Sunday, August 11, 2002
Steamboat Springs A local commission charged with evaluating the performance of three judges in the 14th Judicial District is recommending one of those judges not be retained in the Nov. 5 general election.
The 14th Judicial District's Performance Commission evaluated Routt County Judge James Garrecht, Moffat County Judge Mary Lynne James and 14th District Judge Joel S. Thompson.
The name of the judge who received a "do not retain" recommendation could not be released until today.
Evaluations as well as statistical survey results of 104 appellate, trial and county judges standing for retention in any of the state's 22 judicial districts were made available online this morning at the Colorado Courts Web site at www.courts.state.co.us and the Colorado Bar Association Web site at www.cobar.org.
Voters decide if Garrecht, Lynne and Thompson stay in office, but the commission's recommendation provides voters with useful information to help them make an informed decision at the polls, said Karen Salaz, information coordinator for the Office of the State Court Administrator.
"It's a way for the public, who may not see what happens in their courtrooms, to see how they (the judges) are doing," she said.
The evaluation also gives judges some feedback about their performance in office so they know how and what they can improve, Salaz said.
Twenty-three volunteer commissions throughout the state made "retain," "do not retain" or "no opinion" recommendations for each judge seeking retention in the Nov. 5 election.
Two judges in the state received a "do not retain" recommendation.
More than two dozen judges, including Richard P. Doucette, chief judge in the 14th Judicial District, did not seek retention.
The Colorado General Assembly created Commissions on Judicial Performance in 1988 to offer voters objective and practical evaluations of trail and appellate judges seeking retention in general elections.
The governor, president of the Senate, Speaker of the House and Chief Justice appoint state and local commission members. Each 10-member commission is comprised of four attorneys and six non-attorneys.
Commissions weigh such criteria as integrity, knowledge of the law, communication skills, docket management, preparation, punctuality and effectiveness in working with participants in the judicial process.
Statistical survey results posted on the Internet reflect responses to more than 55,000 surveys mailed to people who have had contact with the judges, including attorneys, victims, law enforcement officers, court personnel, jurors, litigants, social workers and probation officers.
The 14th Judicial District's Performance Commission consists of attorneys Mark Fischer, Rich Newton, Tom Sharp and John Vanderbloemen. The six residents on the commission are Olive Morton, Barbara Baker, Ben Beall, Cathy Carpenter, T.J. Sisto and John Ponikvar.
A mix of people affiliated with the court on a daily basis and those who have rarely stepped inside a courtroom contributed to a well-rounded commission, said Ponikvar, a Craig resident.
"You get a good perspective," he said. "We gave a fair evaluation."
The commission received about 50 surveys in response to the performance of the three 14th Judicial District judges seeking retention, Ponikvar said.
The evaluation process began in January and included an interview with each judge and a self-evaluation completed by each judge.
The public was also encouraged to give the commission its opinion about the professional performance of each judge via letter or a meeting.
The commission then produced a narrative profile of each judge based on all the information it collected.
"This was a real group effort," Ponikvar said.
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