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Twentieth Judicial District - District Judge

2008 Retention Survey Report

Honorable James C. Klein

Retention year: 2008
Recommendation: Retain

The Twentieth Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance unanimously recommends that Judge James C. Klein BE RETAINED.

Background:  Judge Klein was appointed to the District Court in 2005.  Before his appointment, Judge Klein was an Administrative Law Judge, an Assistant Attorney General, and a private practitioner.  He received his law degree from the University of Denver in 1987.  The Commission reviewed the results of surveys of lawyers, non-lawyers and appellate judges who were familiar with Judge Klein’s work, held a public hearing to solicit comments, interviewed the Judge and reviewed three of his written opinions.  In addition, every Commission member observed Judge Klein in court.

Evaluation:  Judge Klein is committed to the job.  He has a strong desire to make the system work properly, and is committed to helping litigants without lawyers navigate the system.  He believes that his role is to apply the law to the facts that are presented to him and to avoid legislating from the bench.  He tries to balance the demands of a large caseload with the need to give each case individual attention. He recognizes that, because he is new to the bench, there is a lot he still needs to learn.  It is expected that his performance will improve as he gains more experience on the bench. Judge Klein’s weakness is his lack of knowledge of some areas of law and procedure.  This weakness is reflected in the survey results, and Judge Klein is aware of it.  Judge Klein had not dealt with criminal or domestic relations matters before taking the bench in 2005.  Judge Klein acknowledged that he is still learning a great deal in certain areas of law, particularly criminal law and procedure, and expressed a willingness to continue this process.  The Commission believes that Judge Klein needs to be more proactive in this learning process, to consult with colleagues, to attend educational programs, and to take advantage of other educational opportunities.

Judge Klein presided over a highly publicized adverse possession case.  The Commission notes that this is only one of over one thousand cases handled by Judge Klein over the past three years.  The Commission reviewed Judge Klein’s rulings in the case. Judge Klein listened to the testimony presented, visited the site twice, and wrote clear and articulate rulings.  Without offering any opinion on the merits of the decision, or whether the decision will be upheld by the appellate court, it is the opinion of the Commission that Judge Klein followed appropriate procedures. Disagreement with the result should not be expressed as unhappiness with Judge Klein’s performance.

Recommendations:  Statistics show that Judge Klein runs his caseload efficiently. Judge Klein received strong support from both lawyers and non-lawyers: of those who stated an opinion, 87% of the non-lawyers and 92% of the lawyers recommended that he be retained.  The appellate court judges who rated Judge Klein gave him an average grade of “B,” slightly below the overall average for District Court Judges of “B+.”