Colorado Celebrates 40 Years of Merit Selection

Judicature, May/June 2006 | Go to article overview

Colorado Celebrates 40 Years of Merit Selection


On May 1, 2006, the State of Colorado launched a yearlong celebration of its highly effective, nonpartisan merit system of selecting judges. Forty years ago Colorado voters adopted an amendment to the state constitution, abandoning partisan political election of judges in favor of a merit selection system based on citizen nominating commissions. Colorado Governor Bill Owens has signed an Honorary Proclamation declaring a year of recognition of the "40th ANNIVERSARY OF COLORADO'S JUDICIAL MERIT SELECTION SYSTEM, May 1, 2006 - April 30, 2007"

At present the Colorado selection system has three key components:

1. Nominating commissions. Each of Colorado's 22 judicial districts has a seven-member citizen nominating commission to address trial court vacancies. There is one state-wide commission of 15 members for selection of appellate court nominees. Non-attorney members are a majority on all commissions and are appointed by the governor. Attorney members of the commissions are appointed jointly by the governor, attorney general, and chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. No political party can be represented on any commission by more than a majority plus one member.

2. Judicial discipline commission. The Colorado Judicial Discipline Commission oversees the conduct of all Colorado judges. The commission comprises 10 members: four citizen and two attorney members appointed by the governor with state senate approval; and two district court and two county court judges appointed by the Colorado Supreme Court.

3. Judicial evaluations. Upon urging from the Colorado Supreme Court, in 1988 the Colorado General Assembly created judicial performance commissions to evaluate judges seeking retention and to develop voter recommendations. …

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