On Friday, September 30, 2022, The Denver Gazette reported that the Colorado Legislative Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline unanimously passed two resolutions that will fundamentally alter how Colorado investigates and disciplines judges.

A three-member board is established by one resolution to provide decisions on formal disciplinary matters. The other measure establishes anonymous reporting, requires comprehensive annual reports of how the process works and what it’s done, and formally establishes the three-person board upon constitutional amendment approval.

While the proposals make substantive changes to the judicial discipline process, a number of important adjustments were left to be worked out throughout the course of the broader legislative process.

The Denver Gazette report stated that:

“Two critical components not addressed in the proposals, but which the panel members insisted should be handled at the legislature, were the decriminalization of confidentiality breaches and the scope of subpoena authority for the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline during its initial investigations into a complaint of misconduct.”

A provision for a public hearing and participation in the rule-making procedure was added to the proposals, outlining how the discipline commission and the three-person board will function in their new form. The recommendations also include an amendment to the law requiring the discipline commission to inform anybody who files a complaint against a judge.

The proposals’ provision that calls for a special panel of seven Court of Appeals judges to take the place of the Supreme Court in the event that one of its justices faces disciplinary action or is called as a crucial witness in a case remains unaltered.

Voters will be specifically asked to approve the formation of the three-member board to regulate the disciplinary procedure. During a formal disciplinary proceeding against a judge, the board, which would consist of an attorney, a judge, and a civilian unrelated to either profession, would preside. Additionally, the board would also sit as the appellate body for any informal discipline the commission recommends. The Supreme Court would only be able to overrule any discipline if it determines the board had misused its discretion.

The proposal to establish an office of an ombudsperson was not approved, but, according to the two committee members who worked on it, it will be presented as a primary bill during the next legislative session. Members of the committee claimed they received several emails from individuals urging them to broaden the scope of the office.

The two approved proposals will now head to the 18-member Legislative Council, a year-round committee of legislators that will decide whether to move the measures to the full House and Senate. The proposed bills will begin in the House, and members of the interim committee agreed. The council’s next meeting is on October 14, 2022.

Source: The Denver Gazette


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