Coloradans get their judicial search judicial robes from the Judicial Search Commission.
But they don’t get to choose which one they wear.
Colorado is the first state to require the use of a judicial search of judicial records.
A judge is tasked with determining whether a person’s judicial record qualifies as part of a “poder” judicial search.
A “pode” search is defined as a search of documents that do not identify the person.
In other words, it looks for information that’s not in the person’s record.
The commission was established in 1998 to ensure that the judicial process is free of partisan political influence.
The idea was to provide judges with more independence and predictability while also safeguarding public confidence in the process.
The commission does not issue recommendations for judicial vacancies.
In October 2018, the commission issued its first ruling, stating that a candidate for a judgeship should not be disqualified because of past partisan activity.
However, it didn’t say whether a candidate should be disqualified simply for being a Democrat or whether a judicial candidate should also be disqualified if the candidate’s past partisan politics are a factor.
At the time, Colorado State Sen. Kevin DeSaulnier, a Democrat, said he was “disappointed” by the ruling and asked the commission to reconsider its earlier ruling.
The Colorado Supreme Court declined to do so.
DeSaulneier’s office issued a statement saying that the court “strongly believes that the decision should be reversed.”
In March 2019, the state’s highest court rejected DeSault’s request to overturn the judicial search ruling, which had been in effect since January 2019.
That’s when Colorado became the first US state to make a judge a poder, a judicial nominee who was not bound by the commission’s previous rulings and who had to prove their past partisan activities were not relevant to the judicial office they were nominated to fill.
Dale Linneman, the chair of the Colorado Judicial Search and Review Commission, told the Colorado Springs Gazette that the ruling should have been reversed because “the panel did not state that candidates would be disqualified from judicial office for partisan political reasons.”
The court decision also noted that “no other state has had such an extreme judicial search requirement.”
In addition, DeSausl was not allowed to use the term “partisan” to describe his search criteria, Linnemans said.
He was not able to use a term like “partisan bias,” which would have disqualified him from the bench because it’s “not politically correct,” Linnemen said.
Linneman also said that DeSlosan’s use of the term partisan “may not be appropriate” because it would “create an ambiguity” about what “political affiliation” means in a judicial nomination process.
“If the state legislature had been aware of this, they would have known that this would be discriminatory,” Linsman said.
Linnemons said that in 2018, he asked the state Supreme Court to overturn DeSosan’s ruling, but it did not.
While the commission did not issue a ruling on the new judicial search rules, Linsmann said it would consider taking further action in the future.
“We have no plans to overturn that,” Lincmans said.