Colorado Term Limits for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Judges, Initiative 40 (2006)

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The Colorado Term Limits for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Judges Initiative, also known as Initiative 40, was on the November 7, 2006 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was defeated. The measure would have created the following changes in Colorado's judicial branch:[1]

  • Limited the number of terms that could be served by justices of the Colorado Supreme Court
  • Limited the number of terms that could be served by judges of the Colorado Court of Appeals.
  • Reduced the term of Supreme Court justices from 10 to 4 years.
  • Reduced the term of appellate court judges from 8 to 4 years.
  • Required appellate court judges who had already served 10 years or more to leave their position in January 2009.
  • Allowed appellate court judges still eligible for another term to appear on the November 2008 ballot for retention.

Election results

Amendment 40
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No862,34957.09%
Yes 648,199 42.91%

Election results via: Colorado State Legislative Council, Ballot History

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1][2]

An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning term limits for appellate court judges, and, in connection therewith, reducing the terms of office for justices of the supreme court and judges of the court of appeals to four years, requiring appellate judges serving as of January 1, 2007, to stand for retention at the next general election, if eligible for another term, prohibiting an appellate judge from serving more than three terms, specifying that a provisional term constitutes a full term, and making any appellate judge who has served ten or more years at one court level ineligible for another term at that level.[3]

Summary and analysis

The Colorado Legislative Council is charged with providing a summary and analysis of each measure on the Colorado ballot. ("The state constitution requires that the nonpartisan research staff of the General Assembly prepare these analyses and distribute them in a ballot information booklet to registered voter households.")

To describe Amendment 40, they said:


The Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The Colorado Supreme Court consists of seven justices who serve ten-year terms. The Colorado Court of Appeals consists of nineteen judges who serve eight-year terms. When a vacancy occurs on either of these courts, an appointed commission selects three nominees for consideration by the governor. The governor then appoints one of the three nominees to fill the vacancy.

What happens after a judge is appointed? After appointment, appellate judges serve an initial two-year term and then stand for retention at the next general election. At a retention election, voters vote to either keep a judge in office or to remove a judge from office. If voters choose to keep the judge in office, he or she serves an additional term before standing for retention again. There is currently no limit on the number of terms a judge can serve, but judges are required to retire at age 72.

How are Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges evaluated? Appellate judges who are standing for retention are evaluated by a state commission on judicial performance. The commission reviews opinions authored by the justice or judge, conducts an interview with the justice or judge, and reviews surveys completed by trial court judges and attorneys. The commission's evaluation includes a recommendation stated as "retain," "do not retain," or "no opinion." This evaluation is printed in the ballot information booklet that is mailed to every Colorado voter household before a general election.

How does Amendment 40 change the current system? Amendment 40 limits Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges to three terms — one initial two-year term plus two four-year terms. Appellate judges who, as of the November 2008 election, have already served ten years will not be eligible to serve another term in their current position. Judges who are eligible to continue serving will appear on the November 2008 ballot for retention.

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The fiscal estimate provided by the Colorado Legislative Council said:


Based on current terms, at least five of seven Supreme Court justices and seven of nineteen Court of Appeals judges will leave office on January 13, 2009. Replacement justices and judges may need time to receive training in judicial procedure and to review pending cases, which could create a case backlog and increase workload for agencies working in the court system. Any case backlog will depend on the number of appeals filed and the number of cases resolved during the next two years. It is estimated that if additional resources are needed, they will be requested during the annual budget process.

Support

Supporters

Groups supporting the measure included:

  • Limit the Judges
  • Colorado Term Limits Coalition
  • The Colorado Family Action Issue Committee

Arguments in favor

Supporters argued that by creating more turnover in office, Amendment 40 would provide new perspectives and opportunity for more judges to serve on the state's two highest courts. They added that the amendment would extend the same kinds of benefits that come from legislative term limits, which Colorado voters have already approved, to the judiciary.

They also argued that options available to remove a judge from office are inadequate. No Supreme Court justice or Court of Appeals judge in Colorado has ever been removed in a retention election, impeachment of judges is almost never used, and there is no process to recall a judge.

Supporters said that requiring appellate judges to stand for retention every four years would allow the public to evaluate the performance and decisions of these judges more often. All other judges in Colorado stand for retention every four to six years; Amendment 40 would make the terms of appellate judges more similar to the other courts.[4]

Donors

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $2,272,341
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $1,286,699

$2,272,341 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "yes" vote on Amendment 40.[5]

Amendment 40 had four donors of more than $25,000. They were:

Donor Amount
Colorado At Its Best $1,227,000
Focus on the Family Action $658,208
Focus on the Family $313,496
Colorado Catholic Conference $49,336

Opposition

Opponents

Groups opposing the amendment included:

  • Citizens To Protect Colorado Courts
  • The Bell Ballot Action
  • People For The American Way Voters Alliance of Colorado.

Arguments against

Opponents argued that Amendment 40 would:

  • Force five current Supreme Court justices and seven Court of Appeals judges to step down in January 2009, before serving the full term that voters previously approved.
  • In 2009, they argued, the governor will appoint new judges to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, including a majority of the justices of the Supreme Court, giving one political party disproportionate influence over the state's two highest courts.
  • Every ten years thereafter, the governor may have the ability to appoint a large number of judges to the Court of Appeals and a super-majority to the Supreme Court.
  • Limiting the terms of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges is unnecessary. Judges are already held accountable through performance evaluations, retention elections, the oversight of the state's judicial discipline commission, possible impeachment, and mandatory retirement at age 72.
  • Amendment 40 could discourage the best candidates from pursuing judgeships on the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
  • Judges gain knowledge from years of serving on the court. With a limit on terms, judges would be required to step down when their experience is most beneficial.[4]

Donors

$1,286,699 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "no" vote on Amendment 40.[6]

Donors of $50,000 and more were:

Donor Amount
Colorado Bar Association $579,057
Denver Bar Association $100,000
U.S. Chamber of Commerce $50,000

See also

Colorado
LawsHistory
List of measures

External links

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References