Should State Supreme Court Justices Require Confirmation Hearings?

July 2010
While politicians in Washington contend with the Elena Kagan nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, some Coloradans are talking about a proposed 2012 ballot measure that would reform the way judges are appointed and how long they may serve. The Denver Post points out that although four state Supreme Court judges may survive attempts to remove them from the bench this election, the proposed system would require confirmation hearings in the state Senate for nominated state justices while whittling their number down to five from the current seven. Chuck Turner, president of the Colorado Bar Association, says the proposal, though far from a reality, "injects more politics" into the judicial system: "All you have to do is look at what is happening in Washington today to see how people line up and make this a partisan process." But there are differences in the measure, which was filed by Dennis Polhill, a Golden Republican, and Douglas Campbell, who has run for statewide office under the American Constitution Party. In the federal Supreme Court, justices serve for life once confirmed. In Colorado, they face retention elections and can be removed. As it stands now, Democratic Governor Bill Ritter may appoint more than 100 judges during his first and likely only term, according to a Law Week Colorado analysis. Part of the reason is that many judges are retiring, and 14 judgeships will be created by early 2011. In 1966, Colorado voters adopted a merit-selection system for judges, in which balanced nominating commissions select three finalists from among applicants sent to the governor for appointment.