Attorney General John Suthers said it was a mistake to come out against retaining state Supreme Court justices. He said it wasn’t his place to speak those views publicly and that, in making a public statement to that effect, he clearly did no favors for his staff attorneys, who have to argue cases before the court.
The remarks came during a public debate between Suthers and Democratic opponent Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett.
Suthers said he wanted to make clear that he was not a member of Clear the Bench Colorado, a group campaigning against judicial retention this election year that argues the state’s Supreme Court is too liberal and activist. Suthers said that, when the group asked him for his opinion on its campaign, he should have said no comment.
“I was confronted by one of these folks on the Clear the Bench Campaign and they said in light of the mill levy freeze case, the Labato school funding case , ‘Don’t you think that we need to get rid of all four of the supreme court judges?’ I should have declined to answer the question.”
Campaign members believe the mill levy case unconstitutionally raised taxes by overriding the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
Suthers said he told the group he supported Colorado Supreme Court Justice Nancy Rice for retention. That comment led to the perception that he was condemning the rest of the justices.
“While I have been critical of the Colorado Supreme Court I have always ensured that that criticism is not unduly critical,” Suthers said.
He explained that although he would still choose whom to retain on a personal level, as a voter, it was not his place to come out in open opposition to the justices.
“It resulted in a headline about my criticism of the court– probably went too far about retention. That sends the wrong message to my office. They need to go over there without that.”
The comments came in reference to a question Aaron Harbor, who asked each candidate to talk about mistakes they may have made. Garnett said he didn’t implement changes in the Boulder County DA’s office as quickly as he might have.