The Center for Legal Inclusiveness and the Colorado Bar Association on April 22 hosted a “You Be the Judge” event for attorneys who may want to join Colorado’s bench someday. Trial and appellate judges, Supreme Court justices and nominating commission members served as panelists to offer advice and answer questions from attorneys. They offered thoughts on everything about the application process, from talking about the importance of spending time on the personal essay to not giving up after the first try.
Why do You Want to Be a Judge?
Panelists said the first question nominating commissions ask of applicants is invariably why the candidate wants to be a judge. While the answer is important, it’s also intended as an icebreaker.
Colorado Supreme Court Justice Carlos Samour was frank with attendees about the question’s importance. “If you don’t nail that question, you don’t deserve the job,” he said because applicants know it’s coming. But on the flip side, he said, a good answer can set the tone for the rest of the interview to go well.
Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Terry Fox said lawyers shouldn’t think of a judge position as something they are entitled to or as a retirement job. “I don’t think anybody should seek a judgeship because of prestige.”
Some panelists shared their thoughts on the practical realities of being a judge. Supreme Court Justices Monica Márquez and Will Hood said nominating commissions will vet how well candidates would manage their dockets as judges. And Hood, who sat on the Denver District Court bench before his appointment to the state Supreme Court, said judges can’t freeze up when faced with making decisions.
“If you’re not willing to pull the trigger on things, you’re going to get backed up really fast,” he said. “The common denominator is … you have to be a person who is able to make decisions.” He added for him, a big adjustment, when he moved from the Denver District Court to the Supreme Court, was no longer having a higher court as a backstop. As a trial judge, he said, he had the confidence that the state’s appellate courts would catch mistakes he made in his decisions, but he no longer has that reassurance now that he’s on the state’s highest court.