Letters to the Editor

LETTER: Amendment would make discipline proceedings public only if probable cause is found

Dear Editor,

Thank you for devoting space to two statewide judicial reform initiatives in the story “Let more citizens judge the judges?” in the May 30, 2014 issue.

Based on judicial discipline commission annual reports, the total percentage of all dismissals by the commission from 2003 to 2012 is actually 97 percent. The 89.5 percent figure that I used regards only those complaints that were dismissed without the commission even considering the merits.

Those percentages do not account for complaints that were not filed because the commission inappropriately discouraged individuals from filing complaints. During that 10-year period, the commission received more than 15,000 phone calls and had additional contact via its website. The commission regularly misinformed people that it could not proceed on complaints that were based on appealable orders.

The Colorado Constitution states that a judge may be disciplined for any violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. If a judge violates the Code of Judicial Conduct in an appealable order he may be disciplined. Unfortunately, the constitution provides the Supreme Court with procedural rule-making authority. In the 1980s, the Supreme Court made a rule requiring the executive director of the discipline commission to dismiss any complaint based on an order that can be appealed. The overbroad rule is directly contrary to the constitution, and is why there has not been a published case of judicial discipline in Colorado since 1986.

The Honest Judge Amendment would only make discipline proceedings public if probable cause is found. Other states such as Washington use the probable cause standard for determining when a case becomes public.

I actually contacted Luis Toro before I started Clean Up The Courts. He informed me his group focuses solely on executive and legislative branch officials. Stacy Carpenter says the public should receive more information on judges but opposes discipline proceedings becoming public. Her statements are inconsistent.

Neither Toro nor Carpenter have listened to or responded to the research and facts in support of the initiatives. Even the two-thirds amount is supported by research.

They claim, without support, that qualified judicial candidates will not be found if the system is changed. Have they considered that people might not currently be applying because they do not want to be associated with what is going on in Colorado’s judicial branch? Have they considered that more qualified candidates might be attracted to the integrity and honor of an ethical and accountable judiciary?

Have they considered the possibility that many appellate court judges in Colorado should not be on the bench? After all, those judges are aware of the unconstitutional rule protecting them from discipline and they choose to do nothing to correct it. All members of the legal profession have the duty to uphold the constitution and the Rules of Professional Conduct. I am upholding my duties by pursuing these initiatives.

More information is available at www.CleanUpTheCourts.org. If a reader wants to ensure discussion over these topics continues, petitions can be downloaded and mailed in to help these initiatives get on the ballot. The public should be provided with the opportunity to vote for an ethical and accountable judiciary.

Chris Forsyth
Clean Up The Courts