Tag Archives: Clear the Bench Colorado

Michael Bender Named Chief Justice of Colo. Supreme Court

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Michael Bender was just voted in by his colleagues as Chief Justice, replacing the retiring Mary Mullarkey.  Bender, along with Mullarkey and Justices Nancy Rice and Alex Martinez, were the targets of a no retention effort by Clear the Bench Colorado.  The effort may  well have precipitated Mullarkey’s retirement.  And though the other three justices held on to their posts, the opposition garnered an unprecedented approximate 40 percent of the vote.

To his credit, Bender doesn’t have the usual cookie-cutter government prosecutor background (see Colorado public disgrace, DA Mark Hurlbert, here and here).    Unlike most recent appointees to the courts in Colorado and the rest of the country, Bender worked in private practice from 1979 until he was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court in 1997.  He also did stints in the Jefferson County, Denver, and state public defender’s offices and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  He will officially replace Mullarkey on November 30.

Ritter Would Pick Replacements Of Any Judges Voted Out In November Election

As confirmed to me by the judicial branch almost three months ago, current Colorado Democratic governor Bill Ritter would name any replacements of judges not retained in Tuesday’s election.  (See, Article VI, Section 20 of the state constitution).  Now that Lawweek ran a story on it today, I finally felt comfortable blogging on it, as so many Republicans told me otherwise despite my having done a thorough email cross-examination of Judicial Branch Public Information Officer, Rob McCallum.

Here’s his reply to my intense questioning back on August 5:

All judges standing for retention are in the midst of a term that expires on Jan. 11, 2011.  If a judge is not retained and sits through the end of the term (which is historically the case) the nominating commission will convene following the November election and go through the process to send nominees to the Governor who will then appoint the new judge to the bench beginning on, or after, Jan 11, 2011.

If a judge is not retained by the voters and decides to immediately resign (to my knowledge this has never happened) then the nominating commission would begin its process and would have names to the Governor within 30 days of the judges departure.  The Governor would then make the appointment.

In both scenarios it would be Governor Ritter’s appointment.  [Ed:  Ritter's term similarly expires on January 11, 2011]

So much for the debate on the importance of the next governor for the current judiciary, right?.   Or is it?  Sure Ritter is going to appoint some legal losers.  He was a terrible DA and loves other terrible DAs for trial court judgeships (but so did Republican Bill Owens), and of course he will try to appoint Dems or legal establishment insiders who might as well be Dems to the Colorado Supreme Court.  But voting the bums out now  means the replacements only get a provisional two-year term, and are up for retention again then.

As  Clear the Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold frequently pointed out when it looked like Hickenlooper was a sure bet, the judicial branch ain’t easy to change, and it’s best to take it one step at a time.  After all, it’s better to get these legal losers out now (Justices Martinez, Bender and Rice ) and have a go at the replacement in two instead of the devils-we-know in 10 years.

And while we’re at it, look carefully at your own judges.  If you look at the performance reviews read between the lines, don’t just look at the recommendation or the summary – over 99 percent receive “RETAIN” recommendations.   Under the guise of operating a merit system, the Commission on Judicial Performance operates more like the teachers unions – they get a 99 percent “retain” too.  So if your local judges sound sketchy in the least, there’s a good chance they’re legal losers too.

We need a reform that grades on a curve.  If it’s really about merit, then let’s reform the law to require the Commission give no-retain recommendations to say the bottom 10 percent.  This will force the judges out of the world of communist-like equality into a world of at least modest competition .  Besides, if the locals love their legal losers so much they are free to vote to retain those bottom-ranked judges.

We also need to make the entire evaluation process more open and transparent. We need a lot of reform, and I’ll go into more about the specifics after the election, but contrary to the straw man arguments brought up by the legal establishment, this reform can easily come within Colorado’s so-called Missouri System of appointment and retention.  No one involved in the forefront of the reform movement is advocating straight elections.

Meanwhile, vote down the three Supreme Court justices on the ballot, and urge everyone you know in Larimer County to vote out corrupt, evidence manufacturing district court judges Jolene Blair and Terry Gilmore.  Since January, I’ve been all over this pair of legal refuse that caused an innocent man, Tim Masters,  to sit in prison for murder for 10 years  because of exonerating evidence they withheld,  for which they were disciplined, and for which the county and city paid out a total of $10 million to Masters.  I’m thrilled  that it looks like the voters will spit on the “RETAIN” recommendations cynically handed out by the Commission on Judicial Performance.

Controversial Colo. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey to Step Down: Retirement May Be Prompted by Clear the Bench Movement

After 23 years sitting on the bench of the  Colorado Supreme Court , Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, 66, decided “now was the right time to step down and pursue other interests,” according to a press release from the Colorado Judicial Branch.   Chief Juctice Mularkey is one of four justices targeted by Clear the Bench Colorado, for a no-retention vote this November.

The movement stems from votes upholding unconstitutional property tax increases and the so-called dirty dozen tax increases – a result of calling these otherwise TABOR-violating tax increases  “fees” or the elimination of “exemptions.”  Mularkey is targeted along with three other Colorado Supreme Court justices up for retention vote this November.  The other three are Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, and Nancy Rice.

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission later this summer will interview applicants for the upcoming vacancy and nominate three candidates to the governor, who then will appoint a new associate justice.   Members of the court will select a new chief justice.

Unfortunately, the governor doing the appointing will still be career prosecutor, and lame-duck gubernatorial disaster, Democrat Bill Ritter.  ExPat ExLawyer will be reporting in detail on how to best get an appropriate replacement appointed for Justice Mularkey.

The root of the problem in the Colorado judiciary extends well beyond these four justices.  The retention criteria themselves are artificially limited to exclude issues that should be considered before a rubber stamp is given to the voters by the Commission on Judicial Performance. Larimer County District Court judges Jolene Blair and Terry Gilmore committed egregious prosecutorial misconduct in a murder case when they were DAs by withholding and manufacturing evidence.  That misconduct resulted in an undisputably innocent man, Tim Masters,  going to prison for 10 years, the guilty suspect likely going free, and Larimer County paying a $4.1 million dollar judgment to Masters.

Incredibly, because the misconduct was not proved until Gilmore and Blair were already appointed to the bench, the Commission on Judicial Performance deems it irrelevant to their “retention” recommendations.   The misconduct resulted in rare disciplinary action by the Colorado Supreme Court for ethical violations by a prosecutor.  Ironically, these two are free to consider a defendant’s entire life history when pronouncing their judgments.  I will be devoting a major portion of blogging effort to researching and writing about what needs to be done to make Colorado’s judiciary more accountable to the public.

Updated: Chief Justice Mullarkey’s decision now, more than six months before her actual retirement date has the following logic:  All judges up for retention in November must announce in August whether they will stand for retention.  Here’s a question.  If the Chief can wait until November 30, why not hang on a little over a month more and allow the new Governor to make the appointment?

Top Colorado Political Blogger, Ben Degrow adds Ex-Pat Ex-Lawyer to Blogroll at Mount Virtus: We’re Thrilled and Flattered

We’re pleased to announce that Colorado political analyst Ben Degrow recently added us to his blog roll over at Mount Virtus.  Ben’s blog is the conservative/libertarian answer to Colorado Pols, and Ben provides news and savvy analysis of all Colorado political races.

Ben also writes for the People’s Press Collective and holds a day job at Colorado’s conservative/libertarian think tank, the Independence Institute, headed up by Jon Caldara. Ben shares my interest in education policy, though unlike me he has gotten directly involved. He even holds the distinction of being labeled one  “of the most virulent anti-public education individuals in the state,” by the ironically-named the Colorado Education Association.

An intellectual evangelical Christian, Ben writes interesting pieces on cultural issues as well. Whatever race you’re interested in, you can be sure to find excellent coverage of it at Mount Virtus.

Kobe DA Hurlbert Outed as “Hurlritter” in Colo. Senate Race: McInnis Endorsement Hints Dick Wadhams’ Manchurian Candidate May be Untrainable

Colorado State Senate Candidate Mark Hurlbert,  the District Attorney who spent $250,00 on the aborted Kobe Bryant prosecution, just announced he’s garnered the endorsement of  Scott McInnis, a Republican candidate for  governor.  McInnis, who’s endured a lot of criticism from Tea Party activists,  is Hurlbert’s second official endorsement.

The other came from term limited, 8th District State Senator Al White, who is best  known for being the biggest “Democrat” on the Republican side of the aisle.  Like failed Governor and former DA Bill Ritter, White is a big supporter of the teachers unions, who counts his votes to increase teachers union member pay, as one of the highlights of his lengthy legislative career.  As they say, you’re only as good as the company you keep.

McInnis is running a lagging campaign against Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, or “Hickenritter” as GOP boss Dick Wadhams dubs him, and as mocked in this hilarious Nazi YouTube video.  Unfortunately for Wadhams, he’s got his own Hurlritter on his hands with Hurlbert,  and the available  evidence proves he is no fiscal conservative.

As Colorado political analyst Ben Degrow points out, the endorsement is suspect as it comes in the face of a strong tea party Republican already in the race, Jefferson county businessman, Tim Leonard.   McInnis (and implicitly Wadhams)  sends a troubling signal about party unity by endorsing another candidate when a good candidate was already out there campaigning hard and doing effective fundraising.  Leonard had also already earned the endorsements of eight of Colorado’s 14 Republican state senators,  and other important backing.

The McInnis  endorsement, and the scanty information provided by either Hurlbert or McInnis about where Hurlbert stands on the issues, makes it clear that Hurlbert is Dick Wadhams’ Manchurian Candidate. Wadhams plucked Hurlbert out of the woodwork  as a sort of empty vessel,  perhaps more akin to  Ben Stiller in Zoolander, that Wadhams thinks he can fill with his own brand of electability wisdom.  Specifically,  he’s attempting to package Hurlbert as  the ideal electable, Green Republican, a moniker Wadhams seems obsessed with, and Hurlbert has obediently adopted.

Mark Hurlbert Hurlritter on the Issues

Hurlbert’s own announcement of the McIniss endorsement underscores that Wadhams hasn’t yet filled his vessel with much issue programming,  and Hurlbert may not be capable of any programming on his own.

“As a conservationist and avid outdoorsman, Mark knows the district and will represent his neighbors’ interests well at the capitol,” McInnis said. “His ability to get groups with varying interests to come together and get things done will serve the state well. I look forward to working with him the future.”

Additionally, as a former police officer, McInnis reiterated Mark’s commitment to public safety saying, “Mark’s background as a prosecutor and witnessing  the challenges of the criminal justice system uniquely prepares him to stand up for victims rights and punish wrongdoers.”

Now here’s the entirety of Hurlbert’s version of a substantive discussion of  his stance on the issues:

“It is through his time as the District Attorney that he solidified his belief in a small, efficient government and working with various interests to reach effective solutions.”

Let’s unpack these two announcements.  McInnis doesn’t make the mistake Hurlbert does with the “small, efficient government” line, though they both are on the same page about working with the “various interests to reach effective solutions.”  And what the heck does this mean? The only thing that makes sense is that he’s referring to plea bargaining in criminal cases, where he would be working with defense lawyers,  and occasionally judges.

Besides this explaining very little about how Hurlritter would perform as a legislator, his record even as a DA shows him picking the wrong battles to fight and the wrong ones to quit .  This issue dovetails with Hurlbert’s troubling record of being soft on the perpetrators of violent assaults against women.  There is too much material to cover until the next article in this series, but here’s yet another badly handled case.  Suffice it to say for now that Hurlbert Hurlritter has left in his wake during his eight-year reign as DA enough devastated victims to form a large support group, and in the process let numerous violent offenders roam relatively or completely free.

Is Hurlbert Hurlritter a Green Republican?

Who knows?  He has no record  working on conservation issues in the mountain communities he lives and works in .  His “non-profits” lists only one on his now-trimmed down Facebook page:  the perfectly good (and aptly triangulated),  Bush Clinton Haiti Fund.  The few comments he’s made are beyond vague.   He’s made no statements on resource development or climate change and cap-and-trade.

He is a Great Outdoorsman though, and Wadhams seems to be using this as a surrogate for Green, allowing another escape from specifics.   The Hurlbert-supportive Summit Daily reports in it’s press release announcing his candidacy:

“In his spare time, Mark likes to ski, hike, run and fly fish. He has climbed all of Colorado’s 14ers, as well as Mt. Whitney in California, Mt. Rainer in Washington and the Grand Teton in Wyoming.”

Sounds like Mark hasn’t made it out of the lower 48–I was hoping to learn about similar conquests of Denali, Mt. Blanc, Kilimanjaro, and Aconcagua in Argentina.  Hurlbert repeatedly brings up his graduation from Dartmouth as a Political Science major (what else?), but modestly omits that he was admitted on a sports scholarship for both downhill and cross-country skiing.  Not to be cynical, but it seems as if he wants the public to think he was admitted to Dartmouth on his academic record when he wasn’t.  And he  graduated with no honors before heading back to Colorado for law school, where he also failed to graduate with any honors.  Reminds me of a certain Harvard Law grad.

When it comes to walking the talk on legitimate environmental issues facing Colorado, Hurlbert’s  a bit less energetic.  He skipped an important Forest Service meeting on pine beetle eradication held last week right outside his front door in Breckenridge.  Yet his opponent, Tim Leonard, reportedly made the trip from Jefferson County to attend.  And Leonard has consistently placed the pine beetle problem front and center on his website.

Hurlbert Hurlritter  Lacks Evidence of Fiscal Conservatism

It’s notable that McInnis fails to comment about Hurlbert being a small government guy, and a fiscal conservative.  That’s fair enough considering the absence of any such evidence. He has held one job his entire career- a government job as  a government lawyer, experience that didn’t serve Bill Ritter or Colorado very well.

Unhappy that the people voted in term limits for DAs, Hurlbert fought unsuccessfully to add a third term so he could be DA until 2016.  Not one to take no for an answer, he vowed to try again this year.  But then  incumbent Democrat Dan Gibbs made the unexpected announcement he would not run for re-election, and Hurlritter jumped at this new opportunity to extend his career in government.

Hurlbert Hurlritter  even lives in taxpayer subsidized housing in Breckenridge’s Wellington Neighborhood, and lists his taxpayer assisted investment as a “Store” on his campaign Facebook page.  Worse,  Hurlbert has used his visibility as DA to lobby for tight restrictions on other homeowners wanting to upgrade their deed restricted homes by doing such terrible things as installing new cabinetry and countertops.  The self-avowed, small government guy claimed such upgrades would jeopardize the project’s “affordability.”

If Hurlbert’s so concerned with local middle and working class families getting one of these plum prizes,  it would seem fair for Hurlbert to sell his taxpayer subsidized home, and buy one of the more expensive, identical “free market” homes in the development.   As one-half of a two-attorney household, who reportedly drives around the mountains in a Mercedes convertible, it seems as if he could swing it.  Maybe he hopes if he gets elected to the state senate and spends more time in Denver, he’ll be able to put the top down more often on the Mercedes.

So how does he do managing his 11-attorney DA’s office?  He has staunchly avoided cutting his budget as others have had to, and has assured his employees that none would have to suffer even a single furlough day.  I was informed of the latter by a support staff member last year (ironically, a woman from Chicago).  She haughtily told me Hurlbert would never allow furloughs  to happen.  He also emailed me,  telling me the implausible story that he has no way to keep an accounting of what his office spends on individual cases.  He also lacks written policies on evidence retention and conflicts of interest, and I don’t know what else.

Hurlbert also skipped a health care event he’d committed to attend that took place on February 13.   As the Scott Brown election shows, health care can be a litmus test about whether someone’s really a fiscal conservative or not.

He did attend a Republican candidates event in Jefferson County, on January 31.  Hurlbert Hurlritter  trumpets this  as a great success on his website.  It may have been for his opponent.

Despite being a lawyer and a professed fiscal conservative, activists who attended the event described a Hurlbert who didn’t even know what Clear the Bench Colorado was about–he’d never heard of it and thought it might be some sort of proposed legislation.  Of course,  it is the anti-retention campaign against the four Democrat Supreme Court justices when they are up for vote in November.  The justices went around the voter mandates of TABOR and allowed Ritter and his legislative cohorts to increase taxes and fees merely by labeling them “tax breaks” instead.

Once Hurlbert got with the program thanks to the  help of his fellow candidates, Hurlritter chimed in that he was all for it saying, “throw the bums out.”  It will be interesting to see how the “bums” treat him the next time one of his cases comes before the Supreme Court.

Wadham’s fantasy Green Machine, Hurlbert Hurlritter, seems to be winding up a high-maintenance Manchurian Candidate for the busy GOP boss , who has his hands full with McInnis’ struggling campaign in a tight race.  Hurlritter will require  more remedial political and economic education and guidance than Wadhams has time or patience for, and without the benefit of the Manchurian high-tech brain implants.

Please read the tea leaves, Dick.  They are not Green.  They are Tea Party Red.