08 August 2006

All Judges Earn Retain Recommendation

All 106 judges facing retention this year received a "retain" recommendation to voters from the relevant commissions on judicial performance, although in eight cases there was some dissent. Retention votes will take place at the November general election.

Court of Appeals Judge José D. L. Márquez won a retain recommendation by a mere 6-4 vote of the 10 person judicial performance panel because "several commissioners were disappointed with the variable quality of some of his opinions and sporadic departures from controlling law, especially given the length of time he has been on the bench."

Colorado's merit system.

In Colorado, we have, since 1966, used a system commonly know as the Missouri plan, where it was invented, to select and retain judges. Judges are appointed (by the Governor, except for Denver judges who are appointed by the Mayor of Denver) from lists drawn up by a blue ribbon commission.

After two years in office, and again after each term in office (4 years in county court, 6 years in district court, 8 years in the court of appeals and 10 years in the state supreme court), judges are placed on the ballot for a retention election. Mandatory retirement is at age 72.

Commissions on Judical Performance (different from the nominating commissions) provide voters with a retain, do not retain, or no opinion recommendation for each judge facing a retention election, and voters can vote to retain or not retain a judge. If a majority of citizens at the polls vote to not retain, the seat is vacant. If a majority vote to retain, the judge stays in office. Six judges, all trial judges immersed in some form of controversy or another, have not been retained in the past forty years, during which more than 700 retention elections have been held.

Trial Court Judge Evaluations

Most trial court judges received unanimous recommendations for retention. A few, however, received recommendations with some dissent. The concerns expressed about each of the judges for whom some dissent was expressed by a commission member are set forth below.


In Jefferson County, one commission member dissented from a retain recommendation for District Court Judge Munch because " the judge seemed too concerned with moving the business of court along at a brisk pace, rather than giving adequate time for all people to be heard completely on their day in court."


A dissent was cast in the case of El Paso County Judge Iuppa as well. In that case the commission noted that: "Many survey responses from attorneys noted Judge Iuppa was moody and rude at times. These concerns regarding his demeanor were evident in the 2002 survey."


District Judge Julie G. Marshall, who serves Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, and Park counties, won her retain recommendation by a 5-2 vote. In that case:

The Commission has concerns over Judge Marshall’s administrative and oral communication abilities. Judge Marshall makes efforts to address issues called to her attention. However, it appears that Judge Marshall may minimize or fail to recognize the extent to which she may have control over correcting these issues.


Logan County Judge Judge Robert B. Smith also received two dissenting votes.

The area where he scored the lowest on both surveys was his courtroom demeanor. . . .
Of the attorneys responding to the questionnaires, 36% recommended not retaining Judge Smith while 63% recommended retaining Judge Smith. Of the non-attorneys, 79% recommended that Judge Smith be retained, and 21% recommended non-retention.


Another judge who received two "no opinion votes" was Douglas County Judge Michelle Ann Marker:

Of those attorneys surveyed 57% felt Judge Marker should be retained while 88% of non-attorneys felt that she should be retained.

The Commission is urging Judge Marker to undertake a series of steps designed to help her complete the transition from a District Attorney to a fair and impartial judge, including mentoring with more experienced judges and classes in judicial demeanor.

Her support from the practicing bar was among the lowest in the state.


One commission member expressed no opinion about District Judge Carol Glowinsky in Boulder. It noted that:

Glowinsky had one of the highest survey retention results the Commission has seen over the past decade and even improved over her excellent survey results in 2000 when the Commission voted to unanimously recommend retention. Attorney survey results and two Commission Members had some concerns regarding bias toward the defense and leniency in sentencing. Non-attorney survey results and the other Commission Members did not share these concerns. Comments from the survey and public input noted relative weaknesses related to case management issues and Judge Glowinsky acknowledged that she could improve in this area. One Commission Member felt very strongly that Judge Glowinsky, at times, does not follow the law, but clouds her decisions with interpretations.


Boulder County Judge Blum was recommended for retention by only a 6-3 vote, the second closest vote of all judges facing retention elections this year.

The Commission is very concerned by the survey responses about Judge Blum’s courtroom manner. The attorneys indicated that Judge Blum does not manage the courtroom in a way that establishes neutrality, and he does not appear to be neutral himself. They also indicated that he is not respectful or polite to the people appearing before him and can be condescending. . . . Judge Blum also appears to some of the attorneys surveyed to be unwilling to consider errors of fact and law in matters before him. . . . Survey results indicated that 56% of attorneys and 75% of non-attorneys recommended “strongly” or “somewhat” that Judge Blum be retained.
None of the other 106 judges considered statewide this year had less support from the practicing bar.

Of attorneys surveyed 73% felt that Blum had a prosecution bias (far in excess of the state average of 44%), and 71% felt that his sentences were harsh (compared to a statewide average of 35%). About 25% rated him in the highest category for the harshness of his sentences compared to an average of 2% for judges statewide.

Cross Posted at Colorado Confidential.

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