On Monday, August 21, 2023, The Denver Gazette reported that the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline is seeking information on more than 120 judges who have failed to file personal financial disclosure reports as required by law. The commission’s actions come in response to an investigation by The Denver Gazette, which revealed that a significant number of judges had not complied with the state’s disclosure requirements.
According to emails obtained by the newspaper, the commission is gathering comprehensive information on these judges who have neglected to file their financial disclosures. The investigation found that over two dozen judges have not submitted a disclosure for several years, while others, including senior judges, have not done so for more than a decade.
The Denver Gazette’s findings indicate that approximately one in every six of Colorado’s full-time judges did not have the required financial disclosures on file this year. Senior judges, however, have been filing their disclosures with the Judicial Department as part of their limited contract agreement to remain on the bench.
The list of judges who have failed to file their disclosures includes chief judges, members of the Colorado Court of Appeals, district court judges, county court judges, and even judges serving on discipline commissions and ethics advisory boards. The commission has requested detailed information from the secretary of state regarding each judge’s history of disclosure filings, some of which date back several years.
The commission’s emails explicitly referenced The Denver Gazette’s investigation as the catalyst for their inquiries. The annual disclosure filings are mandatory, even if a judge’s financial circumstances have not changed from the previous year. To ensure compliance, the Judicial Department sends a reminder to judges statewide each year.
When questioned about their failure to meet the filing deadlines, some judges responded to The Denver Gazette, attributing it to forgetfulness or personal circumstances such as illness or a family death. Others admitted to sending the information to the wrong email address. However, more than half of the judges did not respond to the publication’s inquiries.
The Secretary of State’s office clarified that it is not responsible for confirming the receipt of disclosures or reminding judges about filing deadlines or correct procedures. Ongoing discussions between the discipline commission and the Secretary of State’s office aim to provide more comprehensive and detailed information about the disclosure filings mentioned in The Denver Gazette’s report.
Although the law stipulates that willful non-compliance with the disclosure requirement is a misdemeanor, the commission’s authority is limited to violations of the state’s judicial code of conduct. Any criminal prosecution would be pursued by the attorney general’s office following a complaint from the secretary of state’s office. The judicial code mandates that all judges, including senior judges, comply with the annual disclosure law without exception.
The Denver Gazette’s investigation has shed light on a significant oversight within Colorado’s judiciary, raising concerns about transparency and accountability. As the Commission on Judicial Discipline gathers information and evaluates the judges’ compliance, the outcome of this inquiry will undoubtedly have implications for the state’s judicial system and the public’s confidence in its integrity.
Source: The Denver Gazette