Home Judicial Performance Evaluations 1996 Full List Judge Hufnagel

Second Judicial District - District Judge

Honorable Lynne M. Hufnagel

Retention year: 1996
Recommendation: Do Not Retain

The Judicial Performance Commission of the Second Judicial District recommends a DO NOT RETAIN vote for Judge Hufnagel.

Judge Hufnagel graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, California in 1966 with a major in Comparative Literature and received her law degree with honors from the University of Denver in 1971.

After graduating from law school Judge Hufnagel was a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society in Denver.  After a short time as a juvenile court referee in Colorado Springs, Judge Hufnagel works at the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office through 1979. She spent the year 1980 as a grant administrator for the Colorado Department of Institutions and during 1981 she was a lobbyist, conference coordinator and consultant. She was appointed to the Denver District Court on November 2, 1981. She is currently assigned to a criminal courtroom, with an annual docket load of 500 new cases a year. There are about 20 trials a year. Since 1981 Judge Hufnagel has been assigned to civil, domestic and criminal courtrooms on a rotating basis.

Attorneys, courthouse personnel and jurors were surveyed by written questionnaire.  Courthouse personnel responses included 60.6% favoring retention; 18.6% not favoring retention; and 20.9% with no opinion regarding retention, with a response rate of 24.7%. Jurors responded with 94.2% favoring retention, 1.9% do not retain, and 3.8% with no opinion, with a response rate of 45.2%.

Written attorney survey results were not considered due to a possible sampling error.  A supplemental attorney interview process was conducted by a statistician at the request of the Commission.  Randomly selected attorneys who have appeared in front of Judge Hufnagel were contacted, made up of equal numbers of district attorneys, deputy state public defenders and private attorneys. With a response rate of 100%, results showed that only 46.7% of the attorneys surveyed favored retention of Judge Hufnagel, and 52.3% stated she should not be retained.

The Commission considered comprehensive information concerning Judge Hufnagel, including her 1990 publically published profile; courtroom observation; interviews of Judge Hugnagel conducted on April 20, August 8 and August 28; a self-evaluation and supplemental self-evaluation filled out by Judge Hufnagel; and verbatim commentary attached to the supplemental attorney interviews. Judge Hufnagel added that she teaches each year at the National Judicial College.  She is currently the president of the Colorado Trial Judges Council.

Judge Hufnagel was evaluated by the Judicial Performance commission in its first year of operation in 1990.  According to the narrative profile published that year, Judge Hufnagel received relatively low ratings in areas of judicial performance “such as showing favoritism, prejudging, courtesy, compassion, and other characteristics relating to judicial decorum.” Judge Hufnagel admitted in 1990 that she was “arrogant, discourteous, impatient and otherwise lacking in judicial temperament” on the bench. She promised the Judicial Performance commission in 1990 that she is “committed to working on these problems.” The 1990 Judicial Performance Commission found that overall Judge Hufnagel “received a fairly low percentage vote favoring her retention.”

Information presently before the Commission establishes that Judge Hufnagel is seriously deficient in important areas of judicial performance and has not improved in these areas at all, notwithstanding her promise to the 1990 Commission. For example, more than half of the courthouse personnel surveyed (51.4%) stated Judge Hufnagel is not courteous, and more than 30% found inappropriate demeanor and failure to display compassion. Of the attorneys randomly interviewed, which included a cross section of attorneys appearing before Judge Hufnagel, only 46.7% stated she displays a sense of justice and only 33.3% stated her demeanor was appropriate for the bench. Only 33.3% found her courteous.  Only 53.3% found that she displays compassion, and most significantly, only 46.7% of attorneys interviewed state that Judge Hufnagel should be retained as a district judge.  All attorneys questioned rated her highly on her knowledge of the law and evidence and promptness and clarity of written decisions. She also received high rating on her equal treatment of all parties, and in deciding cases without regard to public influence.

In order to promptly discharge the duties of a district judge, a judge must be clearly, consistently and unequivocally demonstrate a fair sense of justice, appropriate demeanor, courteousness, compassion and overall fairness. Judge Hufnagel’s adequate or better than adequate performance in some categories (such as treating all parties equally; displaying a knowledge of the law, evidence and procedure; clear oral and written decisions; working diligently; promptness in ruling and decisions; and punctual proceedings) does not outweigh, nor compensate for serious deficits in these other areas.

Judge Hufnagel received a favorable retention recommendation in 1990 after assuring the Commission that she was aware of these problems and was committed to resolving them. The Commission believed that such efforts should have been undertaken in 1990, but according t the information before the Commission, they were not.  The information reviewed by the Commission in 1996 confirms that the serious deficiencies recognized in 1990 remain, there has been no improvement, and the deficiencies are serious.

In comparing this information with the publically published profiles of other Denver district judges from 1990 through 1994, we find that Judge Hufnagel’s deficiencies in the above areas are far below any reasonable norm that should be expected of a district judge. As a result of the long-standing pattern of deficient performance in those areas, and failure to correct the problems after recognizing them and promising to correct them in 1990, the Commission must conclude that the judicial performance of Judge Hufnagel does not justify retention. It is therefore the recommendation of the Judicial Performance Commission of the Second Judicial District that Judge Hufnagel not be retained as district judge.