Letter: Jalbert, Know your judge, vote your judge
October 31, 2016
Know your judge, vote your judge
In October 2015, I was appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper to serve on our Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission with a four-year term. The judicial appointment and retention process in Colorado is one of the best merit based systems in the country. Colorado’s merit based system has been around for about 50 years. We differ from many other states that have direct elections of judges, which opens the judicial system to corruption and influence of big money in politics. We see this played out in legislative, congressional and presidential elections. In states without the merit system, judicial decisions can essentially be bought and sold. Colorado county, district and appellate judges are appointed by the Governor based on bi-partisan nominating committees, which use a merit based process to recommend three names for each open judgeship, from which the Governor makes an appointment. Periodically, judges are required to stand for retention elections, such as this November 2016. Voters decide whether each judge should stay on the bench or be removed. To help Colorado voters make informed decisions, the state Judicial Performance Commission and JPCs in the 22 judicial districts, conduct a very concentrated, thorough evaluation process of every judge standing for retention. This evaluation involves extensive surveying of attorneys, jurors, court staff, other judges, civil litigants and others crossing the threshold of the Court, who can provide direct input on a judge’s performance. We also engage in courtroom observations; review of authored opinions; interviews of the each judge; and other input from the public about a judge’s performance. A report is then generated by each Commission for each retention judge and provided to voters through the Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation web site and the Colorado Legislative Council’s “Blue Book,” which is mailed to all voters and is available online. This report identifies each judge’s strengths and weaknesses and makes a recommendation to voters on whether to retain (keep a judge on the bench) or not retain that judge. With these documents, Colorado voters have direct, informed decision-making authority about our judges. Know your judge. Vote your judge. For more details and to read the analysis of each judge’s evaluation, please see: http://www.coloradojudicialperformance.gov/
Susanne E. Jalbert, Ph.D.