Home Judicial Performance Evaluations 1996 Full List Judge Nelson

Eighth Judicial District - Larimer County Judge

Honorable Don L. Nelson

Retention year: 1996
Recommendation: Retain

The Commission on Judicial Performance recommends Judge Nelson BE RETAINED.

The Honorable Judge Nelson was appointed to the Larimer County Court bench in 1978. Prior to that time, he practiced law in the Fort Collins/Loveland community since 1967. His court handles civil proceedings under $10,000, traffic violations and misdemeanors. Prior to his appointment to the bench, he was a general practitioner and active in community affairs. He had previous service as a Deputy District Attorney. After appointment he remained active with the American Bar Association as an instructor in legal education programs through 1986. He remains on the faculty of the National Judicial College. He was retained by voters in his judicial office in 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992.

Randomly solicited evaluations from 35 attorneys gave Judge Nelson a 97.2% overall rating with a 100% rating for displaying a sense of justice, appropriate demeanor, maintaining control in the courtroom, courteousness, compassion, and fair sentencing. The sixteen courthouse personnel evaluations were less favorable. Their retention rating was only 52.9%. The eight respondents from law enforcement responded unanimously against retention. Randomly selected evaluations from five litigants showed a 60% retention vote, 20% no opinion, and 20% against retention vote. From that litigant group, Judge Nelson receives 100% ratings in freedom form impartiality, equal treatment based upon race and sex, patience; plus 75% ratings for clear communications, instilling public confidence, courteousness, courtroom control, and punctuality. 32 responding jurors evaluated Judge Nelson with a 93.8% retention approval and a 100% rating in all categories.

In 1995, Judge Nelson had 6,426 cases assigned to his courtroom. 59% of the cases were traffic matters. 19% were misdemeanors and 22% were civil matters. There were only 11 appeals taken from Judge Nelson’s courtroom during the past three years. Judge Nelson’s decision was approved in six of the cases and reversed or changed in two of the cases. One case was dismissed without a review and two cases remain pending.

The Judicial Performance Commission is not permitted to know the source or cause of the negative ratings by court personnel and law enforcement. The Commission has no investigative power. Survey results are screened by an independent agency to afford confidentiality to those submitting evaluations.

Written comments submitted about Judge Nelson summarize the Commissions feelings. One writer said, “Judge Nelson is a balanced, competent and reflective judicial officer.”