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Judicial Excellence for Colorado Dinner

2010 Judcial Excellence for Colorado Dinner

2010 Judicial Excellence for Colorado Dinner

 Denver – “Thank you very much.”

With those four simple words, Magistrate Diane Dupree of the 2nd Judicial District made a modest bit of legal history at the Colorado Judicial Institute’s 8th Annual Judicial Excellence for Colorado Dinner in Denver on November 18th.

Magistrate Dupree was honored for her special skill in domestic court, where she often handles contentious post-divorce and child welfare issues. She was one of three jurists – along with Chief Judge Terry Ruckriegle of the Fifth Judicial District and Boulder County Judge Thomas J.B. Reed – honored for outstanding performance on and off the bench by CJI, a non-profit citizens group which promotes fair and impartial courts in Colorado. This year, CJI also gave its first-ever Distinguished Judicial Leadership Award to outgoing Chief Justice Mary J. Mullarkey of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Unlike previous winners of the Judicial Excellence Award, this year’s honorees were allowed to make brief remarks to the audience of 624 people gathered at the Marriot City Center.  Previous award winners could accept their awards but were required to remain mute by a policy of the Colorado Supreme Court that prohibited judges from speaking at fund-raising events. Last July, the high court’s Ethics Committee modified the rule to allow state judges to speak at events “concerned with the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.”

Besides recognizing judicial excellence, the annual dinner helps raise funds to foster that very excellence. Since CJI created its Judicial Education Fund in 2002, it has raised more than $200,000 to support continuing education for judges, magistrates and full-time judicial department employees. Such grants have become even more important in recent years as the state’s worsening fiscal crisis has forced cutbacks in the court system’s budget. Among other things, grants from CJI have paid for regional judicial conferences to replace those canceled by the budget crisis.

Chief Justice Mullarkey, who will step down from the Court on Nov. 30, hailed CJI and other civic groups who have fought to assure fair and impartial courts in Colorado. The support of CJI and other groups for merit selection of judges has helped spare Colorado from heavily politicized judicial elections such as the recent Iowa vote that removed three members of the Iowa Supreme Court “because apparently they decided a case wrong.”

While Colorado voters adopted the merit selection system in 1966, Nevada voters just defeated a proposal to establish merit selection in their state, the Chief Justice noted.

Mullarkey was named to the Colorado Supreme Court in 1987 by then-Gov. Roy Romer.     She was selected as Chief Justice by her fellow justices in 1998. She was honored by CJI for numerous efforts to improve the administration of justice in Colorado, including developing a statewide case management system, establishing e-filing systems for trial courts and developing the Colorado Integrated Criminal Justice Information System, which enables all criminal justice agencies to track offenders through the legal system, from arrest and prosecution to adjudication and incarceration.

In a film introducing Mullarkey, one former clerk described her passion for detail in the law by recounting a case that revolved around a particular phrase in the Colorado Constitution. Unsatisfied with looking at contemporary copies of the document, Mullarkey ordered the clerk to visit the state archives and verify the exact placement of a critical comma in the original 1776 document.

Judge Reed has won special praise for his supervision of Boulder County’s DUI Integrated Treatment Court – a specialized court for repeat DUI offenders. Judge Reed closely supervises the participants and has had only one offender “bomb out” of the program – a testament to the positive and productive environment created by Judge Reed and his team.

Judge Ruckriegle was named to the Fifth Judicial District (Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties) in 1984 and served as Chief Judge in the District from 1994 to 2010. He received high praise for his management of the Kobe Bryant case, which brought a horde of news media to Colorado to cover the rape charges filed against the National Basketball Association star. Ruckriegle kept the public informed and also maintained the fairness and dignity of his courtroom by putting motions and pleadings on-line where journalists could access them without disrupting and overwhelming court personnel.

Submitted by Bob Ewegen, CJI Board Member

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Judicial Excellence Awards Nominations Now Open!

Nominations for the CJI Judicial Excellence Awards are open!  Click here to submit a nomination.

If you would like to read more about the awards, please visit the Judicial Excellence Awards page.

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