The Denver County Court Judicial Discipline Commission was established for the purposes of recommending to the Mayor censure, reprimand, or other discipline on Judges of Denver County Court and recommending to the Mayor the suspension, removal, or retirement from office of any Judge of Denver County. The Commission may also recommend to the Presiding Judge of Denver County Court the discipline or removal of any magistrate of Denver County Court.
The Judicial Discipline Commission is composed of seven voting members: two attorneys, two Denver District Court Judges and three non-attorneys, plus the Presiding Judge of Denver County Court as an ex-officio member with non-voting advisory capacity. Members of the Commission are appointed by the Mayor for a term of four years.
Code of Judicial Conduct
The Judicial Discipline Commission is charged with investigating complaints about a judge’s conduct inside and outside of the courtroom. A judge’s conduct is guided by the ethics principles – known as the Canons – in the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct. The Canons address the integrity and independence of the judiciary; impropriety or the appearance of impropriety; failure to perform judicial duties diligently, impartially, and courteously; inappropriate demeanor with litigants and court staff; ex parte communications; and other unprofessional conduct. The Canons also provide guidelines for a judge’s role in the community, including civic duties and activities related to the improvement of the judiciary, and impose limitations on a judge’s involvement in politics.
Grounds to Investigate a Judge
The grounds for judicial discipline are as follows:
- Willful misconduct in office, including misconduct which, 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, including incompetent performance of judicial duties;
- Intemperance, including extreme or immoderate personal conduct; recurring loss of temper or control; abuse of alcohol, prescription drugs, or other legal substances; or the use of illegal or non-prescribed narcotic or mind-altering drugs; or
- Any conduct that constitutes a violation of the Canons.
- Failure to cooperate with the Commission or to comply with a Commission order.
Judicial Discipline Complaint versus an Appeal of a Final Judgment
While the Canons guide a judge’s professional conduct in the courtroom and, in certain instances, outside the courtroom, applicable law controls a judge’s decisions on matters that are presented to the court for resolution. A dispute about a judge’s ruling on motions, evidence, procedure, sentencing, findings of fact, or conclusions of law remain under the jurisdiction of the appellate courts and require the filing of a timely appeal. Filing a complaint with the Commission does not extend the time to file an appeal.
Requirement of Confidentiality
The Commission’s investigation is a confidential process and all complaints, related attachments, and proceedings shall be privileged and confidential.