JUDICIAL BALLOT QUESTIONS: You be the judge of who gets to stay on the bench

“There is an awful lot of good information out there, particularly if they drill down in the surveys,” he said.

AURORA | Far down next month’s ballot — below county races but above the constitutional amendments — voters will find more than a dozen judges standing for retention.

The elections, which gives the option of keeping a judge or removing them from the bench, rarely make headlines, but court observers say they are important nonetheless.

In Arapahoe County and Adams County, voters will see 16 judges on their ballot, including two State Supreme Court justices and two judges from the state court of appeals.

For each of the local judges, the State Commission on Judicial Performance, which evaluates judges with the help of local commissions, has recommended that voters opt to retain the seated judge. Statewide, the commission is recommending a vote against just three judges.

Kent J. Wagner, executive director of the commission, said that while the elections don’t garner a great deal of attention, he hopes voters take the time to research the various judges. The commission’s website includes links to biographies about local judges, as well as results of surveys of lawyers, witnesses and victims who appear before them.

“There is an awful lot of good information out there, particularly if they drill down in the surveys,” he said.

JudgeAmico10.23.14In some cases, the commission recommends a judge be retained even in cases where the bulk of lawyers who appeared in their courtroom recommend against retention. That is the case for Arapahoe County Court Judge Cheryl Rowles-Stokes, who came under fire last year when she jailed a Denver lawyer overnight for contempt. The lawyer has filed a lawsuit against her.

Wagner said the commission’s recommendations sometimes differ from the survey recommendations because they are based on a larger swath of information, including independent courtroom observations.

State law generally bars judges from actively campaigning for their seats, Wagner said.

But occasionally, local residents launch their own campaigns against a local judge.

That is happening this year in the retention election for Arapahoe County District Court Michelle Ann Amico.

A Colorado Springs-based committee called “Vote No For Judge Amico” has posted yard signs around Aurora urging voters not to retain the judge, who has been on the county bench since 2012.

The state commission recommends voters retain Amico and said she “is relatively new to the bench, and although she comes from a strong background in criminal law, she has made the transition well to hearing domestic cases.  The Commission sees Judge Amico as a strong judge who is dedicated to learning and whose performance will only improve over time.” More than 75 percent of the lawyers surveyed also recommended keeping her.

Officials from the campaign against Amico did not return calls for comment this week, but according to state election records, they have raised more than $2,800.

Wagner said campaigns against a judge are rare and state law allows judges little leeway to respond to campaigns against them.

“It is hard to get to that level, so that’s why you don’t really see reactions from judges,” he said.

Matt Arnold director of Clear the Bench Colorado, an organization that encourages voters to study up on judicial elections, said the races deserve more scrutiny.

“This is a branch of government that really exercises a lot of power and a lot of authority over what other branches do,” he said.

  • Silver Fox

    I voted to “RETAIN” Judge Amico. Clearly, Amico has a stellar record of service to the community, high ratings from her peers and good marks from constituents. I don’t know who she ticked off, but whoever they are, they are not to be trusted.

    • rckymtndude

      I too voted YES to retain Judge Amico, a very easy choice after reading her review in the blue book. What I find odd and troubling about this so called “group” is the fact that they are based in Colorado Springs, not even in the 18th Judicial district where they could cast their vote for or against this judge. Additonallty when an attempt was made to contact this “group” they failed to return the call…to me this says it all, they would rather be cowardly and put up these ridiculous signs (and I concur with you Doxolgy, they are libelous), and not be exposed as a group or someone with an “ax to grind!” This is clearly not a “group” but rather an angry father that has too much time and money and did not like the way that this judge ruled, most people will see through this nonsense I am certain and do the right thing, vote YES TO RETAIN JUDGE AMICO.

  • Doxology

    Thank you, Silver Fox! I agree and cast my vote to retain Judge Amico. I called her office to find out what the issue is with the “haters” who have placed libelous signs calling her “anti-father” and “anti-family.” Her assistant was professional and kind and did not point fingers at any individual or organization but suggested I research the judge’s record and reviews online. We need more judges like her!

  • Aldo Elmnight

    CLEAR THE BENCH

  • Michelle Porter

    I voted to retain Amico as it appears the opposition “group” may be a personal vendetta against her from a few disgruntled plaintiffs in domestic cases.

  • anti amico

    I voted No to retain her. She has destroyed my life as best as she could. Also she wouldn’t looking my evidence I had against my daughters mother, which was a recording of her stating she wanted to kill herself and our daughter. Also my ex testified that it was true and still got “full custody”. Not to mention I had documents showing that all my ex was truly after was my money. You can look it up case # 12DR1464, this is someone who is absolutely anti father and family. Amico doesn’t care about father’s rights and for that she should not be retained at Arapahoe county.

    • T Pickens

      Pay your childcare with the millions you have, deadbeat.

  • Grateful Dad

    I voted to retain Judge Amico. I am a dad who had a case in front of her. The mother of my child had taken her and would not let me see her. My attorney told me before court that Judge Amico had a great reputation and was very fair and cares about children a lot. We had a person called a child and family investigator who investigated both me and my circumstances and my child’s mother and her circumstances. Judge Amico gave me, the DAD, custody of my child because she ruled that was in my child’s best interests. I did not want my child’s mother out of her life, I just wanted to be an equal part of it and Judge Amico put orders into place that permitted my child to have both of us in her life, but with me as the primary parent. I can tell you first-hand that Judge Amico is NOT ANTI-FAMILY OR ANTI-FATHER.

  • Grateful Mom

    I have utmost respect for Judge Amico. After many hearings in front of her, I found her to be wise, well-prepared, thorough, fair and incredibly caring about the well-being of my children. She is anything BUT anti-father and anti-family. I have reason to believe those signs are the result of a personal vendetta of an abusive father who received a fair ruling but didn’t like it. Judges should not be penalized for having the courage to rule in favor of the best interests of children. I vote YES for Judge Amico!