The Commission's authority and procedures derive from Article VI, Section 23(3) of the Colorado Constitution; the Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline ("Colo. RJD" or "the Rules"); and the Canons regarding judicial conduct (the “Canons”) found in the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct (the “Code”).
The Commission is comprised of ten citizens who serve without compensation other than the reimbursement of expenses incurred in their duties, such as travel expenses to attend meetings. Members include two county court judges and two district court judges who are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; two lawyers, appointed by the Governor; and four citizens who are not currently lawyers or judges, also appointed by the Governor. The Commission appoints an Executive Director who manages the Commission's Office of Judicial Discipline and oversees the Commission's operations. The Commission sets its meeting schedule as needed to consider complaints and conduct other business, but generally meets bi-monthly.
The Colorado Office of Judicial Discipline performs administrative functions on behalf of the Commission and is composed of the Executive Director, Special Counsel, and an Office Manager.
The Executive Director responds to inquiries about judicial ethics from citizens and judges; prepares the Commission's Annual Report; participates in national organizations that focus on judicial discipline; exchanges information on procedural and administrative issues with disciplinary agencies in other states; meets with judges periodically in each of the state's 22 judicial districts regarding the Canons and Rules; and makes presentations regarding judicial misconduct issues at conferences and continuing education programs for judges.
Concerns about a judge’s compliance with the Canons should be reported to the Commission by submitting the online Request for Evaluation of Judicial Conduct (RFE) found on this website or mailing the completed form to the Office of Judicial Discipline. The Executive Director can make arrangements to accommodate disabled persons who have difficulty filing a written RFE. The Commission is also authorized to initiate disciplinary proceedings on its own motion. The Executive Director, Special Counsel, or a member of the Commission will conduct a preliminary review of the allegations to determine whether they involve the conduct of a judge and provide a reasonable basis for the Commission to process the RFE as a complaint through disciplinary proceedings. The Rules require that RFEs which are groundless or frivolous, that focus on issues under the jurisdiction of the trial or appellate courts, or that are outside the Commission's jurisdictional authority will not be acted upon. Colo. RJD 13(c). If there is a reasonable basis for a complaint, the judge is notified and asked to respond to the allegations, and the Commission will conduct a thorough investigation of the alleged misconduct.
Under Colo. RJD 5, grounds for disciplinary action include:
• Willful misconduct, including misconduct that, although not related to judicial duties, brings the judicial office into disrepute or is prejudicial to the administration of justice;
• Willful or persistent failure to perform judicial duties;
• Intemperance, including extreme or immoderate personal behavior, recurring loss of temper or control, abuse of alcohol or medications, or the use of illegal narcotic or dangerous drugs; and
• A violation of the Canons (contained in the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct).
Upon a finding of judicial misconduct, the Commission may consider diversion or issue a letter of admonition, reprimand, or censure to the judge, which will be directed at correcting or improving the judge's conduct under the Rules and the Canons. The Commission may also require a judge to seek training or counseling, provide periodic docket management reports, or in a situation where a physical or mental health condition appears to be affecting a judge's conduct, the Commission may direct the judge to seek medical treatment. The Commission also may initiate disability proceedings to determine if the judge should be placed on inactive status or retired from office. Because the Constitution provides that the papers and proceedings of the Commission are confidential, most disciplinary action is taken privately rather than publicly. However, when it deems appropriate, the Commission also may initiate formal proceedings that may lead to a recommendation to the Colorado Supreme Court for the public censure, retirement, or removal of a judge or justice. The Commission's Special Counsel represents the People of the State of Colorado in formal proceedings, which may require a formal disciplinary hearing prior to the Commission's submission of recommendations to the Colorado Supreme Court.
The Commission's Annual Reports summarize the types of complaints considered and acted upon by the Commission.
Current Members of the Commission and Staff:
Mindy Sooter, Chair – Attorney
Jim Carpenter, Vice-Chair – Citizen
Hon. Mariana Vielma, Secretary—County Court Judge
Hon. Jill Brady—District Court Judge
Hon. Sara Garrido – County Court Judge
Hon. Bonnie McLean – District Court Judge
Marisa Pacheco – Citizen
Stefanie Trujillo - Citizen
Jeffrey Walsh, Interim Executive Director
Sherri Hammerly, Office Manager