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There are 23 judicial performance commissions serving the State of Colorado: one State Commission and 22 District Commissions.  The State Commission is comprised of eleven volunteer citizen commissioners: six non-attorneys and five attorneys.  The State Commission evaluates the performance of Supreme Court Justices and Court of Appeals Judges.  Each District Commission consists of ten volunteer citizen commissioners: six non-attorneys and four attorneys.  The District Commissions evaluate District Court and County Court Judges.

 

Commissioners are appointed from one of six appointing authorities: The Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, the Governor of Colorado, the Colorado Speaker of the House, the Colorado President of the Senate, the House Minority Leader, and the Senate Minority Leader.  The Chief Justice appoints two attorneys to the State and District Commissions.  The Governor appoints one attorney and two non-attorneys to the State Commission, and two non-attorneys to the District Commissions.  The Speaker of the House and President of the Senate appoint one attorney and one non-attorney to the State and District Commissions.  The House Minority Leader and Senate Minority Leader each appoint one non-attorney to the State and District Commissions.

 

Commissioners are appointed to four-year terms.  Commissioners can serve up to two terms, not to exceed eight years.   The work of commissioners varies by district and the number of judges who are being evaluated.  Commissioners evaluate judges during two different cycles: retention and interim.  During a retention cycle, commissioners begin their work in January and finish by the end of July.   During that time each commissioner will complete training, review the results of judicial performance surveys, read opinions and decisions authored by the judges they are evaluating (3 – 5 decisions for each judge), conduct courtroom observations, and attend commission meetings.  Most commission meetings are at a local courthouse and are conducted over the noon hour, early evenings or occasionally on a Saturday.  Commissions meet to conduct interviews of judges and other interested parties, hear from the Chief Judge of the District and to finalize their evaluation narratives.  The biggest time commitment for these meetings is in conducting interviews with the judges being evaluated.  Much of the commission’s work can be done independently and at times that fit into an individual’s schedule. Courtroom observations can be a significant time commitment, require transportation to the various court locations in the district and must be done during normal business hours. Commissioners are required to conduct courtroom observations and ensure each judge being evaluated receives “adequate observation.” This means the commission can divide up who will observe each judge amongst the commissioners. Observations should be for at least a couple of hours, and perhaps over a couple of different days.  Ideally all commissioners would observe each judge being evaluated but that isn’t always possible when the number of judges being evaluated increases. The other independent responsibilities include reviewing submitted decisions, reading comments submitted by interested parties, reviewing the judge’s self-evaluation, and completing an evaluation scorecard/matrix for each judge.  Finally, each commissioner must decide if they find a judge “meets performance standards” or “does not meet performance standards.”  The entire commission then must agree on the evaluation narrative to be published. Typically, one or two members draft an initial narrative (500 words) and then submit to the commission for editing and approval. The final step allows the judge to comment/suggest changes or ask the commission for a second interview.  The commission may change their narrative based on the comments or second interview. Once the narrative is finalized and submitted to the Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation their work is done.

 

Interim evaluations are conducted during non-retention years. They have similar requirements but are conducted between March and July.  The final narrative is provided to the judge and the Chief Judge but is not made public until the next time the judge is up for retention.  The main purpose of the interim evaluation is to provide performance feedback and make suggestions for performance improvement. The Commission will determine whether a judge “meets performance standards” or “does not meet performance standards.” In the case where a judge “does not meet performance standards” the commission will recommend a judge participate in a “performance improvement plan” and provide information supporting why they feel a judge is not meeting performance standards.  The performance improvement plan will be developed by the Chief Judge.  During the next retention evaluation cycle commissioners will determine if a judge on a performance plan complied with the plan and improved their performance.  If not, the commission must find the judge “does not meet performance standards” in their narrative.

 

For more information go to www.ojpe.org

 

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