Amendment 40: Judicial Term Limits

The Colorado Secretary of State has confirmed that a proposed ballot measure concerning judicial term limits has enough signatures to be placed on the ballot and has assigned it the designation “Amendment 40.”The proposal would limit judges to ten years on any appellate court, broken up into a first term of two years, a second term of four years, and a third term of four years.  The proposal is retroactive and would result in five of the seven judges on the Colorado Supreme Court, and seven of the judges on the Colorado Court of Apppeals from running again at the next retention election.

Under the merit system of judicial selection adopted in 1966 in Colorado, Colorado Supreme Court judges serve ten year terms, after an initial two year term, and Colorado Court of Appeals judges serve eight year terms, after an initial two year term.  Judges in District Court serve six year terms after an initial two year term.  Judges in County Court serve four year terms after an initial two year term.  Judges in Colorado face mandatory retirement at age 72.

All judges in Colorado, outside of Denver and municipal judges, are appointed by the Governor from a list of candidates provided by a blue ribbon commission.  Separate judicial performance commissions evaluate judges facing retention elections and either recommend that they be retained, offer no opinion, or recommend that they not be retained.  This year, the commissions have recommended that all judges facing voters this year be retained, although in several cases, this was over a dissent for concerns reflected in their report on the judge’s performance.

No appellate judge has ever been removed in a retention election, although six trial court judges have been removed.

The issue is strongly opposed by the Colorado Bar Association.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s signature review, based upon a 5% random sample, found that of the 109,426 signatures submitted, 79,389 were valid, exceeding the 67,829 signatures required by law by about 17%.

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Andrew Oh-Willeke

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