Group wants voters to kick out three judges

Though he insists his efforts aren’t about politics, if Matthew Arnold had his way none of the judges appointed by Democratic governors would remain on the bench.

The director of Clear the Bench Colorado is trying to persuade voters to kick out several judges who are up for a retention vote this year, particularly Colorado Supreme Court Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez and Nancy Rice.

Arnold said he wants them gone not because they all were appointed to the bench by former Gov. Roy Romer, a Democrat, but because of how they’ve ruled on cases since.

“This is about holding judges accountable to the Constitution,” he said. “This isn’t a matter of trying to replace one set of activist judges with another set of activist judges. It’s a matter of kicking out activist judges, and trying to get judges in there, particularly at the Supreme Court level, that simply believe their job is to be referees.”

Arnold is upset with the justices because of several recent decisions from the high court that he believe were in violation of the state’s Constitution. Among those are affirming a freeze on property tax mill levies, a decision that called lease-purchase agreements not debt and an opinion that allowed Telluride to use its powers of eminent domain outside the city’s limits.

He said the three justices are “activist” not because those opinions favored liberal interests more than conservative ones, but because they were contrary to the Constitution.

By law, judges are limited in what they can say as candidates in retention votes, but they can campaign if they choose, said Judicial Branch spokesman Jon Sarch&233;.

“If there is opposition to their retentions, judges can campaign,” he said. “But the justices said they’d prefer to let their performance reviews speak for themselves.”

Those reviews, done by a special 15-person commission, recommended all three be retained.

Arnold, however, said those reviews are part of the problem. The commissions that review judges evaluate them through various means, but primarily from surveys conducted of people who appear before them, including attorneys and defendants.

No one else is allowed to comment, something Arnold said is not appropriate when it comes to the Supreme Court and Colorado Court of Appeals, whose opinions affect more than individual cases.

Arnold said regardless of what happens on Election Day in November, his group will attempt to get the Legislature to reform not only the judicial performance regulations, but also the rules that govern how judges are selected.

“There needs to be some systemic reform,” he said. “There clearly needs to be a lot more substantive evaluation of their performance. The survey methodology, at the appellate court level at least, is fatally flawed.”


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