Bill sets up business training for judges

DENVER — If the state’s judges knew more how businesses operate, they could do a better job ruling in business matters, a state lawmaker says.

That’s why Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, wants to use $500,000 from the Secretary of State’s Office to create a new training program for judges.

“The proposal here would create an efficiency in government in order to enable businesses that end up in court to be treated in a more effective manner because the judges have the proper training,” Waller told the House Judiciary Committee, which approved the measure Tuesday on a 6–5 party-line vote, with Republicans favoring it.

“It’s not using tax dollars to administer this program. It’s using fees paid by businesses for business-related purposes,” Waller said. “That’s all this program’s about.”

The money Waller is talking about is part of $4 million in surplus funds from business filing fees that former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, a Democrat, had planned to turn over to the state last year.

But when Republican Scott Gessler won the office last fall, he refused to turn the money over to the Legislature, saying it was needed for businesses’  use. Democrats failed in numerous attempts to force Gessler to turn over that money, saying it could be used to help programs that are being slashed in the millions of dollars.

Gessler, a lawyer, told the committee that training judges is an appropriate use of the funds because many jurists don’t have proper experience in settling business matters.

“Many of our judges come from criminal backgrounds or limited commercial-litigation backgrounds, and they don’t receive any training on many of the commercial issues that they face,” Gessler said. “It’s basically sort of an on-the-job training. Unfortunately, over the last several years the judiciary (branch) has not been appropriating or giving funds to do any meaningful training whatsoever.”

The state Judicial Department said it was not taking a position on the bill but would welcome any help to improve training for judges.

The measure heads to the House Appropriations Committee for another vote.


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