Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Proposed 2012 ballot measure would change Colo. judicial system - The Denver Post

Proposed 2012 ballot measure would change Colo. judicial system - The Denver Post

Even if four state Supreme Court justices survive an attempt to remove them from the bench this election, another effort is underway to seriously alter Colorado's judiciary system.

A proposed ballot measure for the 2012 election would change how Colorado's judges are appointed and how long they could serve. It would trim the number of Supreme Court justices from seven to five and require Senate confirmation hearings for appointees.

The proposal, although a long way from becoming reality, has caused consternation.

"It injects more politics into the system," said Chuck Turner, president of the Colorado Bar Association.

"All you have to do is look at what is happening in Washington today to see how people line up and make this a partisan process," Turner said, referring to U.S. Supreme Court nominations before the Senate.

Those hearings are necessary, Turner said, because U.S. Supreme Court justices typically serve for life. In Colorado, he said, judges come up for "retention" before the voters and can be removed from the bench.

The measure was filed by Dennis Polhill of Golden, a Republican who has filed a number of ballot measures, and Douglas Campbell of Arvada, who has run for statewide office as the American Constitution Party candidate. Campbell also served as former Rep. Douglas Bruce's aide in 2008.

Campbell said he doesn't think Senate confirmation hearings, which would follow committee hearings where the public can testify, would politicize the process.

Polhill said he thinks "modest" changes are needed in a system that is already superior to many states.

"I'm very uncomfortable with the states that have partisan-elected judges," he said.

Colorado's system, in place since 1966, has received national praise. Nonpartisan nominating commissions interview candidates when there is vacancy on the bench and send two or three names to the governor.

The person the governor picks must run in the next general election and again every time his or her term is up.

Coloradans in 2006 rejected term limits for judges, voting down Amendment 40. It would have limited appellate-court justices to a maximum of 10 years on the bench.

This election, the group Clear the Bench Colorado is advocating voters reject all four Supreme Court justices up for retention because of rulings it believes are unconstitutional.

Lynn Bartels: 303-954-5327 or lbartels@denverpost.com

What could change

A ballot measure proposed for the 2012 election would change Colorado's process for selecting judges.

Currently: In case of a vacancy, a nonpartisan nominating commission gives the governor the names of two or three candidates. The governor picks the new judge.

Proposed: The governor could ignore the list and pick someone else. The nominee would have to be confirmed by the state Senate.

Currently: The terms for judges vary, including 10 years for Supreme Court justices and four years for county court judges.

Proposed: All judicial terms would be four years.

Currently: Judges don't have term limits. When their terms expire, voters decide whether to keep them for another term or kick them off the bench. Judges face mandatory retirement at age 72.

Proposed: Judges would still face retention elections, but appellate court judges would be limited to a maximum of 12 years on the bench. Local voters could determine whether to impose term limits for judges in their jurisdiction.

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