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Judicial Excellence for Colorado Dinner Celebrates
Bringing Courts Closer to the People

By Bob Ewegen, CJI Journalist-in-Residence

While prominent Americans – including U. S. Chief Justice John Roberts – have  decried the growing politicization of our federal court system, 570 leading Coloradans gathered at the Denver Hilton City Center October 18th  to celebrate 52 years of fair and impartial state courts at the Colorado Judicial Institute’s 16th annual Judicial Excellence for Colorado awards dinner.

This year, CJI honored Denver District Judge Morris B. Hoffman, Jefferson County Court Judge Thomas E. Vance and Denver Juvenile Court     

Magistrate Lisa Gomez for outstanding performance and leadership on the bench.  CJI also honored Colorado Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alan M. Loeb and retired Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy Rice.  

The honorees and their peers spoke of the challenges and rewards of their jobs.  

Gomez was hailed for “understanding the complexity of the modern family and putting families first in the courtroom.”  Magistrate Gomez spoke for all her colleagues when she said “For us, this is not a job.   It’s a calling.”

Judge Vance helps citizens who represent themselves “feel as at home in the courtroom as the most experienced attorney.” The veteran jurist said his years on the bench had taught him that “There are three sides to every story. Your side, my side and, somewhere between them, the truth.  Three words are important to judging:
demeanor, demeanor and demeanor.  Treat other people as you would like to be treated yourself and remember – ‘da meaner’ you are, the harder it gets,” Judge Vance joked.

Judge Hoffman noted the strain that running a courtroom often puts heavy demands on a judge’s staff and family.   Still, he smiled “After all these years, I still can’t believe they pay me for this job.”  Hoffman is known nationally for advancing the study of law and neuroscience.

Justice Richard Gabriel, who now serves on the Colorado Supreme Court, said Judge Loeb “Saved me from myself on many occasions” while the two served together on the Court of Appeals.  “Yet, he was so kind and respectful that you never resented it.”

Retired Court of Appeals Justice Sandra Rothenberg said of the recently retired Justice Rice: “She’s got the wisdom, she’s got the brainpower and she wants to do the right thing.   What more can you ask of anyone?”

Besides honoring judicial excellence, the annual dinner helps promote that excellence by raising money for CJI’s efforts on behalf of education and training for Colorado judges and court personnel.   CJI also uses those funds to support the merit system of judicial selection that Colorado voters established in a 1966 Constitutional Amendment.

In lieu of the hotly partisan and heavily financed elections that plague many states, when a vacancy on the bench occurs in Colorado, non-partisan commissions review potential replacements and nominate two or three

candidates to the governor.   Once appointed, a judge serves at least two years before facing voters in a non-partisan retention election.   If voters decide not to give the judge a full term, the merit process starts over again.   If retained, the judge serves a term of ten years on the Supreme Court, eight years on the Court of Appeals, six years for the District Court and four years for county courts.   At the end of the term, the judge can stand for retention to another term, but may not serve in office past his or her 72nd birthday.

The merit selection system is backed by high standards for judicial conduct and performance.  An independent commission on judicial discipline reviews complaints against judges and may institute disciplinary or removal proceedings for violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.  

Bob Ewegen, who retired from The Denver Post in 2008 after more than 36 years at the paper, is CJI Journalist in residence and an emeritus member of the CJI Board.  He is director of communications and research at the Ewegen Law firm headed by his daughter, Misty Ewegen.

CJI welcomes the submission of guest articles directly related to our mission and activities.  Upon careful review by CJI officers and staff, submissions may be published in the newsletter.  Questions about submitting articles for the CJI newsletter should be directed to the CJI office via email or phone at 303-766-7501.

Past CJI Newsletters

New at CJI: Judicial Excellence for Colorado Dinner
New at CJI: 2018 Judicial Excellence for Colorado Nominees Announced
New at CJI: CJI Funds Legal Resource Day
New at CJI: 2017 Judicial Excellence for Colorado Keynote Speaker Lauds Colorado Courts
New at CJI: CJI Supports CCE Conference/Judicial Excellence Dinner Honors Four Colorado Judges for 2017
New at CJI: CJI Announces 2017 Judicial Excellence Awards Honorees and New JPE Legislation
New at CJI: Judge Miller Honored with Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer Award/Judicial Excellence Dinner Announces Key Note Speaker
New at CJI: Judicial Excellence Nominees Announced and CJI Welcomes New Board Members
New at CJI: Education Grants for Pro Se Litigant Training/Nominations Open for Judicial Excellence Awards
Colorado Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Judicial Merit Selection
Support CJI on Colorado Give Day, December 6
CJI Supports Amendment 71
Reserve your Seats Now for the 2016 Judicial Excellence Dinner
Judicial Excellence Dinner Celebrates 50 Years of Fair and Impartial Courts
Politico Author to Speak at CJI Dinner/CJI Tackles ADR Issues
CJI Announces 2016 Judicial Excellence Awards Honorees/CJI’s Public Education Program Adopts the Informed Voters and Fair Courts Project
Results of CJI Annual Meeting Elections/Judicial Excellence Awards Nominees Announced
Flood of ‘Dark Money' Drowns Public Confidence in Politics
CJI to Recognize Five Judicial Officers at 2015 Judicial Excellence for Colorado Dinner
CJI Welcomes New CBA Executive Director and Elects New Board Members at Annual Meeting
Judicial Election Spending Decried at 2014 Judicial Excellence for Colorado Dinner
“Know Your Judge” Also Means “Know the Process”
Is it I? The President of the American Judicature Society Reflects on the Bias Inherent in Judicial Elections
Plaintiff in Caperton Vs. Massey Speaks on Impact of Campaign Money
CJI Honors Five Outstanding Jurists for Maintaining Excellence in Colorado Courts
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