) to the citizens of Colorado.

We The People can (indeed, as citizens, we must) hold our public officials – both elected and appointed – accountable.  Be a citizen, not a subject – get informed, then exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four (er, three remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority”- (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice – soon to be minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and exercise your right to vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

Nominees to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey on Colorado Supreme Court profiled in Denver Post (part 1)

For the first time in the history of Colorado’s “merit selection and retention” process for placing and removing the occupants of judicial office, Colorado Citizens are being presented with substantive information not only on the three incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices who will appear on the November ballot, but also on the three nominees (the governor will pick one of the three) to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who announced in June that she would retire rather than be held accountable by Colorado voters this November).

Thanks to the increased attention on the Colorado Supreme Court this year, and the consistent efforts of the legal-affairs journal Law Week Colorado for longer than that, the public applications of the three finalists (complete except for removal of purely personal information shielded for privacy reasons – entirely appropriately) which include some relevant background on the candidates for judicial office – were made public.  The public applications may be viewed in their entirety on the Law Week website (“Governor’s Office Makes Public Applications Of Justice Finalists“) or downloaded to review in detail.

The governor’s office has even requested public input on the nominees – providing Colorado Citizens the opportunity to weigh in on who will become Colorado’s next supreme court justice; but act fast, the governor is expected to make a decision next week (“Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace… Governor’s Office seeks public comment on Colorado Supreme Court nominees“).

The Denver Post – which, after noting in February that “Four Colorado Supreme Court justices face a tough vote in elections” was largely silent on this important issue until very recently (possibly in response to criticism that their [lack of] coverage may have been influenced by the fact that the Post is being paid $1.6 million per year as the Colorado Supreme Court’s current landlord) when an article acknowledged that “four state Supreme Court justices [may not] survive an attempt to remove them from the bench this election.”

Bygones.

Denver Post courts reporter Felisa Cardona has written up a series of profiles of the three finalists to become the next Colorado Supreme Court justice – the first of which (“Colorado Supreme Court finalist Prince applies diligence to his cases – and his barbecue“) appears in today’s (Saturday) paper.

Clear The Bench Colorado commends the Denver Post for (finally?) shedding some light on the individuals who may next be elevated to our highest court.  We have called upon the Denver Post editors to join us in requesting greater transparency in the process by which the nominees are selected, as well – and most importantly, to join us in holding the incumbent justices accountable to the Colorado Constitution, the rule of law, and (ultimately) to the citizens of Colorado.

We The People can (indeed, as citizens, we must) hold our public officials – both elected and appointed – accountable.  Be a citizen, not a subject – get informed, then exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four (er, three remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority”- (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice – soon to be minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and exercise your right to vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace… Governor’s Office seeks public comment on Colorado Supreme Court nominees

Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace…

Governor Ritter has asked for public comment on the three nominees (he’ll pick one of the three) put forward by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who announced in June that she would retire rather than be held accountable by Colorado voters this November.

Send E-mails to judicial.appointments@state.co.us with your comments, concerns, or suggestions.

Our view is that 2 of the 3 nominees (Colorado Appeals Court Judge Robert Russel, and El Paso District Judge David Prince) appear to be qualified, while the 3rd (Deputy Attorney General Monica Marquez) lacks any judicial experience and seems to have built her entire career on policy & political activism.  Marquez advocated in favor of the 2003 judicial takeover of legislative redistricting authority in the Salazar v. Davidson redistricting case, argued that “fees” are not taxes in the Barber v. Ritter case, and has sought to restrict the 1st Amendment rights of citizens seeking to address ballot issues in recent and ongoing cases.  She appears to be Colorado’s version of Elena Kagan.

Although it may be possible to overcome a lifetime habit of political activism and advocacy to become a fair, impartial judge who upholds the rule of law, appointing someone without judicial experience to our highest court would only further erode public confidence in a Colorado Supreme Court already damaged by a decade of highly-politicized, anti-constitutional rulings.

Don’t let your opportunity to weigh in on this important issue slip away by failing to act when you had the chance – indeed, when you were asked to offer your opinion.  Write the governor today to express YOUR views on selecting our next Colorado Supreme Court justice…

We The People can (indeed, as citizens, we must) hold our public officials – both elected & appointed – accountable.  Be a citizen, not a subjectget informed, then express your opinion on which of these three nominees the governor should be appoint to become the next justice of the Colorado Supreme Court (it will be another 2 years before you’ll be able to weigh in at the ballot box, at the conclusion of their first – probationary – term of office).

Exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four (er, three remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority”- (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice – soon minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and exercise your right to vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold discusses role of Colorado Supreme Court in redistricting, potential replacements for outgoing Chief Justice Mullarkey on Mike Rosen Show

Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold called in to the Mike Rosen Show Wednesday following up on an interview with nationally syndicated analyst Michael Barone regarding Congressional redistricting and state-level reapportionment of legislative districts.

Michael Barone spoke broadly on the issue of redistricting nationwide – and was almost certainly unaware of the peculiarities of how the redistricting and reapportionment processes in Colorado are dominated by the Colorado Supreme Court (which ultimately has the final say on both).

After explaining how the reapportionment (state legislative districting) process works in Colorado, and how Congressional redistricting was hijacked by the Colorado Supreme Court following the 2000 census (and how the groundwork has been laid to do so again), the discussion shifted to Tuesday afternoon’s announcement of the three finalists to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who announced in June that she would retire rather than be held accountable by Colorado voters this November.   After providing a brief overview of the judicial nomination process, the discussion concluded with some remarks on the potential replacements for the Colorado Supreme Court.

(Listen to the podcast here – the CTBC segment runs from about the 30 to the 38 minute marks)

An interesting addendum was provided by a follow-up caller, identifying herself as a former Supreme Court Nominating Commissioner named “Mary” from Longmont.

Her stated intent was to “rebut” the CTBC Director – but missed the mark by a bit (although she did provide some interesting insight into the nominating/selection process and commissioner mindset).

She stated that the nominating commission process was, quote, “the most nonpartisan activity I ever engaged in” (although, in response to Mike Rosen’s follow up question “Was it non-ideological?” she conceded “not exactly.”)

She stated that the commission was “more interested in not getting the ‘Black Robe Syndrome’, where judges think they’re above God almighty and can do whatever they want.”  (Rosen nailed it with his follow-up: “You mean like the liberal majority currently on the state Supreme Court?”  Couldn’t have said it better myself…)

After some more discussions along those lines, the caller veered away from reality to advance a ‘strawman’ criticism of Clear The Bench Colorado:

Caller: “My plea… is that we don’t change the system… where judges…  don’t have to raise thousands of dollars to run…”

Rosen responds: “The system is not perfect – so the question is: would any changes make it better or worse?”

Caller: “If there can be a degree of public scrutiny… I wouldn’t be opposed to it.” [Ed: gracious of her to concede the point]

Rosen: “We have a retention [vote] option, but unfortunately that [has been] more theoretical than practical.”

Caller: “Maybe that needs to be beefed up…. maybe you need to do a better job of getting the opinions of existing judges before they go to the ballot”  [Ed: that is the point of Clear The Bench Colorado - informed citizens making informed choices on judicial officeholders, and holding them accountable]

Rosen: “The ‘Blue Book‘ just before an election, when this committee gives us the appraisal of judges… that is the most platitudinous, worthless appraisal ever… and rarely do they ever not recommend retention, so I find that of no value whatsoever.”

The caller then concluded by bemoaning that “the voting thing is so skewed with dollars…”  I think that people like my father would turn over in his grave if he knew there was some movement to have elected judges.”

(Listen to the podcast here – the call starts off the 11AM hour, and continues to the 11 minute mark)

Let me be clear on one point:  that concluding statement was either ignorant,  or a deliberate lie.  Either way, it is a gross mischaracterization.

Clear The Bench Colorado has not advocated for a return to contested elections for judges.  The entire point is to increase voter awareness of our rights within the system, provide some much-needed information (doing a “better job of getting the opinions of existing judges before they go to the ballot”, for example) – since, as Rosen correctly points out, the Blue Book summation of the Performance Review Commissions “evaluations” is “platitudinous, worthless… and of no value whatsoever” in providing substantive information with which voters can make an informed decision.

An additional, hypocritical, gross mischaracterization advanced by the caller is the role of money in the judicial retention evaluation and election process.  Yes, the “voting thing” is skewed with dollars – in favor of retaining incumbents.  Not only are large amounts of taxpayer dollars spent on the whitewash judicial performance review “evaluations” (and subsequent printing & distribution in the “Blue Book”) which have ALWAYS (100%!) recommended retention for Colorado Supreme Court justices, but legal establishment special-interest groups have spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, on incumbent-protection campaigns (including the “Grueskin Group” formed specifically to counter the judicial-accountability message of Clear The Bench Colorado and protect incumbents judging their cases).  Yet despite the obvious conflict of interest posed by attorneys spending to protect incumbent judges who will rule on cases in which the same attorneys take part, they are allowed to spend freely – since, by maintaining the status quo, they need only point to the judicial review commission’s “retain” recommendations and claim a purely “educational” mission free of direct advocacy.  These groups are also not subject to campaign finance law reporting and accountability, in contrast to grassroots organizations like Clear The Bench Colorado – allowing them to work outside of public scrutiny.  Corrupting influence?  Perish the thought!

Become an informed voter; conduct your own evaluation of the performance of these justices, based on how (and whether) they follow the Constitution and uphold the rule of law.  As an informed citizen, Yes, you can exercise your right to vote “NO” on the four (er, now three) ‘unjust justices’ of the Mullarkey Majority (Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice; soon minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your homes and business from seizure by abuse of eminent domain, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of rule by activist, agenda-driven ‘justices.’  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions – and vote “NO” on retaining these unjust justices in the November elections!

Applicants for Colorado Supreme Court vacancy down to final 3: Marquez, Prince, Russel are potential picks to replace Mullarkey

The front page of Wednesday’s Denver Post heralded the late-Tuesday announcement of the list of three names from which Governor Ritter will select the replacement for outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who announced in June that she would resign rather than be held accountable by Colorado voters this November.  The article (“Three finalists emerge for Colorado Supreme Court vacancy“) concludes with comments by Clear The Bench Colorado director Matt Arnold critiquing the lack of transparency and public accountability in the closed-door process for evaluating potential nominees to the Colorado Supreme Court, following up on an article earlier this week (“No More Secrecy in Colorado Supreme Court judicial hiring“) calling for improvements and reform in the selection/nomination process.

“These are people who are auditioning to become government employees occupying some of the highest offices in the state about which there is no knowledge or public input or transparency or accountability,” Arnold said. “I would certainly urge the legislature to take a look at this next session.”

Unfortunately, Colorado citizens know more about the process of picking the Pope than about how our state selects nominees to judicial office.

This is unfortunate – because, despite some flaws (most importantly, a lack of transparency and public accountability – secrecy encouraged by the legal establishment, who are more interested in protecting their members and covering for their ‘buddies on the bench’ than allowing them to be called to account), the process does provide some level of front-end vetting of judicial applicants, filtering out the obviously unqualified and excessively partisan (weeding out the ‘worst of the worst’).

However, the lack of transparency and public understanding of the process leads to a general lack of confidence in our judiciary and undermines the right and ability of Colorado Citizens to hold our judicial branch officials accountable – leading to ignorant statements such as “why bother to vote out the bad ones?  They’ll just replace ‘em with more of the same.”  (That attitude reminds me of nothing so much as someone clinging to an abusive domestic relationship – putting up with the beatings because it’s what they know.  Step One: remove the source of the abuse.  Step Two: make better choices for the future…)

So how does the Supreme Court Nominating Commission try to make ‘better choices’ for replacing outgoing justices?

Clear The Bench Colorado published an overview of the judicial selection process (“Selecting the next Colorado Supreme Court justice(s) post-Mullarkey retirement and retention elections – who decides?“) both online and in print (next appearing in the September edition of The Constitutionalist Today, due out next week).  More information about the commission’s inner workings has since come to light, thanks to some former commissioners offering their views in response to our articles and comments earlier this week.  Some details (such as the current commission’s votes to select the just-announced nominees, any particulars on their deliberations, or the names of other applicants) will remain unknown unless any of the current commissioners step forward or otherwise release the information.

By the Numbers: How the Judicial Selection Process works

  1. On announcement of the vacancy and solicitation for application, prospective nominees submit an extensive application packet (including a long questionnaire, writing sample, background information, resume of relevant professional experience, and references).
  2. Commission members review the applications, and select from the total list (this year, 31 people applied for the impending vacancy) for interviews (a particular candidate will be interviewed if any commissioner expresses a strong desire to have them appear).  Commissioners consider the current makeup of the court, and may advocate for a specific constituency – a particular area of legal expertise – such as water or business law, or possibly a regional or ethnic representation in pursuit of court ‘diversity’).  Interviews are based on a common set of ‘core’ questions (for consistency of comparison & evaluation); each commissioner develops and uses their own evaluation criteria.
  3. Following interviews, the commission deliberates/discusses the candidate, voicing comments or concerns to the group at large.
  4. Following all of the interviews, the commission casts a ballot – three unranked votes per opening (for the Colorado Supreme Court or Court of Appeals – lower courts may only require 2-3 nominees).  The top vote-getters become the finalists – with the caveat that any finalist MUST receive a majority of total Commission votes (i.e. 8 of 15), irrespective of how many are actually present.  Multiple ballots may be (generally are) necessary.  (Note that the current makeup of the Nominating Commission – 7 Democrats, 5 Republicans, 3 Unaffiliated –  ensures that any finalists MUST receive at least one vote from multiple party affiliations).
  5. The names of the three finalists are submitted for consideration by the governor, who has 15 days to make a selection from the list.

ALL of our sources (from differing party backgrounds) have stressed that the Nomination Commission deliberations are non-partisan (which is not to say, as our sources admit, that the deliberations and considerations do not reflect ideology or judicial philosophy – which is, in our view, entirely appropriate).

The role of the ‘ex officio’ chair of the commission – retiring Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who presides over the commission vetting applicants for her replacement, although she does not get a vote – is also worthy of comment.  Even though the chair does not get a vote in the process (the role is restricted primarily to running the meetings – although the chair can, in subtle or not-so-subtle ways, influence the discussion), there would certainly appear to be a strong potential for conflict of interest in presiding over the process of replacing one’s own position.  Propriety would strongly suggest (at a minimum) that the Chief Justice should have recused herself from participating.

Another interesting comment from one of the former commissioners regards the list of current finalists – noting that, although the best source of judges for the highest court should presumably be the next-lower court (the Colorado Court of Appeals), it has been 27 years since a judge has been elevated from the Court of Appeals to the Colorado Supreme Court.  (One of the three finalists is an appellate judge).

Finally – for the first time in the history of the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission, more information concerning the finalists has been made available to the public than just a list of names.  Thanks to the increased attention on the Colorado Supreme Court this year, and the consistent efforts of the legal-affairs journal Law Week Colorado for longer than that, the public applications of the three finalists (complete except for removal of purely personal information shielded for privacy reasons – entirely appropriately) which include some relevant background on the candidates for judicial office – were made public.  The public applications may be viewed in their entirety on the Law Week website (“Governor’s Office Makes Public Applications Of Justice Finalists“) or downloaded for more leisurely perusal.

Most importantly, the governor’s office is soliciting public comment on the three nominees to become the next Colorado Supreme Court justice (send E-mails to judicial.appointments@state.co.us with your comments, concerns, or suggestions), along with providing contact information for the three nominees:

  • Monica Marquez, 1525 Sherman Street 2nd Floor, Denver CO 80203, (303) 866-5163
  • David Prince, 270 S. Tejon, Colorado Springs CO 80903, (719) 448-7507
  • Robert Russel, 101 W. Colfax Avenue Suite 800, Denver CO 80202, (303) 837-3725

We The People can (indeed, as citizens, we must) hold our public officials – both elected & appointed – accountable.  Be a citizen, not a subjectget informed, then express your opinion on which of these three nominees the governor should be appoint to become the next justice of the Colorado Supreme Court (it will be another 2 years before you’ll be able to weigh in at the ballot box, at the conclusion of their first – probationary – term of office).

Exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four (er, three remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority”- (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice – soon to be minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and exercise your right to vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

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