This year, the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline celebrates its 50th year. Enacted by the state Constitution in 1967, the system aims to hold judges accountable “for their conduct not their decisions,” executive director William Campbell said.
Campbell has served as director for eight years. The commission is composed of 10 members — two district court judges, two county court judges, two attorneys and four citizens. The judges are appointed by the Supreme Court, while the attorneys and citizens are appointed by the governor with approval by the state senate. Members serve a four-year term and may be reappointed.
Judicial ethics are guided by four ‘canons’ that outline judicial rules and principles judges must adhere to. Canons outlined in the constitution state that judges are expected to “uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary,” “perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently, and diligently,” “conduct personal and extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with the office,” and “not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.”
Campbell said the commission’s goal is to handle complaints internally, as the guiding principles laid out by the state deem that the commission’s record and proceedings are confidential. “It’s not perfect, but it’s close,” he noted of the commission. He added that throughout the entire commission’s existence, formal proceedings have been initiated a few dozen times and only made public in three or four cases.