University of Denver

Evaluating Appellate Judges: Preserving Integrity and Maintaining Accountability

Former Senior Director

This article from the Colorado Lawyer discusses the 2011 conference on evaluating appellate judges and its outcomes.

In 2010, a number of states saw organized opposition to the retention of Supreme Court justices. This opposition was motivated primarily by disagreement with decisions in which these justices had participated. In Colorado, the cases driving the retention opposition involved school funding, redistricting, and taxes. In Alaska, it was a series of rulings that affected abortion rights and rights of same-sex couples. In Florida, it was the Court’s rejection of a proposed ballot measure targeting federal health-care reform. In Iowa, it was the legalization of same-sex marriage. One can already hear rumblings of planned 2012 retention challenges in states such as Florida, Indiana, and Iowa.

As the various anti-retention campaigns made clear, voters want to be sufficiently educated about judges who are seeking retention so that they will be able to make informed choices at the voting booth. The questions to answer are these:

What information do voters want about jurists?
Where will voters get this information?
It was in this context that the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) at the University of Denver convened a national conference on August 11–12, 2011. The program was called “Evaluating Appellate Judges: Preserving Integrity, Maintaining Accountability.” This article presents a summary of the conference.