Term Limits and Retention of Judges

This November one of the ballot issues will be Amendment 40, concerning term limits for Supreme Court and appellate judges. This proposal asks voters to decide whether judges should or should not be term limited to four years. Proponents of the measure argue that new judges every four years will add some fresh perspective, while opponents argue that if a judge’s performance is satisfactory, why make them leave? (See the 2006 Blue Book for the Legislative Council’s official description of the measure).

Also on the ballot, (and unrelated to Amendement 40), voters are asked, as they are annually, to vote on whether particular judges should or should not be retained. The Judicial Performance Commission issues recommendations on whether or not judges should be retained, based on the Commission’s evaluation of the judges’ performance. According to the Supreme Court’s pamphlet entitled “Colorado’s Judicial Merit Selection & Retention System,” (available in our library), the commission observes the judges and evaluates them based on several points including integrity, knowledge of the law, communication skills, “preparation, attentiveness, and control over judicial proceedings,” “docket management and prompt case disposition,” “effectiveness in working with participants in the judicial process,” and others. To become a judge, a nominee must have been licensed to practice law in Colorado at least 5 years; must be a “qualified elector of the state,” and must be under age 72 when their name is submitted for nomination.