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State of Colorado

History of Reform Efforts: Colorado

Formal Changes Since Inception

Supreme court justices elected by the people to nine-year terms, district court judges elected to six-year terms, and county court judges elected to three-year terms.

Court of appeals established. Judges appointed by the governor with senate consent to six-year terms. Court was abolished in 1905.

Terms of county court judges increased to four years.

Tenure of supreme court justices increased to ten years.

Court of appeals established. Abolished in 1917.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment adopting merit selection of Colorado judges. Judges are appointed by the governor from a list of nominees submitted by a judicial nominating commission, and they stand for retention at the next general election after two years in office. Upon retention, judges of the supreme court, district courts, and county courts serve ten, six, and four-year terms, respectively. The effort to adopt merit selection began as early as 1947, when the Colorado Bar Association first encouraged the legislature to approve a merit selection amendment. From 1957 on, the bar, the League of Women Voters of Colorado, and other organizations worked together toward merit selection of judges and were successful in placing an initiative on the ballot in 1966.

Court of appeals established. Judges chosen through merit selection to serve eight-year terms after initial retention.

Judicial discipline commission established.

General assembly created commissions on judicial performance to evaluate judges standing for retention and provide that information to voters.

SB54 established the Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation within the Judicial Department to provide for written evaluations of judges and justices by state and district commissions, analyzed according to certain criteria. Interim evaluations are to be conducted for all justices and judges at least once during their full terms of office.