Commissions on Judicial Performance
Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center
Kent Wagner, Executive Director
Daniel Sosa, Program Analyst
Commissions on Judicial Performance were created in 1988 by the Colorado General Assembly to provide fair, responsible and constructive evaluations of trial and appellate judges and justices. The evaluations enable voters to make informed decisions in judicial retention elections, and also provide judges with information that can be used to improve their professional skills.
The State Commission on Judicial Performance developed evaluation techniques for district and county judges, justices of the Supreme Court, and judges of the court of appeals. According to statute, those criteria include the following: integrity; legal knowledge; communication skills; judicial temperament; administrative performance; and service to the legal profession and the public.
Local district commissions review the district and county judges in their respective districts. The trial judges’ evaluations are developed through survey questionnaires completed by a random sample of persons who have appeared in court before the judge: attorneys (including prosecutors, public defenders, and private attorneys), jurors, litigants, law enforcement personnel, employees of the court, court interpreters, employees of probation offices, employees of local departments of social services, victims of crime, and appellate judges. In addition, commissions consider a self-evaluation completed by the judge, courtroom observations, review of decisions, review of judge statistics such as relevant docket and sentencing statistics, and a personal interview with the judge. The State Commission reviews the supreme court justices and court of appeals judges. The evaluation of the justices of the Colorado Supreme Court and the judges of the Colorado Court of Appeals is the product of survey results from attorneys (including prosecutors, public defenders, and private attorneys), employees of the court (including law clerks and staff attorneys), other appellate judges, and district judges; a self-evaluation completed by the justice or judge, courtroom observations, review of opinions, review of judge statistics, and a personal interview with the justice or judge.
Each evaluation includes a narrative with the recommendation stated as "retain," "do not retain," or "no opinion."
The Chief Justice, the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House appoint state and local commission members to four-year terms. Each commission is a ten-member body comprised of four attorneys and six non-attorneys.
As a result of the efforts of the state and district commissions and the important backing of the Colorado legislature, the Colorado Judicial Performance Program is nationally recognized as a model for other states, with similar judicial models to follow.