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Mail-in Ballot Midweek Update: Clear The Bench Colorado, the Colorado Supreme Court, judicial retention elections in the news

The end is nigh…

Well, the end of this election cycle, anyway.  Mail-in ballots for the November elections – including the important question of whether to retain three incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices facing “stiff opposition” as they seek an additional 10-year term in office – went out on Tuesday, and may have already arrived in your mailbox by the time you read this article.

Most voters have also already received the “Blue Book” – containing, among other things, the “reviews” of judicial incumbents published by the commissions on judicial performance, which this year again continued a decades-long tradition of recommending a “retain” vote for every Colorado Supreme Court justice on the ballot (that’s right; Colorado Supreme Court justices “reviewed” by the commissions have received a “retain” vote 100% of the time).  Can you say “rubber-stamp?”

Fortunately, Colorado voters have an alternative (and far more substantive) source of information this year: Clear The Bench Colorado’s Evaluations of Judicial Performance matrix, which provides a summary of how the incumbent justices on the ballot voted in key constitutional cases, along with references on the cases, commentary, and analysis of the impact of these decisions on Colorado voters.

Law Week Colorado provided an overview of the CTBC Evaluations page (including a snapshot of the page) in an article Thursday, Oct. 7 (“Clear The Bench Offers Its Own Judicial Performance Evaluations“), which was also picked up nationally by the Huffington Post.  The article was complimentary on the substantive content and easy-to-read “scorecard”-style layout.  Closing with a quote from the director of the state  judicial performance office provided an illuminating glimpse into the attitude of the status-quo types:

Voters are charged with making informed decisions based on the wealth of information gathered from attorneys, court participants, other judges, and the public, by the commissions and posted in-depth on the judicial performance website and in the Blue Book. [emphasis added]

Um – voters are charged with making decisions based on what’s published on the commission website and in the Blue Book?

Don’t voters have a right to make up their own minds, based on whatever sources they choose?

Could’ve sworn we still live in a free country…

Over the weekend, the Colorado Springs Gazette published an Op-Ed by resident lefty columnist Barry Noreen, who’s now working feverishly to avoid paying off his beer bet.  Despite a cordial interview which at least in theory formed the basis of his editorial (much like those “based on a true story” biopics, though, his piece strayed a bit off-course from the facts), Noreen’s article (“Rabid anti-judiciary fervor has little basis“) demonstrates a somewhat different definition of “objective reporting” of facts (he’s certainly entitled to his own opinions) than mine.

Noreen constructs a strawman argument by inserting terms I did NOT use (I dislike, for example, the term “activist judges” – which has been so misused as to be nearly meaningless.  I’ve stated repeatedly that my standard is judges who uphold and apply the law, as written – Noreen’s earlier use of another term, constructionist, is more accurate).  Why use the term ‘activist?’  Simple – because it is emotionally charged and vague, and can be used to muddy the waters.

Noreen then goes off on a partisan rant (while hypocritically mixing a constitutional issue with a partisan one) in attacking my critique of the court’s ruling in the Salazar v. Davidsion case, in which the Colorado Supreme Court usurped the power of the legislative branch in order to impose it’s own preferred redistricting plan.  Noreen applauds the Colorado Supreme Court for “throwing out the brazenly political re-drawing of political districts in 2003, which the GOP rammed through in the last three days of the legislative session” (conveniently forgetting that the GOP plan was revising a blatantly political Democrat plan imposed by a Denver judge as an interim measure in the previous session).  Newsflash: legislative redistricting is frequently “brazenly political.”  The difference is that in 2003, the Colorado Supreme Court was not only “brazenly political” itself, but acted unconstitutionally in doing so, since the Colorado Constitution (Article V, Section 44) reserves the power of Congressional redistricting exclusively to the General Assembly.

Sorry, Barry – it ain’t about partisanship; it’s about the Constitution (and the proper role of judges in upholding the law, not re-writing it).

On Monday, Colorado Public Radio aired a discussion on judicial retention elections in Colorado, featuring Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold, on the Colorado Matters show (“Judges on the Ballot“) which was excerpted on the news segment at 7:50 AM and aired in full at 10AM and 7PM.

On Tuesday, Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold taped an upcoming appearance on Your Show with Adam Schrager (airing this coming Sunday, Channel 9, at 10:30 AM) with surprise guest former Colorado Supreme Court justice Jean Dubofsky defending judicial incumbents and promoting the judicial performance “review” process on behalf of the Colorado Judiciary Project (another well-funded legal establishment special-interest group started by Democrat Party lawyer Mark Grueskin).

Rounding out the past week, the Wednesday Denver Post published an excellent editorial by the always insightful Vincent Carroll representing the Post’s published viewpoint on the Colorado Supreme Court judicial retention votes on the November ballot (the full editorial board declined to interview me, as they have with other statewide candidates and issues – perhaps they were afraid I’d stink up the joint.  Sacre bleu!).  Carroll’s editorial (“No clean sweep of justices“) disagrees with CTBC’s conclusions and recommendations on Justice Rice (a case of reasonable people in mild disagreement, I’d say) but endorses CTBC’s “compelling indictment of Michael Bender and Alex Martinez” and complimented the level of analysis & information provided in our Evaluations of Judicial Performance and other articles:

In every election, voters go to the polls with virtually no knowledge of the judges up for retention – thanks to the nearly useless evaluations issued by the state’s judicial performance commission. So voters do owe Clear the Bench Colorado their thanks for actually offering substantive analysis.

I’ll take that as an endorsement – now, if they’d only include the website link…

As a Citizen, you DO have the right to vote “NO” on these incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices as they seek an additional 10-year term this November.  Clear The Bench Colorado urges all Colorado citizens to become informed about how the Colorado Supreme Court has aided and abetted assaults on their rights (and wallets!) with a consistent pattern of not following the Constitution where it doesn’t agree with their own personal agenda – and drawing the necessary and logical conclusions.

Exercise your right to vote – and this year, don’t forget the incumbent judges down the ballot

Week(end) News in Review: Clear The Bench Colorado, judicial “merit” selection & retention nationwide and “CEW round two”

Media coverage of Clear The Bench Colorado, the Colorado Supreme Court, and the issue of “merit” selection & retention of judges nationwide came in a veritable torrent over the weekend, instead of trickling in over the course of a week…

Leading off the weekend’s coverage of Clear The Bench Colorado was, somewhat surprisingly, the New York Times lead editorial (by none other than NYT publisher A. G. Sulzberger himself!) online on Friday 24 September and again on page A1 of the Saturday 25 September print edition.  The editorial (“Voters Moving to Oust Judges Over Decisions“) noted:

Around the country, judicial elections that were designed to be as apolitical as possible are suddenly as contentious as any another race.

Among the three “judicial elections” profiled in the piece discussing the “merit selection system” (which Sulzberger appears to uncritically support, despite concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability in the process as it has been implemented in several states, especially Colorado):

…a conservative group called Clear the Bench Colorado is citing a host of decisions in seeking to oust the full slate of justices on the ballot there, urging voters, “Be a citizen, not a subject.”

Sulzberger bemoans the “the amount of money spent on retention elections this year” upsetting “previously quiet judicial elections” around the country.  Rather than applaud the increase in transparency and accountability now being applied to an increasingly active and powerful one-third of our government, and the exercise by citizens in many states of their constitutional right to hold incumbent government officials accountable, Sulzberger quotes an academic who maintains that the retention vote was only “meant as an extreme measure.”

However, a leader of the movement to oust Iowa justices on the ballot this year (coincidentally, also three) ably summed up the mood and motivation of the nationwide judicial accountability movement:

“It sends a powerful message,” he said, “That if justices go outside the bounds of their oaths, if the justices go outside the bounds of the U.S. and state constitutions they’re going to be held accountable.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

The weekend news on the judicial (non)retention front was dominated by the stunning Friday afternoon announcement by the administrative law judge (technically, an appointed executive branch employee) hearing the series of “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) attacks on Clear The Bench Colorado that the rules under which we have operated for over a year now have to be changed.

The judge’s ruling – contrary to over a year of established practice, “reams of documentary evidence” and the testimony of the office of Secretary of State Elections Division director that Clear The Bench Colorado properly filed as an “Issue Committee” – decreed that, although we properly acted on guidance issued by the Secretary of State’s office, CTBC must RE-file as a “political committee.”  Kinda late in the game for a complete rules change, wouldn’t ya think?

The ruling can be read as an attachment to the article by Law Week Colorado (“Clear The Bench Colorado Subject To Contribution Limits, Judge Decides“), one of the first to go to press on the issue.

Around the state, the story was also covered by:

Nationally, the story was picked up by:

… and that’s just on Friday!

On Saturday, some news outlets expanded their coverage, including this piece by the Colorado Independent (“Gessler shocked by Clear the Bench campaign finance smackdown“) which, despite the overwrought and hyperbolic title, actually provides some insight into the case and background on the overall issues at stake.

A more sleepy (or sports-obsessed) Sunday saw one additional article:

On Monday, the coverage ramped up again, with new and expanded articles:

Curiously, despite ALL of the coverage – in print, online, on the air – statewide and nationally, Colorado’s “newspaper of record” (the Denver Post) spilled not one drop of ink covering the story.  (Perhaps they were distracted by noise from the loud and raucous celebrations upstairs by their $1.6 Million/year renters when the Colorado Supreme Court ‘unjust justices’ heard the news from real journalists).

Fortunately – despite setting a terrible precedent, and ensuring that the “big money” in judicial retention elections will continue to be non-transparent and unaccountable (such as the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands spent already by legal establishment special-interest groups promoting a “retain” campaign for judicial incumbents) – the ruling has little effect on the ongoing activities of the state’s only grassroots judicial accountability organization, Clear The Bench Colorado.

Clear The Bench Colorado has been consistently open, honest, and above-board in educating the public, and has scrupulously followed the rules under Colorado campaign finance law for over a year.  In a campaign that has been conspicuous for its LACK of big-money interests and “large contributions” (Toro is whining about two – TWO! – contributions exceeding $500), CTBC has acted with complete transparency and absolute accountability to educate voters as to their right to hold judicial incumbents accountable for their performance in office, and to shed light on the records of judicial incumbents at the highest levels – providing substantive information on which voters can base an informed decision.

The legal establishment and the political ruling class don’t want you to get informed; they prefer to keep you in the dark, or failing that, convince you NOT to 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, and 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.”  Continue to support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

Media Week in Review: Clear The Bench Colorado, judicial merit selection/retention, & the Colorado Supreme Court in the news

Scouring the ‘net for news – so you don’t have to…

Wrapping up the previous week’s news coverage, the Greeley Gazette published a thoughtful and informative article (“Organization Calls for Non-Retention of Three Colorado Justices“, Friday 10 September 2010) discussing how the Colorado Supreme Court’s Mullarkey Majority (incumbent justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, and Nancy Rice – the “Three Colorado Justices” seeking another 10-year term on the November ballot – plus outgoing Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, who is resigning rather than be held accountable by Colorado voters)

circumvented the Colorado Constitution on several occasions and should not be retained.

The article describes the key cases in which the Colorado Supreme Court ruled contrary to the clear letter of the Colorado Constitution and violated the rights of Colorado Citizens over the last decade (which is the current term of the incumbent justices appearing on the November ballot).

The Colorado Statesman also published an article Friday (“Ritter picks Marquez for state Supreme Court“) that highlighted concerns about how Marquez’ background might influence her rulings as a supreme court justice:

Many of the positions taken by Marquez on constitutional issues raise concerns about how she might rule from the Colorado Supreme Court bench, Arnold said.

“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,” Arnold said.

A Denver Post commentary published in the days immediately following Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey’s announcement of her intent to resign (“Mullarkey’s Troubling Legacy“, Denver Post opinion 5 June 2010) made similar points, but unfortunately neglected to mention that Mullarkey didn’t perpetrate these constitutional crimes on her own, but was aided and abetted in these misdeeds by three accomplices who are appearing on the ballot this November).

Instead, the Denver Post editorial board chose to commemorate 9/11 by calling a military veteran a “skunk” for daring to express concerns (based on a career background of advocacy and a lack of judicial experience) about Governor Ritter’s pick for Mullarkey’s replacement while failing to mention her (Marquez) role in these cases.

Clear The Bench Colorado started off the week last Sunday evening (9/12) with an in-studio appearance on Backbone Radio to discuss the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado’s “merit selection & retention” system of nominating and evaluating judges, and Governor Ritter’s recently announced pick to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mullarkey, who is resigning rather than be held accountable by Colorado voters.  Producer Josh Sharf also had fun with bumper clips parodying the previous day’s (9/11) Denver Post editorial calling Clear The Bench Colorado Director (and decorated military veteran) Matt Arnold a “skunk” (in what was either a childish cheap shot or “epic fail” attempt at humor):

“Yet there always has to be a skunk at the garden party, and this time the role of Pepe Le Pew was played by Matt Arnold of Clear the Bench Colorado, a group that wants voters to oust all of the justices who are up for retention this year.”

Backbone Radio host Ross Kaminsky had also blogged on the subject of Governor Ritter’s pick politicizing the judicial system on Saturday as well.

A week full of public speaking appearances started off strong when Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold kicked off the week as the lead-off speaker at the “We ARE The People” rally at the Denver Capitol on Monday.  Matt received some of the most thunderous applause of the day (a late-arriving attendee said that it was loud and clear for several blocks) as he reminded the crowd about the serial transgressions of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority” against the Colorado Constitution (leading to the “Mill Levy Tax Freeze” property tax increase, the “Dirty Dozen” tax increases and of course the Colorado Car Tax (er, “vehicle registration fee”) increase) and our opportunity to remove the remaining three ‘unjust justices’ at the ballot box in November.  Curiously, despite the fact that the rally was just up the street from the Denver Post building (and well within auditory range), the Post published nary a word about the rally and the challenge to the Colorado Supreme Court incumbents (apparently $1.6 Million a year is a lot of hush money).  The Denver Daily News ran the story on their front page (along with a nice pic) the next day (“Liberty Groups Seek Unity“):

Clear the Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold speaks at the liberty groups’ “We Are the People” rally yesterday at the State Capitol. Photo by Jamie Cotton, Law Week Colorado.

Clear the Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold speaks at the liberty groups’ “We Are the People” rally yesterday at the State Capitol. Photo by Jamie Cotton, Law Week Colorado.

The speech was covered by State Bill Colorado (“Broomfield 9/12 Rally Taking Place At Colo. Capitol“):

Prominent at the rally are members of Clear The Bench Colorado, a political group hoping to win voter non-retention of three Supreme Court justices in the November election.

but not a peep from the Post (Colorado’s “newspaper of record”).

The big news (and time sink) for Clear The Bench Colorado came midweek with the “clash in the courtroom” on Wednesday: CEW Round Two.  “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) had their day in court (again) attacking the right of Clear The Bench Colorado to oppose the incumbent Colorado Supreme Court ‘unjust justices’ appearing on the November ballot.  Although the judge did not immediately grant our motion to dismiss the attack, CEW’s case later came completely unraveled when the State Elections Director (from the office of the Colorado Secretary of State) stated unequivocally that it was the considered opinion of the Secretary of State’s office – following several internal policy meetings and much discussion – that Clear The Bench Colorado is properly categorized as an “Issue Committee” (which CEW is challenging).  Further, he stated that it was an almost unanimous opinion shared up to and including the highest levels.  He further stated that although the office does not provide legal advice, it “provides guidance all the time” – and that people are reasonably expected to rely on the guidance issued (in whatever form – verbal, written, publicized, or otherwise) by the Secretary of State’s office.

One could have heard a pin drop in the courtroom after those statements – CEW was flat on the mat.

Law Week Colorado covered the early part of the hearing (before the Secretary of State office’s bombshell), providing an overview and background on the case (“Clear The Bench Colorado Hearing Going On Today“), which was also picked up by the Huffington Post (the HuffPo has been tracking Clear The Bench Colorado with a unique “tag” for about a year now).  “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) attempted (desperately) to put their own spin on the hearing later (“Ethics Watch’s Fight Against Big Money In Judicial Elections Goes To Court“) – which is completely laughable, given the “big money” funding CEW, the “big money” funding the “Grueskin group” opposing Clear The Bench Colorado, the “big money” behind the “education” campaign by a coalition of legal-establishment special-interest groups propping up incumbent judges and justices, the “big money” (YOUR taxpayer dollars at work, by the way) funding the whitewash “evaluations” perpetrated by the “judicial performance evaluation commissions” (recommending a “retain” vote EVERY time – 100% – for supreme court justices in the decades-long history of the commissions), etc. etc.  The “Big Money” is already in judicial politics – just all on the side of the incumbents. (Stay tuned for more on that topic…)

Later that evening, at a Liberty On The Rocks gathering featuring Denver Post Editorial Board member Chuck Plunkett, friends of Clear The Bench Colorado (I was unable to attend in person) presented him with an autographed picture of Pepe Le Pew (suitable for framing).  Chuck took it in good humor:

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Oh, so calling a veteran a “skunk” on 9/11 was a formatting issue…

Still awaiting the Denver Post Editorial Board invitation to discuss the Colorado Supreme Court retention elections (the MOST important issue on this year’s ballot) that they’ve offered to every other statewide race or ballot question…

Meanwhile, across the country, the issue of judicial retention elections is gaining serious attention.  The National Law Journal ran two pieces in the space of a week (first, a September 6th guest commentary, “Is justice for sale?” and a September 13th report “Battlegrounds” – the latter unfortunately restricted to subscribers only), both mentioning Clear The Bench Colorado.  From the former article:

Bread-and-butter economic issues are also fueling attacks on judges. A group called Clear the Bench Colorado is attacking four justices it accuses of using underhanded tactics to ratify higher taxes.

The latter article also characterized Clear The Bench Colorado as an “anti-tax group” despite an extensive interview and follow-up message describing the entire range of constitutional transgressions perpetrated by the court:

In Colorado, an anti-tax group has started a campaign called “Clear the Bench” in an effort to defeat incumbent justices.

Characterizing critiques of judicial performance as “attacks on judges” and narrowing the basis for the critiques as “anti-tax” fits the narrative perpetrated by the legal establishment, but not the facts.  Citizens are becoming increasingly fed up with politicized courts refusing to uphold their constitutional rights and the rule of law – and are demanding accountability across the country.

Seeing their dominance of the courts threatened, the “progressive” legal establishment is conducting a media “blitz” to convince voters that they should not exercise their right to hold judges (and, especially, state supreme court justices) accountable by the only means available: the ballot box.  The New York Times recently editorialized (“Fair Courts At Risk“, NYT 9/9/2010) against electoral accountability for judges; the Huffington Post chimed in a few days later (13 Sep 2010) with commentary advancing a similar agenda (“Elected Justice“).  Both articles (and similar pieces) parroted talking points released by the George-Soros funded “Justice At Stake Campaign” (another big-money group which is attempting to erode public accountability for the judicial branch nationwide).

The legal establishment and the political ruling class don’t want you to get informed; they prefer to keep you in the dark, or failing that, convince you NOT to 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, and 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.”  Continue to support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and contributions – and vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!