Rifle magistrate could face tough time in November election
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colo. – At least one 9th Judicial District judge appears to be in trouble as far as the upcoming November elections are concerned, but he couldn’t be reached to be asked about it Thursday.
And because of the confidentiality of the process by which judges are recommended for retention or not, the public has no way of knowing what’s going on until August, when all judges are required to inform the state judicial system about whether they plan to try to keep their jobs.
Judge Jason Jovanovich, a county judge in Rifle, is one of five judges required to stand for retention by the district’s voters this fall, or to remove himself from consideration.
Jovanovich, according to a published report, has been criticized by 9th District staffers for a pattern of inappropriate behavior both on the bench and off. The 9th District covers Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.
Solveig Olson, Meeker-based district administrator for the 9th District, was quoted in a news article as saying of Jovanovich, “I don’t think he demonstrates the qualities that we want to see from our judicial officers.”
Another district employee, Kathy Schouten, clerk of the court in Rifle, stated categorically, “Judge Jovanovich should not be retained” at a hearing in May before the district’s Commission on Judicial Performance, according to the same news account.
Jovanovich is accused of abusing his authority and making outlandish claims about his judicial powers while sitting on the bench in open court.
Olson was away from her office this week and could not be reached. Schouten said that, while her testimony before the commission was made at a public hearing and was reported, she could not comment on her remarks or on the Jovanovich matter itself due to confidentiality rules.
Jovanovich reportedly has been praised by some attorneys for his informal approach and folksy style, which puts defendants at ease despite the formal atmosphere of the courtroom.
He is on paid leave over a “personnel issue,” said James Bradford, clerk of the courts in Glenwood Springs, but he added that the reason for Jovanovich’s status is not public record.
The commission, according to spokeswoman Mary Elizabeth Geiger, has made its recommendation regarding Jovanovich and the other judges, although the decisions will not be made public until – and unless – the judges themselves decide to try to keep their jobs.
At that point, the commission’s recommendations would be published in the state’s “Blue Book” on election issues, which comes out in August.
If a judge decides not to seek retention, said Geiger, there will be no public disclosure of the commission’s recommendation concerning that particular judge, because the judge’s name will not be on the ballot.
According to a state website, since the process of evaluating judicial performance was created in 1988, there have been 953 judges whose names have appeared on ballots.
Under the evaluation process, there have been 15 recommendations not to retain judges and 10 “no opinion” recommendations. A total of seven judges have not been retained by voters since 1988, according to the website.
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