Trouble in the Larimer County Courts

There has been some turmoil at the the Larimer County Justice Center (the home of Larimer County courts) over the past few years. 

First Tim Masters was wrongfully convicted of a murder he allegedly committed as a teenager.  Getting that corrected involved years of litigation that resulted in the overturning of his conviction which allowed him to be released from prison.  The fallout also included:   the taxpayers payment to him of ten million dollars and the attorneys who prosecuted Mr. Masters being removed from their positions as judges by the voters. (The prosecutors were appointed judges after Masters was convicted but before he was exonerated).

During this period of time judges continued to retire and their replacements hired.  One of the newly hired judges was a man who had spent the majority of his legal career in Florida.  Unfortunately his employment as a judge in Larimer County was not deemed acceptable.  His tenure as a judge is at an end.  The taxpayers have paid his salary for almost a year since he had been removed from his work duties while his conduct was evaluated.  The taxpayers have also paid for temporary replacements for the better part of the last year.

These three judges are probably the only judges ever removed from office in Larimer County.  All three were removed quite recently.  What does all this mean to the citizens of Larimer County?  The obvious answers are:  1.  The taxpayers have wasted a great deal of money on paying for these mistakes.  2.  Improvement should be made in the process of selecting judges.

I think that the community should be more involved in the selection process.  Such community involvement could include endorsement of potential candidates by community groups such as the local bar association and/or some of its subgroups, the local newspapers, and other community groups.   It might be helpful if the newspapers ran articles on potential judicial candidates and then endorsed one like they do in general elections.

The current system allows a small group of 7 citizens to narrow the field to three candidates, from which the governor makes the final decision.  Obviously the quality of that nominating committee varies.  As a response to the recent problems noted above we probably have a far better committee than some of those in the past, nevertheless having more community participation could only help the process.  I am sure that many attorneys would prefer the current semi secret process.  But the bottom line is that the citizens pay the price for the mistakes that are made in this hiring process.  Therefore the citizens should be involved in making the decisions.  If the community participates in the hiring process and we all make a mistake, then so be it.   Whereas in the current system if the 7 community members make a mistake we all pay for their poor judgment without having had any input.

Posted on March 9, 2014 .