Defense attorney questions DA’s eligibility for re-election
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A local defense attorney is questioning 9th District Attorney Martin Beeson’s eligibility to run for re-election this year.
Beeson, however, has received the Republican party’s nomination to be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, and insists he is eligible.
At issue is whether the three years Beeson served as district attorney when he finished the term of a recalled DA, from 2006 through 2008, counts as his first term in office, or if his first term started when he was elected in 2008. Under state law, district attorneys are limited to two terms in office.
Beeson oversees district court prosecutions for Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties, which comprise the 9th Judicial District.
Local defense attorney Tom Silverman of Glenwood Springs, a Democrat, contends that the coming four-year term for which Beeson is running would be his third term.
Silverman cited the Colorado Constitution, which states that district attorneys are restricted to two, four-year terms in office.
Beeson, however, maintains that he has yet to serve two full terms in office.
“He is simply wrong,” Beeson said of Silverman’s position.
According to his reading of state law, Beeson said, “a term for a district attorney is a full term, and a full term is four years.”
He cited a 2000 legal opinion issued by then-Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, which concluded that DAs can serve no more than two full terms.
The opinion did not specifically address the issue of how partial terms count toward the term limits allotment. The opinion states that term limits “have no application to partial terms of office, but rather apply only to full terms.”
Silverman, however, cited a section of the state Constitution, which states that anyone elected “to fill a vacancy … and who serves at least one half of a term of office shall be considered to have served a term.”
Although that section specifically addresses term limits on U.S. senators and members of Congress, Silverman maintained that the same limitation applies to district attorneys.
“He was elected to a three-year term,” Silverman said, referring to Beeson’s initial time in office. “It was more than half a term, so it does count.”
Beeson was first elected to the district attorney’s post in December 2005 as part of a special election recalling then-DA Colleen Truden. He took office in January 2006.
Beeson was then re-elected to the office in 2008, after running unopposed.
So far for the 2012 election, Beeson again is unopposed either by a Republican primary opponent or a Democrat in the general election.
Silverman questioned why Beeson did not, as state law allows, ask the voters to allow him to serve more than the two-term limit.
In 2009, for example, Mesa County voters decided that those holding the offices of sheriff, DA and coroner could each serve three, four-year terms, rather than the two-term limit imposed by the state.
“Saying I should go to the voters to get permission to run for a second term is like saying I should go to the voters to get permission to drive the speed limit while I’m already driving the speed limit,” Beeson said in an email. “I am going to the voters. This November.”
Beeson contends that Silverman’s questioning of his eligibility to run again stems from courtroom conflicts.
“Let’s be clear. Mr. Silverman’s issue is not with the law or with the fact that I am in full compliance with the law. His issue is with me,” Beeson wrote in an email. “He is a criminal defense attorney who simply does not like the fact that my office does not coddle his clients, does not accede to his wishes in cases, and does not treat his clients with kid gloves.”
Beeson questioned why Silverman didn’t seek another candidate to run, or run for the office himself.
“His failure in this regard speaks volumes,” Beeson wrote. “The adage ‘put up or shut up’ is an apt one here.”
Silverman said he is not ready to seek office.
Garfield County Democrat Party Chairman Jack Real said the party has not yet identified a candidate to run against Beeson. Democrats will be meeting next week to discuss the subject, Real said.
Concerning the question of Beeson’s eligibility, Real said, “I think it could be tenuous, but that’s yet to be determined.”
He said the local Democrats have talked about it but have not taken a position one way or the other, at least “nothing explicit at this stage.”
The state Democratic Party, too, has not taken an active interest in Beeson’s eligibility, according to party spokesman Matt Inzeo.
Inzeo said the state party officials have been too focused on getting Democrats qualified and onto ballots around the state to worry about the eligibility of Republican candidates.
“It’s something that we would certainly, potentially, be watching,” Inzeo added.
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