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District to appoint additional judge

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. The Colorado legislature has approved adding another district judge in the area for the first time since 1973.Pending the governor’s signature, a fourth district judge should start in the 9th Judicial District July 1, 2008.”We have been stretched thin for quite a long time,” Chief District Judge James Boyd said. “We’re very excited about the prospect. We do have a very heavy caseload.”Filings increased about 200 percent in the 9th Judicial District since the last judgeship was added in 1973, said State Court Administrator’s Office public information officer Rob McCallum. Felony filings increased 500 percent.”I think that there’s been a backlog statewide,” McCallum said, due to population growth, increased filings and a somewhat stagnant number of judgeships.By July 2008, filings for the state will have increased by 139 percent in a 30-year period, while the number of judicial officers will have increased only 48 percent, according to the State Court Administrator’s Office. Increases in the number of judicial officers haven’t kept up with population growth over the same period.Clerk of the Combined Courts James Bradford said that according to the way the law is written, criminal matters must take precedence over other matters. “Consequently there are some things on the civil side that take a back seat to a growing criminal docket,” he said. Busy judges are known to double-book court dates, hoping that one of the matters will be settled, he added.”I can’t speak for other jurisdictions but I know the judges are here on weekends, they’re here at night,” Bradford said. “They are absolutely earning their pay.”At least one person thinks there’s been a significant backlog locally.Lisa Heuer of Glenwood Springs said she’s had trouble scheduling a hearing for a motion to request a parenting coordinator after a divorce.In a letter to the Garfield County Combined Court administrator Solveig Olson, she writes, “Eight months waiting for help is inexplicable. I am told this has become the norm and that I am one of many waiting even longer. … In the meantime, the children suffer, the communications between parents in a difficult situation is suffering, the lack of a solution to matters only exacerbates and escalates eventual court burden.”She hopes to find a solution.”I want to know what else I can do to be of assistance,” she writes, “I am willing to roll up my sleeves and be part of a long-term effort at positive options.”The latest bill, House Bill 1054, proposed a five-year plan for 63 new judges for Colorado. However, the final draft provides for adding 43 in the state during a three-year plan. The legislature approved it on April 27.”The way that state funding is structured, the funds are very hard to come by,” Boyd said.The process of selecting a new judge will probably begin in early 2008, Bradford said. Job announcements will go out and a committee of about seven attorneys and others in the 9th Judicial District will interview candidates. They’ll pass on three potential choices to Governor Bill Ritter’s office, which will make the selection.Once judges are appointed, they undergo reviews every six years. A judicial performance commission surveys attorneys and others involved in the court systems about each judge and makes a recommendation to either offer no opinion, retain, or not retain a judge. The decision is then left to voters.Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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