Our Courts PSAs Urge Voters to Not Forget About Judges

October 9, 2020

Election Day is less than a month away, and although much of the focus has been on the presidential race, down-ballot categories—such as those for judges—are just as important. Judges are vital to our communities and our democracy. It is essential that the public is not only informed about a judge’s performance on the job, but that the public also has a say in whether or not the judge stays on the bench.

That’s why Our Courts Colorado, a nationally recognized organization that informs the understanding of the state and federal courts, has released a series of PSAs encouraging people to consider the judges up for retention on their ballots. The PSAs feature diverse and well-known members of the community—not all of whom have legal backgrounds—who explain why Coloradans should take the time to educate themselves about the judges up for retention and then cast their votes accordingly.

Reverend Eugene Downing, minister at New Hope Baptist Church, urges voters to not ignore the judges on their ballots: “This is your chance to make sure Colorado has a strong court system.” Voting in judicial retention elections is important, he explains, because it gives people a voice; it also ensures we have a fair judiciary “dedicated to providing equal justice for all,” and keeps politics out of our court system.

“Merit selection ensures our judges are not influenced by money and partisan politics,” says Daniel Ramos, former executive director of One Colorado. “By voting in judicial retention elections, which are held every two years, you and other Colorado voters get to decide whether a judge should continue to serve in that position or not.” Information on all judges up for retention is contained in the blue ballot information booklet mailed to all voters.

“Here are three easy ways for you to participate,” Ramos says. “Educate yourself about the importance of judges by reviewing the voter blue book; volunteer for a commission for your judicial district; and, most importantly, make your voice heard and don’t forget to vote.”

Luis Canela, sportscaster and the Denver Broncos play-by-play announcer in Spanish, is also featured in a PSA, relaying the same information in Spanish.

Under Colorado’s merit selection process, a nominating commission—made up of attorneys and members of the public—screens and interviews applicants for judgeships. The commission then recommends the two to three best-qualified candidates to the governor for appointment. After at least two years in office, judges stand in a retention election, in which voters are asked whether judges should remain in office for a full term, based on a comprehensive review of their performance on the job. That impartial judicial performance evaluation (JPE) is designed to help judges improve their skills on the bench and to inform voters about how judges are handling their duties.

Today, Colorado is one of six states that use the methods outlined in the O’Connor Judicial Selection Plan to choose and retain all judges.

Colorado citizens have an opportunity to be involved—whether by serving on a nominating or performance evaluation commission, evaluating judges before whom they have appeared, or testifying at public hearings about the selection and evaluation of judges. And, of course, they have the opportunity—and the duty—to make an informed vote for or against the judges up for retention.

Ballots will be mailed to Colorado voters beginning today, October 9. You can check and update your voter registration status here.

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