Retention recommended for 9th District judicial candidates |

Retention recommended for 9th District judicial candidates

All three Ninth Judicial District judge candidates seeking retention by voters this November were given high marks by the state’s Judicial Performance Commission.

And for the first time, the results of the commission’s performance surveys were posted on the Internet to help voters to make decisions on whether to retain judges in the general election. Those results were posted Monday.

Garfield County Judge Stephen L. Carter, who presides over the Rifle branch of the county court, Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely and Rio Blanco County Judge Laurie A. Noble all were recommended to be retained by voters.

The Commissions on Judicial Performance were created in 1988 by the state Legislature to provide voters with researched evaluations of trial and appellate judges and justices seeking retention in general elections, the Colorado Bar Association website said.

The results of the evaluations also provide judges with information that can be used to improve their professional skills as judicial officers. The chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, the governor, the president of the state Senate and the speaker of the state House of Representatives appoint state and local commission members. Each commission includes four attorneys and six nonattorneys.

Carter was appointed as associate county judge for Garfield County in 1972 and has served continuously in that capacity for the past 30 years. He has also served as acting district judge for juvenile cases in the Ninth Judicial District since Feb. 1, 1997.

In Carter’s evaluation, his compassion, sincerity and commitment to his role as a juvenile court judge were characterized as “very apparent.”

“He stays in touch with the youth in the community by speaking to schools about the judicial system and referees soccer throughout the valley. The commission strongly recommends retaining Judge Carter for another term,” the evaluation said.

Fernandez-Ely received positive feedback from the survey, as well. She was appointed Pitkin County judge in January 2000. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Fernandez-Ely was in private practice in Aspen for 23 years at a law firm specializing in real estate and land use matters, including litigation. Prior to that she was a prosecutor in Florida for three years. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1973 and the University of Florida Law School in 1975.

Fernandez-Ely’s evaluation found she “is a competent judge and that the matters dealt with in her courtroom are handled fairly and in an expeditious, polite, orderly and competent fashion. The commission noted that upon the initiation of her duties two years ago, there was a significant backlog of unresolved cases and administrative details and that she is to be commended for resolving the backlogs in an efficient and effective manner.”

Nobel was appointed to the Rio Blanco Associate County Court in July 1992. Prior to her appointment to the bench, she was an associate attorney in general private practice in Grand Junction specializing in insurance defense. Noble received her law degree from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1989.

Over the past two years, 20 percent of her cases were civil and 80 percent were criminal. Noble also serves as municipal court judge for the town of Meeker and is employed as a part-time attorney for the town of Rangely.

Nobel’s community service includes a junior partnership with an at-risk youth, participation in mock trials held by the high school and civic presentations to local first graders.

Her evaluation said, “Judge Noble promises to be vigilant about the potential conflict of interest between her judicial and town attorney positions and of the problems of serving in a small town. Judge Noble wants litigants and criminal defendants, in particular, to understand that the system exists to help them as well as to deter future offenses. She seeks to improve her judicial skills, especially in knowledge of law and procedure.”

As a result of the surveys, most of the 104 county, district, appeals court and supreme court judges standing for retention were given a “be retained” or “no opinion” recommendation. But 14th District Judge Joel Thompson and Arapahoe County Judge Stephen Ruddick received “do not retain” recommendations.

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