Election Guide: Judge retention recommendations

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Election 2010

Visit www.steamboatpilot.com/election20010 for complete coverage of this year's races and issues.

Evaluation process

— Every year, the Colorado Commissions on Judicial Performance evaluate district and county judges, Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges on criteria including integrity, legal knowledge, communication skills, judicial temperament, administrative performance and service to the legal profession and the public, according to the website of the Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation.

Local district commissions review district and county judges in their respective districts. The survey questionnaires are completed by attorneys, jurors, litigants, law enforcement personnel, court employees, interpreters, probation office employees and crime victims, among others. The commissions also conduct courtroom observations, review the judge’s decisions and interview the judges.

Below are the commission recommendations for the judges on this year’s ballot.

Supreme Court justices

■ Michael Bender

The State Commission on Judicial Performance recommends by a vote of 7-1 that Justice Michael L. Bender be retained. Two commissioners recused themselves.

“Attorneys who responded to survey questions indicate that, compared to the other justices, Justice Bender’s performance is somewhat stronger in the areas of making decisions without regard to possible criticism, writing opinions that are clear, and refraining from deciding issues that need not be decided. Several attorney comments reflected concern that Justice Bender’s opinions are result oriented. The judges surveyed indicate that Justice Bender’s performance is somewhat weaker for refraining from reaching issues that need not be decided, making reasoned decisions, and being fair and impartial. Several commented that Justice Bender is a good judge dedicated to the legal community.”

■ Alex J. Martinez

The State Commission on Judicial Performance recommends by a vote of 9-1 that Justice Alex J. Mart­inez be retained.

“Attorneys who responded to survey questions indicate that, compared to the other justices, Justice Martin­ez's performance is somewhat stronger in the areas of being courteous towards attorneys, being fair and impartial and issuing opinions in a timely manner. They indicate Justice Martinez's performance is somewhat weaker in the area of writing opinions that are clear and that adequately explain the basis of the court's decision. Many attorneys commented that he is smart and concerned about each side of a legal argument. However, some attorneys also commented that he writes opinions that are too long and occasionally confusing. Some district court judges made similar comments.”

■ Nancy E. Rice

The State Commission on Judicial Performance recommends by a vote of 10-0 that Justice Nancy E. Rice be retained.

“Attorneys who responded to survey questions indicate that, compared to the other justices, the performance of Justice Rice is somewhat stronger in the area of refraining from reaching issues that need not be decided and somewhat weaker in the area of being courteous toward attorneys. In all other areas, the attorneys indicated that her performance is generally comparable to that of the other justices. Comments by a few of the attorneys surveyed expressed concern about a prosecution bias in some criminal cases and a brusque demeanor during oral arguments. Others commented that she is conscientious, hard working and prepared for oral arguments, and has a balanced approach to the issues in the case. The judges who responded to survey questions indicated that Justice Rice’s performance was somewhat stronger in every category surveyed.”

Court of Appeals

■ John Daniel Dailey

The State Commission on Judicial Performance recommends 9-0 that Judge John Daniel Dailey be retained. One commissioner recused.

“Attorneys who responded to the survey questions indicate that, compared to the other appellate judges, Judge Dailey’s performance is somewhat stronger in writing opinions, being prepared for oral argument and being fair and impartial. Attorneys praised his fairness, maturity on the bench, and thorough knowledge of the law. A few attorneys found Judge Dailey to be gruff or intimidating. Judges surveyed indicate his performance is somewhat stronger in the areas of writing opinions that adequately explain the basis of the Court’s opinion and making reasoned decisions based upon the law and fact. Recent courtroom observations by Commissioners found him to have a polite demeanor and a sense of humor.”

■ Richard L. Gabriel

The State Commission on Judicial Performance recommends by a vote of 10-0 that Judge Richard L. Gabriel be retained.

“Attorneys who responded to survey questions indicate that, compared to the other appellate judges, Judge Gabriel’s performance is somewhat stronger in several areas, including being fair and impartial and issuing opinions in a timely manner. Several attorneys commented that he is courteous, well prepared for and engaged in oral argument, and that he has a good legal mind. The judges surveyed indicate his performance is comparable in most respects to other appellate judges, with several noting that Judge Gabriel is hard working and thoughtful. The commission reviewed a number of opinions that Judge Gabriel wrote. His opinions demonstrate intellectual honesty in presenting opposing arguments and a careful attentiveness to the factual and legal issues presented.”

■ Nancy J. Lichtenstein

The State Commission on Judicial Performance recommends by a vote of 10-0 that Judge Nancy J. Lichtenstein be retained.

“Attorneys who responded to survey questions indicate that, compared to the other appellate judges, Judge Lichtenstein's performance is somewhat stronger in the areas of being fair and impartial, writing opinions that adequately explain the basis for the Court's decision, and issuing opinions in a timely manner. Many attorneys commented that she is well-prepared for oral argument, a good listener and courteous and respectful on the bench and that her knowledge of criminal law is extensive. Judges who responded to survey questions indicate that her performance is somewhat weaker in the areas of being fair and impartial, writing opinions that adequately explain the basis of the court’s decision, and making reasoned decisions based on the law and facts. Judges’ comments include that she is excellent, hard working and thorough.”

■ David J. Richman

The State Commission on Judicial Performance recommends by a vote of 10-0 that Judge David J. Richman be retained.

“Attorneys who responded to survey questions indicate that, compared to the other appellate judges, Judge Richman’s performance is somewhat weaker in most areas surveyed, including allowing parties to present their arguments and answer questions, writing opinions that are clear, and refraining from reaching issues that need not be decided. However, because Judge Richman is the newest member of the Court of Appeals and received the least number of attorney survey responses, the commission questions the relevance of attorney survey data compared to other judges. Also, several attorneys and judges commented that Judge Richman is very well prepared for oral argument, and that he is a bright and hard-working jurist. The judges, who responded at a higher rate than attorneys, indicate that Judge Richman’s performance was comparable to other judges in all areas.”

Routt County judges

■ Mary C. Hoak

The 14th Judicial Dist­rict Commission on Judi­cial Performance unanimously recommends that Judge Mary C. Hoak be retained.

“Survey results show that Judge Hoak demonstrates a solid foundation and is dedicated to developing further expertise in specific areas of the law. Judge Hoak acknowledges that she is working to improve the timeliness of lengthy written orders. Overall it is found that Judge Hoak is friendly and ensures that self-represented litigants understand the proceedings. Judge Hoak takes great pride in the judicial system and maintains control of the courtroom and demands proper decorum at all times. Further it is noted that Judge Hoak is dedicated and hard working.

“Of all attorneys surveyed about retention, 76 percent recommended to retain, 20 percent not to retain, and 4 percent expressed no opinion. Of all non-attorneys surveyed, 73 percent recommended to retain, 16 percent not to retain, and 11 percent expressed no opinion.”

■ James H. Garrecht

The 14th Judicial Dist­rict Com­mission on Judicial Performance unanimously recommends that Judge James H. Garrecht be retained.

“Judge Garrecht handles a high volume of cases in county court and demonstrates an ability to keep cases moving forward in a timely manner. The surveys indicate that Judge Garrecht has the ability to relate to both attorneys and non-attorneys in the courtroom in a cordial and friendly manner. Overall, the survey results show he is fair and efficient. Judge Garrecht is consistent in his sentences and rulings, reflecting a fair application of the law. The commission recommends based on courtroom observation that the court should return to a more formal standard with a focus on decorum.

“Of all attorneys surveyed about retention, 87 percent recommended to retain, 8 percent not to retain, and 5 percent expressed no opinion. Of all non-attorneys surveyed, 78 percent recommended to retain, 8 percent not to retain, and 13 percent expressed no opinion.”

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