Welcome to Court docket Crawl, Colorado Politics’ roundup of stories from the third department of presidency.
Household, pals and colleagues gathered on the federal courthouse in downtown Denver to formally have fun the appointment of a history-making decide, and the Colorado Supreme Court docket heard oral arguments in issues felony, civil and political.
A ‘fierce advocate for the underdog’
• U.S. District Court docket Choose Charlotte N. Sweeney took workplace in August, following a slim 48-46 affirmation vote within the U.S. Senate. On Friday, Sweeney held her ceremonial swearing-in — often called an investiture — in entrance of well-wishers and different dignitaries, together with each of Colorado’s senators and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court docket.
• “I used to be not a candidate with out threat. What prompted me to use was actually an preliminary letter the White Home despatched out in search of candidates from various backgrounds,” Sweeney mentioned in her remarks. “I learn that and I assumed, ‘Yeah, proper. We’ll see what occurs.'”
• Sweeney, a former staff’ rights lawyer, is the primary overtly homosexual federal decide to be appointed in Colorado. She paid tribute throughout her investiture to the opposite 5 girls who’ve served on the state’s federal trial court docket, noting every of them, like her, was a “first” in some capability. And, in one other collective first, 2022 marks the primary time the U.S. District Court docket has three lively judges (out of seven) who’re girls.
• Among the many lighter moments of the investiture, Sweeney’s pal, Robbie Barr, praised her humorousness, predicting the court docket’s completely happy hours would get “higher and extra frequent.”
“I don’t know what the federal district court docket completely happy hours have been like previously,” Barr mentioned.
“We maintain that fairly secret,” mentioned the chief decide, Philip A. Brimmer.
• The following investiture will happen in early December for U.S. District Court docket Choose Nina Y. Wang, who additionally received affirmation earlier this yr.
Supreme Court docket oral arguments
• Legal professionals in 5 instances appeared earlier than the Colorado Supreme Court docket final week to argue their appeals on quite a lot of points. On a well-recognized matter, the court docket continues to reply questions from its 2020 resolution reinterpreting the state’s felony drunk driving regulation. The newest quandary for prosecutors and trial judges: Are juries allowed to listen to prejudicial proof a couple of defendant’s prior drunk driving convictions on the identical time in addition they hear allegations of the present DUI offense?
• A Jefferson County decide declined to postpone a digital listening to to terminate a father’s parental rights, although he was trying unsuccessfully to log in and take part. Though the Supreme Court docket justices appeared unconvinced the decide’s actions led to a constitutional violation, a few of them questioned what would have been the hurt in pausing to determine tips on how to accommodate the dad.
• Compelling proof exists that another person, and never the lady who was convicted, dedicated a housebreaking at a Weld County trailer residence. The justices acknowledged there was an inherent unfairness in prohibiting the defendant from calling the alternate suspect as a witness throughout her jury trial.
• The mayor of Thornton was elected to 2 phrases as a council member earlier than her 2019 election as mayor. However one resident believes the mayor’s service runs afoul of a 1994 constitutional modification prohibiting greater than two consecutive phrases “in workplace” for native officers. The Supreme Court docket members struggled to grasp whether or not the construction of Thornton’s authorities meant the mayor and council member positions are literally the identical workplace.
• The general public remark interval is open for these wishing to weigh in on a proposed rule change addressing racial bias in jury choice. After faltering final yr, after which once more within the legislature this yr, the Supreme Court docket might resolve in 2023 whether or not to crack down on sure methods which have the impact of excluding folks of colour from juries.
• The Supreme Court docket has accepted two appeals for argument. The problems are: Whether or not law enforcement officials could re-enter a house for some cause after they beforehand acquired permission to enter for a special cause, and whether or not the state’s Court docket of Appeals accurately interpreted a key system for financing native redevelopment.
An interview with previous and current Denver chief judges
• Michael A. Martinez and Christopher J. Baumann, the previous and current chief judges, respectively, of the Denver District Court docket, spoke to Colorado Politics about how their court docket is totally different from others throughout the state, the turnover on the bench lately, and the chief decide’s position in judges’ efficiency evaluations. Right here is an excerpt:
Colorado Politics: As chief judges, you are aware of extra details about how trial judges are doing their jobs than the typical voter is. Do you assume there is a means, in concept or in observe, to have voters know extra of what after they’re making selections whether or not to retain judges?
Michael Martinez: Chief judges will certainly give the fee sufficient info for them to make use of in crafting an evaluation of how judges are doing. I at all times took it as a possibility to present the fee a view of what it seems like from the bench — what are the circumstances they’re coping with.
For instance, at one level we had a staffing scarcity the place not all judges had regulation clerks and we weren’t in a position to keep continuity of the staffing. So, I might share that with the fee and assist them perceive how that will be impactful to particular person judges’ skill to carry out their features. So, by doing that, the fee would have that info and go to particular person judges and ask them, “How did you handle these explicit circumstances,” realizing I had given them that filter.
Christopher Baumann: The work that we’re doing is all public. To the extent individuals are questioning what we’re doing, we put every part on the market both in open court docket or written orders. I do know the typical voter just isn’t gonna take the effort and time to look into all that we’re doing, however that is why we have now a fee. We put numerous religion in our fee members to present us a good evaluation.
Vacancies and appointments
• The governor appointed Michael P. Halpin to the Custer County Court docket, succeeding now-District Court docket Choose Amanda Hunter. Halpin is a regulation enforcement officer with no authorized diploma — certainly one of a small variety of “lay judges” allowed in sure county courts for smaller jurisdictions.
• Civil litigator Keith M. Goman can be the latest decide for the Jefferson County Court docket, succeeding retiring Choose Okay.J. Moore.
• The Sixth Judicial District of Archuleta, La Plata and San Juan counties has an upcoming emptiness because of the resignation of District Court docket Choose Todd P. Norvell. Purposes are due by Dec. 2.
• Kirk Taylor, the previous sheriff of Pueblo County, has taken workplace because the U.S. marshal for Colorado. The Marshals Service dates to 1789 and its duties embody defending the judiciary.
• The U.S. Environmental Safety Company got here to an affordable conclusion by denying Suncor’s request for an exemption to a renewable fuels program, however its acknowledged rationale was in the end an abuse of the EPA’s discretion, concluded the U.S. Court docket of Appeals for the tenth Circuit.
• There are greater than a dozen vacancies all through the state on judicial nominating commissions — the panels that display screen candidates for judgeships. Legal professionals and nonlawyers can apply to volunteer on-line.
• The state’s judicial division is holding occasions in 9 places this week to help self-represented litigants navigate the authorized course of. Assist is obtainable for the next points: small claims, property planning, courtroom procedures, collections and garnishments, sealing instances, guardianship/conservatorship, landlord-tenant disputes, and divorce/custody/little one assist. Particulars concerning the occasions are listed right here.