Critics claim Colorado judges outstay welcome
October 22, 2006
Voters will have a chance in the upcoming election to limit the length of time an appellate judge can sit on the bench.A citizen petition put Amendment 40 on November’s ballot with strong support from former state Senate President John Andrews.The proponents’ website claims that Colorado’s courts are “out of control” and that judges “too often presume to create law, instead of upholding it.”Andrews could not be reached to comment on the issue, but the website claims Colorado judges have rewritten “the constitution and laws in such areas as leniency to convicted murderers, invading property rights, infringing religious freedom, and redefining marriage.”Through the website, proponents argue that the judicial branch is the only branch of Colorado government without term limits, and that adding limits to judges’ terms “completes the balance” among the three branches.”Term limits made me a better legislator,” Andrews states on the site. “Term limits on judges would make our courts better, too.” Opponents of the measure have said term limits for judges would bring politics into the courtroom, because judges may be worried about where they will work after their terms are over. They also have claimed that the pool of qualified applicants will shrink if judges from outside the Denver metro area are reluctant to uproot their families for a stay on the bench that will end.The proponents’ website disagrees.”It merely rotates the incumbent judges a little more often,” the site states, and “who believes there are too few career-minded lawyers in America today?”If it passes, judges in the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court would be limited to 10 years in those positions. Currently, those judges remain on the bench until they choose to resign, or until they reach the age of 72. Voters also have the chance to remove a judge through a “retention” vote every 10 years for Supreme Court justices and every eight years for Court of Appeals judges. Amendment 40 proposes reducing those time frames to four years in both cases.Although voters have the ability to remove a judge from office through regular retention votes, the website claims that happens too infrequently. “Removal of deficient judges by existing provisions is minimal to nil,” it states. “Fewer than 1 percent of judges are dismissed by the voters in retention elections.”The amendment has garnered widespread criticism on both sides of the political fence. Two Democratic and two Republican governors, including current Gov. Bill Owens, have publicly opposed the measure, and the Aspen City Council recently passed a resolution declaring its opposition. For more on proponents’ views, go to http://www.limitthejudges.com; for more on opponents’ views, visit http://www.voteno 40.com. Or, follow the link to The Aspen Times election coverage.