Colorado: Changes to Judicial Performance Evaluation system set for House vote; commissions would no longer issue “retain/do not retain” recommendations to voters

A plan (HB 1303) to revamp Colorado’s Judicial Performance Evaluation system is set for a vote by the House this week. The plan would make changes to the existing system of statewide and district-based commissions that put out evaluations of judges for voters to examine. Among the changes:

  1. Commissions would have the power to recommend after an interim evaluation that a judge be subject to a judicial improvement plan.
  2. The commissions would be required to create a “standards matrix” and clearly define or describe whether a judge “meets performance standard” or “does not meet performance standard” and defined how that information will be made available to the public.
  3. During an election year, commissions would no longer issue a statement for
    “retain”, “do not retain”, or “no opinion”.
  4. Adds senior, retired judges who have returned to temporary judicial duties per contract with the judicial department to the list of those evaluated.
  5. The creation of a systemwide volunteer courtroom observer program.
  6. Currently commission members serve for 4 years. HB 1303 calls for the terms of sitting members to be cut short as of February 1, 2019.
  7. Membership on the commissions would change, with House and Senate minority leaders getting to select members of the commissions.
Current State and District (10 members) New State (11 members) New District (10 members)
Speaker of the House 1 attorney, 1 nonattorney 1 attorney, 1 nonattorney 1 attorney, 1 nonattorney
President of the Senate 1 attorney, 1 nonattorney 1 attorney, 1 nonattorney 1 attorney, 1 nonattorney
Governor 1 attorney, 2 nonattorneys 1 attorney, 2 nonattorneys 2 nonattorneys
Chief Justice 1 attorney, 2 nonattorneys 2 attorneys 2 attorneys
House Minority Leader n/a 1 nonattorney 1 nonattorney
Senate Minority leader n/a 1 nonattorney 1 nonattorney

HB 1303 could be voted on by the full House as early as today.