On Sunday, September 18, 2022, The Shepherd of the Hills Gazette reported that reform advocates told a legislative committee to scrap Colorado’s current judicial discipline process for a more independent and transparent method that the public would have a hand in controlling.
Chris Forsyth, executive director of The Judicial Integrity Project, said that the walls between the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline and the public should come down, adding that the appearance that courts are only for the wealthy and the elite should be reduced.
According to the report:
“Forsyth suggested that a commission made up of 11 people — 8 citizens appointed by various government officials and three lawyers of independent political affiliation by the governor — should replace the 10-member discipline commission currently appointed by the chief justice and governor. A chief district judge would sit on the new commission in a consulting, non-voting position.”
In its second round of hearings investigating whether the state’s system requires reform, the Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline heard testimony from a number of witnesses, including Forsyth. Former US Attorney for Colorado Robert Troyer and former Denver Independent Monitor Nicholas Mitchell were among the witnesses who shared their investigation’s findings into the $2.75 million, five-year contract for judicial training given to Mindy Masias, a former chief of staff for the Judicial Department.
Dennis Maes, a retired chief district court judge for Pueblo County, said that Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright might have violated several rules of judicial conduct by frequently offering his opinion about the contract. Maes sternly admonished Boatright for offering opinions on the veracity of allegations that a Supreme Court justice approved a multi-million-dollar contract to prevent a tell-all lawsuit.
“It is my belief that the Boatright court lost its way concerning this sad and embarrassing moment in the history of the Colorado Supreme Court when it disregarded and disrespected long-established principles, rules, processes, and ethical considerations that judges take an oath to obey. It appears the court had little or no concern commenting on information that was being provided to it. … It was clear that certain decisions had already been made by the court in determining to hire private counsel to conduct an independent investigation to clear those wrongly accused.”
In Colorado, unless the sanction is severe enough to warrant dismissal and the Supreme Court approves, the name of a judge who is disciplined is not made public. Otherwise, the majority of sanctions are kept secret, and the disciplinary commission only provides a broad description of the sanctions in its annual report — not enough to identify the judge, their gender, or the jurisdiction in which they sit.
Forsyth offered that a new system would require all disciplines to be public and accessible.
“The state court administrator’s office has been mired in scandal for a long time, with too much authority without checks and balances. It directly affects justice.”
Source: The Shepherd of the Hills Gazette
Full story here.