Justices Bender, Martinez and Rice deserve a ‘No’ vote

By Matt Arnold

Since Colorado changed from contested elections for judicial office to a “merit selection and retention” system (appointing judges followed by periodic votes to keep or remove them), no Colorado Supreme Court justice has been voted out of office. Although some have left the bench voluntarily (Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey resigned and she will not have to face the voters this year), the people of Colorado have yet to exercise their right or responsibility to “vote ‘em out.”

To a great extent, this is because of a lack of public awareness — both about the right to vote itself (a recent survey showed that only 65 percent of the population knew that judges could be voted out of office) and about the incumbents’ record of performance in office (the same survey showed that only 35 percent of voters knew anything about the three incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices — Michael Bender, Alex Martinez and Nancy Rice — seeking another 10-year term this November).

Inexplicably, the State Commission on Judicial Performance (a 10-member group of political appointees charged with evaluating and reporting on the job performance of statewide judicial incumbents) has routinely failed to conduct a rigorous evaluation and provide substantive information to the public on which to base an informed decision.

The commission’s reviews, published and distributed at great taxpayer expense in the “Blue Book,” pretty much limit themselves to summarizing an incumbent’s resume and tabulating the results of surveys sent out to a select group of lawyers and other judges. The reviews contain next to no information about actual job performance.

Over the decades the system has been in place, the commission’s reviews have always recommended a “Yes” (retain) vote on incumbent Supreme Court justices — that’s 100 percent of the time!

Even Fidel Castro and the late Saddam Hussein didn’t receive that level of “retain” votes.

Although Colorado has plenty of good judges, at many levels, they’re not all that good.

Most importantly, the reviews provide no information on how the justices actually voted in important constitutional cases — rulings that have had an increasingly negative impact on Colorado law and upon Colorado citizens.

Reading the commission evaluations alone, voters would have no knowledge of the fact that the three incumbent justices appearing on the ballot voted to allow several things that to me appear clearly unconstitutional:

✓ Property tax increases (the mill levy freeze for school districts).

✓ Elimination of tax credits and exemptions (the tobacco tax, the “dirty dozen” sales tax exemptions).

✓ Re-defining taxes as “fees” (most notoriously, the FASTER program that increased vehicle registration costs).

✓ Expansion of eminent domain property seizures (the Telluride land grab).

✓ Usurpation of legislative power (judicial redistricting, school funding).

✓ Deprivation of citizen initiative rights (denying voters a say on illegal immigrant entitlements).

Complete references, including the votes of each justice, case analysis, commentary, and the full text of the rulings, are available at the Clear The Bench Colorado website in an easy-to-read scorecard at http://www.clearthebenchcolorado.org/evaluations/.

These three appointed — and, due to a managed lack of public awareness, practically unaccountable— Supreme Court justices have assumed political power, to which the court is not constitutionally entitled. These incumbents have consistently exerted this power without restraint or consideration for your constitutional rights — ruling consistently against individual rights and protections in favor of expanded government power, in violation of what the Colorado Constitution allows.

As a citizen, you do have the right to vote “No” on retaining these incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices this November. The ultimate responsibility — and authority — still rests with the voters.

“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” — Abraham Lincoln

Stand up for your rights. Vote “No” on these unjust justices, and Clear The Bench, Colorado!

Matt Arnold is the director of Clear The Bench, Colorado.


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