On Tuesday, May 23, 2023, Colorado Politics reported that the Colorado Supreme Court eliminated a query from the judicial application form of the state, which previously required candidates to reveal any troublesome details from their personal history. This question was also meant as a basis for potential disciplinary action if candidates provided false information.

Candidates seeking judgeships are required to respond to a variety of inquiries pertaining to their income sources, employment history, and potential criminal records. This questionnaire is designed to aid the citizen-led nominating commissions responsible for candidate screening, as well as the governor who appoints the majority of trial and appellate judges throughout the state.

Previously, until December, question #47 was included in the application. This question inquired, “Are there any circumstances or events in your personal or professional life that, if disclosed to the Commission, could potentially have a negative impact on your suitability to serve on the court to which you have applied?”

However, in the same month, the Judicial Department released a new version of the application with modifications. One of the changes includes the removal of the said #47 question.

Justice Melissa Hart explained, “The revisions to the form were designed to streamline the questionnaire, including by consolidating repetitive questions and omitting questions that did not provide the Nominating Commissions with pertinent information, the catch-all question in the prior application did not generate any information, as applicants consistently replied to it with some version of ‘no’ or a ‘N/A’.”

On the other hand, former Senator Pete Lee, representing Colorado Springs and a Democrat, played a prominent role in recent endeavors to secure independent funding for the judicial discipline commission and enhance the disclosure of information related to judicial misconduct. According to Lee, the removal of question #47 by the Supreme Court poses a hindrance to the objectives of promoting greater transparency and accountability.

Lee expressed a strong conviction regarding the importance of understanding the past conduct of judicial candidates, stating, “It is crucial that we have knowledge of the actions these individuals were involved in previously.” He pointed out that the governor’s office already asks applicants for positions on boards and commissions if there is any aspect of their past that “could potentially cause embarrassment to either the Governor or themselves if it were to become public.”

An example of this is the recent event wherein the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline forwarded a case of judicial misconduct to the Supreme Court. The case involved Judge John E. Scipione of the Arapahoe County District Court, who was under investigation for various instances of workplace misconduct, including an undisclosed and inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. It is worth noting that Scipione’s extramarital relationship occurred during his tenure as a magistrate before his subsequent appointments as a county court and then a district court judge.

In response to Question #47 on each application, Scipione stated that there was no information that would have a negative impact on his qualifications to serve.

The commission notified the Supreme Court that Scipione, who has since resigned, acknowledged his misconduct by admitting that he had failed to disclose, on his judicial applications, an undisclosed intimate personal relationship with an employee while serving as an 18th Judicial District Court Magistrate.

Using this as an example, the consequence of removing question #47 is that, unlike Scipione, a failure by future judges to disclose potentially disqualifying information might not be grounds for discipline.


Source: Colorado Politics