LAW WEEK COLORADO
DENVER — Democrat Bill Ritter is virtually assured of appointing 100 judges during his first and only term as Colorado’s governor, a Law Week Colorado analysis shows.
A flurry of judicial retirements in June and the creation of 14 judgeships by early January 2011 will give Ritter at least 96 judge appointments before the end of his term, shows the newspaper’s analysis, published below. However, because this is an election year, and not all judges eligible run for retention, Ritter could pick up 10 to 20 more appointments. This year, 143 judges are eligible for retention, and two already have said they won’t run — including Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey. The deadline for judges to commit to run for retention is Aug. 2.
Ritter’s most recent judge selection, Denver litigator Ann B. Frick to the 2nd Judicial District bench, was his 75th.
A separate Law Week analysis in mid-2008, at the time of Ritter’s 50th judge pick, contrasted Ritter’s appointments with his predecessor, Republican Gov. Bill Owens. Ritter, a three-term Denver district attorney, more often elevated current judges to bigger assignments; Owens, the former state treasurer, favored putting prosecutors into county and district judgeships. Owens never appointed a public defender to a judgeship, but Ritter has done that on several occasions.
Owens picked women for judgeships about a third of the time; of Ritter’s first 75 selections, 30 have been women — or 40 percent of the total.
In 1966, Colorado voters adopted a merit-selection system for judges. Under the system, politically balanced nominating commissions select three finalists from among applicants. The governor chooses the new judge from among the finalists. Unlike the federal government, Senate confirmation isn’t required. Colorado judges must periodically stand for retention elections.