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Frequently Asked Questions about Colorado Judges and CJI

About CJI: 
The Colorado Judicial Institute is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.  Membership contributions to CJI are tax deductible. The organization was founded in 1979.  The board of directors are all volunteers.

Does Colorado elect judges?
No.  Since 1966 Colorado has used a system based upon merit to select judges.  When a judicial vacancy occurs, an announcement and call for applications goes out.  Once the deadline for all applications has occurred, a nominating commission meets to interview applicants.  The commission recommends two or three individuals for the governor to consider.  The governor then appoints one of them to fill the vacancy. 

Information on the nomination commissions and how you can become more involved can be found at the Judicial Nominating Commission webpage.  More information on the merit selection process can be found in the publication "How a Judge Becomes a Judge" available here.

Why do judges appear on my ballot?
The Colorado Constitution requires that each judge stand for retention election.  A retention election is not a partisan contest.  Voters are asked whether to to retain a judge in their current position by voting "yes" to retain or "no" to not retain the judge.

How long are judicial terms?
Judicial terms vary based upon the court in which a judge serves.  County Court judges serve for four years, District Court judges serve for six years, Court of Appeals judges serve for eight years, and Supreme Court justices serve for ten.  Judges serve an initial two year probationary term before standing for retention election.

Where can I get more information on Colorado Judges before I vote?
Judicial performance evaluation information can be found at www.coloradojudicialperformance.gov/.  The legislation that establishes the judicial performance program can be found in the Colorado Revised Statutes 13- 5.5-101 thru 13-5.5-109. 


The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2000-2009

The Justice at Stake Campaign, Brennan Center for Justice, and National Institute on Money in State Politics has released a ground breaking report on the staggering increase in spending in state high-court elections.  The report not only details the increase in the amount spent on judicial elections, but identifies the individuals and groups providing the funds.  See the entire report here.

ABA President's Message Illustrates Need for Non-Partisan Selection Methods

No other nation in the world elects judges in the manner that over 30 states still do.  Contested elections present serious concern in that they erode public confidence in an impartial judiciary.  In light of recent Supreme Court decisions, ABA President Carolyn Lamm discusses the importance of ensuring judicial independence in the United States.  Read the entire article here.

Justice At Stake Poll: Judicial impartiality questioned by public in cases involving campaign contributors.

While Colorado does not have a judicial selection system that requires private fund raising for partisan judicial campaigns, the results of the Justice at Stake poll bolsters CJI's support of merit selection and non-partisan retention election systems as models to ensure fairness and public confidence in the judicial system.

US Supreme Court Rules in "Justice for Sale" Case