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Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission

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Judicial selection in the states

The Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission is a "merit system" committee that screens and recommends candidates to the Governor for appointment to the Colorado Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.

History of the commission

When Colorado became a state in 1876, judges were chosen in partisan elections. However, in the early 1930's the American Bar Association began making efforts to insulate judges from undue political influence and the expectations of constituents, so they could make decisions based strictly upon the law. Attempts to reform Colorado's judicial selection process began as early as 1939. However, it would take the Colorado Bar Association 26 years to make those changes a reality. The judicial selection method currently used in the state was initially proposed in 1949, but legislators voted against placing the proposal on the ballot.

In 1966, several legal and voter groups collected more than 47,000 signatures to allow a vote on the constitutional amendment which changed the state's method for choosing judges. In the general election on November 8, 1966, a majority of Colorado's voters approved the amendment to end partisan elections for judges.[1] Colorado's system for choosing judges is commonly known as the Missouri Plan and has been used to select judges in the state of Missouri since 1940.

How judges are selected

In accordance with the amendment, the Governor is responsible for making appointments to fill vacancies on the Colorado Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The Governor must select from a list of three nominees, which are recommended by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

The commission is required to evaluate and interview candidates who apply for a vacancy. The commission then votes to choose the candidates who will be placed on the list. This list must be submitted to the Governor no later than 30 days after the death, retirement, tender of resignation, removal, failure to file or the certification of a negative majority vote in a retention election. If the Governor fails to make an appointment from the list within 15 days, the chief justice of the supreme court may make the appointment from the list provided to the Governor.[2]

Commission Members

The nominating commission consists of seventeen voting members, with the majority being non-lawyers. Members include:

  • One citizen, licensed to practice law in the state;
  • One citizen who is not a lawyer in the state;
  • Seven lawyers, licensed to practice law in the state (one from each of the state's congressional districts);
  • Seven citizens who are not lawyers in the state (one from each of the state's congressional districts); and
  • One additional citizen who is not a lawyer in the state.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court chairs the commission, but is not a voting member.

Joining the commission

Those interested in serving on the commission must file an application with the Nominating Commission Liaison. Non-lawyers are appointed by the Governor. Lawyer members are appointed jointly by the Governor, Attorney General and Chief Justice. Commission members serve for six-year term.[2]

See also

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