Judicial & Legislative News
The Colorado Supreme Court Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee has released its annual update to Colorado’s model jury instructions for use in criminal trials.
This edition updates Instruction E:03, which is titled “Presumption of Innocence, Burden of Proof, and Reasonable Doubt.” Previously, Instruction E:03 had defined “reasonable doubt” in part as, “a doubt which is not a vague, speculative or imaginary doubt, but such a doubt as would cause reasonable people to hesitate to act in matters of importance to themselves.” After extensive deliberation, the Committee decided to update that definition. Instruction E:03 now defines “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt” as “proof that leaves you firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt.”
It also explains that the prosecution’s burden “requires more than proof that something is highly probable,” though “it does not require proof with absolute certainty.” The instruction informs jurors that if they “are firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt, then the prosecution has proven the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt,” but if they “think there is a real possibility that the defendant is not guilty, then the prosecution has failed to prove the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Committee encourages judges and practitioners to read the comments accompanying the new model instruction.
The model jury instructions may be found online; they include instructions concerning all of the offenses defined in Title 18 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (the Criminal Code), along with instructions addressing select offenses defined in other titles of the Colorado Revised Statutes (including Title 42, Vehicles and Traffic). In addition to updating the definition of “reasonable doubt,” this annual update incorporates 2022 legislation, as well as caselaw published since the release of the prior edition.
Users may download Word and PDF versions of the instructions, both of which feature hyperlink capabilities for ease of use. For any questions regarding the instructions, users are encouraged to contact the Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court announced today that starting in 2023, the minimum passing score, or cut score, on the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) required for admission to practice law in Colorado will be lowered from 276 to 270.
The change is prospective, applicable to candidates for admission beginning with the February 2023 administration of the UBE as well as to candidates who seek to transfer their scores to Colorado from the February 2023 administration of the UBE in other jurisdictions.
The Court consulted with the Law Committee of the Colorado State Board of Law Examiners before making the decision. Justice Maria E. Berkenkotter did not participate in the decision.
Colorado’s cut score of 276 was instituted in 1985, before Colorado joined the UBE, and it is now the second-highest cut score among the 41 states that use the UBE. Only Alaska uses a higher cut score (280), and only three other UBE jurisdictions use cut scores above 270: Arizona (273), Idaho (272), and Pennsylvania (272).
When Colorado joined the UBE and began administering the UBE in February 2012, it retained its cut score of 276 on the premise that UBE scores would correspond to scores under the prior exam. Numerous UBE jurisdictions have lowered their cut scores after initial adoption, including Oregon, which lowered its score twice. In 2018, Oregon lowered its cut score from 284 to 274, and then last year, following a study, it lowered its score to 270. The 41 UBE jurisdictions have cut scores ranging from 260 to 280, but the largest cluster, 16 jurisdictions, have settled at 270.
Oregon’s recent study focused on the written portions of the UBE, which the Court believes are particularly useful as a measure of a candidate’s ability to perform the tasks required of lawyers in entry-level positions or in opening their own law offices, and the Court finds the Oregon study persuasive.
The Court also recognizes that significant changes to the bar exam are coming in a few years. The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) is developing a new exam, known as “NextGen,” that will be in a different format and test fewer subjects, but with more focus on lawyering skills. Each jurisdiction will decide whether to join a compact similar to the UBE Compact, which will allow applicants to transfer their exam scores to other jurisdictions, and each will determine its own passing score for admission to its bar.
The Court plans to invite public input on the broader question of how to determine minimum competency of candidates for admission to the Colorado bar, and will announce details once the NCBE has defined the timing and content of the proposed NextGen exam.
Application period opens for Judicial Nominating Commission positions
Governor, Attorney General and Chief Justice to appoint commission members
DENVER – Applications are now being accepted for upcoming, and current vacancies on 11 Judicial Nominating Commissions throughout Colorado.
As of Dec. 31, 2022, there will be 14 upcoming Judicial Nominating Commission vacancies as detailed below. Also listed are five current Judicial Nominating Commission vacancies on three nominating commissions. Judicial nominating commissioners are volunteers and serve six-year terms interviewing applicants for judicial vacancies and nominating candidates to the governor.
Each judicial district nominating commission consists of seven citizens residing in that judicial district. No more than four members can be from the same political party, and there must be at least one voting member from each county in the district. Commission members serve six-year terms. Non-lawyers, who are the majority of every nominating commission, are appointed by the Governor. Lawyer members are appointed by joint action of the Governor, Attorney General, and Chief Justice
Applications are due no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. Applications may be made only online at the State of Colorado Boards and Commissions Application page. Applicants should include a current resume or biography where indicated on the application.
Please contact email@example.com with questions or for more information.
DENVER – People with business in the courts of the First, Fourth, Eighth, Ninth and Twelfth Judicial Districts will be invited to participate in a pilot of a revamped program gathering feedback from court users. The courts will use the feedback to improve services.
All people who interact with the courts – including parties to cases, people filing forms or asking questions, attorneys, jurors, and law enforcement – will be asked to complete a 3-minute electronic survey. The survey gauges court users’ perceptions of service quality and fairness and asks how they think the courts could improve. The survey link will be distributed to people via e-mail, made available on business cards, and posted in courthouses. The survey initially will be available in English and Spanish, but soon will be translated into eight other languages.
Similar court-user surveys have been conducted previously in Colorado, most recently in 2019. Prior surveys were administered in-person over one or two days in select court locations. The new electronic survey will be available on a continuous basis and asks additional questions designed to gather information that will be used to improve services.
The Judicial Department believes the electronic format will vastly increase the number of responses. The new format also will allow individual court locations to receive specific feedback faster and target service improvements. The pilot in the five districts will run through the end of 2022.
See Official Announcement
Court of Appeals judge finalists selected
Governor to appoint two new Court of Appeals judges
DENVER – The Supreme Court Nominating Commission has nominated six candidates for two vacancies on the Colorado Court of Appeals. The vacancies were created by the retirements of the Hon. Michael H. Berger and the Hon. David J. Richman. The vacancies will occur on Oct. 29, 2022, and Nov. 5, 2022, respectively. The nominees were selected during an Aug. 31, 2022, meeting in Denver. They are Priscilla Jeffrey Loew, Katharine “Katy” Lum, Melissa C. Meirink, Karl Lee Schock, Grant Thomas Sullivan and Don Jesse Toussaint.
Under the Colorado Constitution, the governor has 15 days from Aug. 31, 2022, within which to appoint two of the nominees as judges on the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Comments regarding any of the nominees may be sent via e-mail to the governor at firstname.lastname@example.org
See Full Announcement
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Amended Public Notice Concerning the Appointment of New Magistrate Judges
The Judicial Conference of the United States has authorized the appointment of a full time United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Colorado located in Denver, Colorado, to fill the vacancy created by Magistrate Judge Nina Y. Wang's recent confirmation as a U.S. District Judge. Additionally, the Judicial Conference of the United States has authorized the appointment of a second full-time United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Colorado located in Denver, Colorado to fill the vacancy that will be created upon the retirement of Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix on or about August 5, 2023. The term of office for each vacancy is eight (8) years. The current annual salary of the positions is $205,528.
The authority of a United States Magistrate Judge is specified in 28 U.S.C. § 636. In criminal cases, a Magistrate Judge: (1) considers petitions for issuance of search warrants; (2) conducts preliminary proceedings; and (3) presides over the trial and disposition of misdemeanor cases. Civil cases are directly drawn to both Magistrate Judges and District Judges on a random draw. For cases drawn to District Judges and for cases drawn to Magistrate Judges where the parties do not consent to the Magistrate Judge handling all matters, both a District and Magistrate Judge are assigned to the case. In these cases, a Magistrate Judge conducts pretrial matters, evidentiary proceedings, and post-trial matters on referral from the District Judge. In civil cases where the parties consent to the Magistrate Judge handling all matters, the Magistrate Judge presides over all pretrial, trial, and post-trial matters.
To be qualified, an applicant must:
(1) Be, and for the prior five years have been, a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of a state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Territory of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the Virgin Islands of the United States,
(2) Have been engaged in the active practice of law for a period of at least five years (with some substitutes authorized);
(3) Be competent to perform all the duties of the office. This includes but is not limited to being of good moral character, being emotionally stable and mature, being committed to equal justice under the law, being in good health, being patient and courteous, and being capable of deliberation and decisiveness.
(4) Be less than seventy years old; and
(5) Not be related to a judge of the district court.
DENVER – The Bridges Program, which facilitates collaboration between the criminal justice and mental health systems, will hold a series of meetings this summer and fall to engage stakeholders in exploring a possible expansion of the three-year-old program.
Bridges has placed 29 court liaisons throughout Colorado’s 22 judicial districts since it was established by the General Assembly. Liaisons are appointed to cases through a court order and work directly with participants to identify their needs and connect them with services. They report to judges and attorneys on services available in the community and facilitate communication and coordination of care with competency programs of the state Behavioral Health Administration.
About 82 percent of Bridges Program cases involve an individual’s competency to proceed in the criminal justice process, with the remaining 18 percent involving individuals with general mental health challenges. Bridges began serving participants in 2019. In the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2021, 1,734 participants entered the program, 50 percent more than in the previous fiscal year.
The General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee has requested that program leaders, in collaboration with stakeholders including the Office of the State Public Defender, the District Attorneys’ Council, Office of the Attorney General, the Behavioral Health Administration and others report by Jan. 1, 2023, on any recommendations for expansion to help reduce a backlog of competency evaluations in the criminal justice system.
The first meeting is scheduled for July 15, 2022, and several other meetings are scheduled through October to discuss potentially expanding the program.
The meeting on July 15 will be held at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in the Colorado Room on the second floor from 10-11 a.m.
Additional meetings will be held in the Colorado Room on Aug. 4, Aug. 25, and Sept. 15; and on Oct. 6 in Room 2A of the Carr Center. Each meeting will have an in-person component from 10 a.m. to noon, and a virtual component from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Anyone interested in attending in-person, or who wants to obtain information to attend virtually, should RSVP to Jennifer Turner, Bridges Program Statewide Coordinator, at email@example.com.
The Supreme Court Nominating Commission invites qualified attorneys to apply for two Colorado Court of Appeals judicial vacancies created by the retirements of the Hon. Michael H. Berger and the Hon. David J. Richman. The vacancies will occur on Oct. 29, 2022, and Nov. 5, 2022, respectively. The Commission will meet on Aug. 30-31, 2022, to interview applicants and select nominees for appointment by the governor.
To be eligible for appointment to fill a vacancy, the applicant must be a qualified elector of the State of Colorado and must have been admitted to the practice of law in Colorado for five years. The annual salary for a court of appeals judge is currently $191,724. The initial term of office of a Court of Appeals judge is a provisional term of two years. Thereafter, the incumbent judge, if retained by the voters, has a term of eight years.
Application forms are available from the office of the ex-officio chair of the Nominating Commission, Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright, 2 E. 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203; and the office of the court executive of any of the 22 judicial districts. Applications are also available on the court’s home page at: http://www.courts.state.co.us/Careers/Judge.cfm.
The completed application must be e-mailed to the address listed in the instructions below no later than 4 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2022. Late applications will not be considered. Any person wishing to suggest a candidate to fill the vacancy may do so by letter to be submitted to any member of the nominating commission, with a copy to the ex-officio chair, no later than 4 p.m. on July 29, 2022.
Applications will be kept confidential, except that the nominating commission shall disclose the names, work addresses, and work telephone numbers of the three nominees submitted to the governor.
The members of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission are: Katina Banks of Denver; Kimberly Jordan of Fort Collins; Peter Gould of Boulder; Linda Garcia of Pueblo; J. Martelle Daniels of Grand Junction; Deborah Suniga of Greeley; Stanton Dodge of Castle Rock; David McDivitt of Colorado Springs; C. Omar Montgomery of Aurora; Carolyn Fairless of Lakewood; Heather Lipp and Danielle Radovich Piper, both of Golden; Paul Wiggins of Peyton; Marco Chayet of Centennial; and Jerome DeHerrera of Westminster. The commission currently has two vacancies.
Editor’s Note: Contact information for the nominating commission members:
See official flyer here.
The Fourth Judicial District Nominating Commission has nominated three candidates for an El Paso County Court judgeship created by the appointment to the District Court of the Hon. Monica Gomez. The vacancy will occur on July 1, 2022. Nominees Charlotte Ankeny, Marika Frady and Theodore McClintock, all of Colorado Springs, were selected in a meeting on June 28, 2022.
Under the Colorado Constitution, the governor has 15 days from June 29, 2022, within which to appoint one of the nominees as county court judge for El Paso County.
Comments regarding any of the nominees may be sent via e-mail to the governor at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: Contact information for the three nominees
The Fourth Judicial District Nominating Commission will meet at the El Paso County Courthouse on June 28, 2022, to interview and select nominees for appointment by the governor to the office of county judge for El Paso County. The vacancy will be created by the appointment to the District Court of the Hon. Monica Gomez. The vacancy will occur on July 1, 2022.
To be eligible, the applicant must be a qualified elector of El Paso County at the time of investiture and must have been admitted to the practice of law in Colorado. The current annual salary for this position is $175,908. The initial term of office of a county judge is a provisional term of two years; thereafter, the incumbent county judge, if approved by the voters, has a term of four years.
Application forms are available from the office of the ex officio chair of the nominating commission, Justice William W. Hood III, 2 E. 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203; and the office of the court executive, Scott Sosebee, 270 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, CO 80901. Applications also are available on the court’s home page at http://www.courts.state.co.us/Careers/Judge.cfm.
The completed application must be e-mailed to the address listed in the instructions below no later than 4 p.m. on June 15, 2022. Late applications will not be considered. Any person wishing to suggest a candidate to fill the vacancy may do so by letter to be submitted to any member of the nominating commission, with a copy to the ex officio chair, no later than 4 p.m. on June 8, 2022.
The members of the nominating commission for the Fourth Judicial District are: Lisa Dailey, Stella Hodgkins, C. Onye Ikwaukor, Misty Plowright, and Laura Rosendo, all of Colorado Springs; Kathleen Cefus of Divide; and Michael Allen of Monument.
Editor’s Note: Contact information for the nominating commission members.