Judicial review panel urges Jeffco residents to oust judge

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By AJ Vicens

Jefferson County Judge Judy Archuleta should not be retained by voters this November, according to a review by the Commission on Judicial Performance.

Archuleta is the only Jeffco judge of 17 who will appear on Jeffco ballots in November to receive such a recommendation, and the only one of the 104 judges that were reviewed statewide to receive it.

"Words similar to ‘poor people skills, bad demeanor, impatient, not friendly, rude, unsympathetic, belittling and harsh’ were used more than once in describing her," the commission wrote in an online review. "Multiple responders, including both attorneys and non-attorneys, stated that she had no strengths."

Archuleta declined to comment when reached by phone Aug. 8 but did respond in writing to the commission.

"I am rated highly for my judicial skills, knowledge of the law, efficient case management," Archuleta wrote. "I am known as a judge that imposes jail for individuals convicted of repeat drunk driving offenses. These offenders and the attorneys that defend them purposefully rate my service poorly."

However, the commission said it did not consider information from unhappy defense attorneys about her sentences.

Archuleta was appointed to the Jefferson County Court in November 2000. She served 17 years as a deputy district attorney in the Jeffco DA’s office prior to becoming a judge.

Judges are either retained or not retained by voters when they appear on ballots. County judges are up for retention every four years.

The state legislature created the Commissions on Judicial Performance in 1988 to help voters evaluate judges and to help judges improve their skills on the bench. Commission members are appointed by the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, the governor, the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House. Each commission is made up of four attorneys and six non-attorneys.

The review evaluates judges on case management, application and knowledge of the law, communication, demeanor and diligence, and asks respondents whether the judge displays a bias.

Archuleta's ratings by attorneys and non-attorneys were below all county judges and all trial judges in every category, according to the review. Sixty percent of attorneys surveyed said she had a bias toward the prosecution, versus less than 20 percent of attorneys identifying a bias in favor of the prosecution for all county and trial judges reviewed. Less than 20 percent of non-attorneys perceived a bias toward prosecution, according to the surveys.

Seventy-eight percent of non-attorneys surveyed recommended Archuleta be retained. Respondents voted for retention of all county and trial judges with totals of 89 and 93 percent, respectively.

Jeffco attorneys rating Archuleta weren't so kind. Less than half — 48 percent — recommended that voters retain Archuleta this fall. Nine in 10 attorneys statewide recommended retaining all county and trial judges.

The commission wrote that Archuleta's statement about high ratings for judicial skills, knowledge of the law and efficient case management "ignores the fact that a number of attorneys and non-attorneys had both positive and negative things to say about her." A judge can be seen by a single respondent as organized and fair but condescending, the commission wrote.

"To 'cherry-pick' only the good things, as Judge Archuleta does … is to ignore substantial evidence before the commission," the commission wrote.

"Unfortunately, we strongly recommend that Judge Archuleta not be retained," the commission wrote. "She has six years experience, and her performance on the bench has not significantly improved."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

To view the full report on Jefferson County Judge Judy Archuleta and the other 103 judges reviewed this year, visit www.cojudicialperformance.com.