Voting on justice(s)

The column below outlines the rationale put forth by Clear the Bench Colorado for why people should vote “No” on the retention of three Colorado Supreme Court Justices. We present it here so local voters can read and evaluate the arguments Matt Arnold makes, and so we can explain why we disagree.

First, as Arnold makes clear, under our state’s judicial retention system, Coloradans have the right to vote not to retain judges and justices they believe have been performing their duties poorly.

However, we don’t think they should vote to get rid of jurists because they disagree with the political outcomes that result from those jurists’ decisions. An independent judiciary deciding legal issues based on judicial review is critical to our system of checks and balances, even if we don’t always agree with the outcome.

Arnold maintains Clear the Bench Colorado isn’t about politics, but getting rid of justices who don’t abide by the Constitution.

It’s telling that, not only are the justices his group has targeted all Democratic appointees, but the bulk of the decisions he cites below went against Republicans.

There is no doubt that many people, Republicans especially, think the state Supreme Court was wrong on the cases Arnold cites. But it isn’t as cut and dried as they would have you believe. There are other legal experts who believe the court was correct in its rulings. Also, it’s worth noting that, for instance, in the case of the mill levy freeze, the high court’s ruling was nearly unanimous —  6-1 to uphold the freeze.

Furthermore, the decisions mentioned below are just a small portion of what the justices have decided during their tenure on the bench. While we may disagree with some of their decisions, we don’t believe the court is as blatantly political as some argue.

It’s true, the evaluations of justices provided in the state’s Blue Book focus primarily on resumes and what attorneys and judges think of them. That’s valuable information.

It would be inappropriate for the commission to opine, “This justice was wrong on this ruling but right on this one.” However, an independent group such Clear The Bench Colorado can offer those sorts of opionions to voters.

Voters should also realize that Supreme Court justices in Colorado go through a rigorous review and often have served on lower courts before ever being nominated for the state’s highest court. Because of that, it should come as no great surprise that no Supreme Court justice in the state has been voted out of office since the retention system was established.

Voters should read the Blue Book evaluations of judges and justices, view the Clear The Bench commentary, talk with attorneys who deal with the judges and cast their ballots on retention based on overall performance, not the political results of a few cases.


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