About Us

The Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline is charged with monitoring the conduct of the judiciary of the state courts of Colorado, including judges of County and District courts; judges of the Court of Appeals, and justices of the Supreme Court. The Commission's authority and procedures are derived from Article VI, Section 23(3) of the Colorado Constitution; the Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline (the “Rules”)– amended as of July 1, 2017; and the Canons regarding judicial conduct (the “Canons”) found in the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct (the “Code”).

The Commission is comprised of ten citizens who serve without compensation other than the reimbursement of expenses incurred in their duties, such as travel expenses to attend meetings. Members include two county court judges and two district court judges who are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; two lawyers, appointed by the Governor; and four citizens who are not currently lawyers or judges, also appointed by the Governor. The Commission appoints an Executive Director who manages the Commission's office and oversees the Commission's operations. The Commission sets its meeting schedule as needed to consider complaints and conduct other business, but generally meets bi-monthly.

The Executive Director responds to inquiries about judicial ethics from citizens and judges; prepares the Commission's Annual Report; participates in national organizations that focus on judicial discipline; exchanges information on procedural and administrative issues with disciplinary agencies in other states; meets with judges periodically in each of the state's 22 judicial districts regarding the Canons and Rules; and makes presentations regarding judicial misconduct issues at conferences and continuing education programs for judges. Inquiries from citizens focus on the Commission's jurisdiction and the procedures involved in reporting concerns about the conduct of a judge and are summarized in Frequently Asked Questions.

Concerns about a judge’s compliance with the Canons should be reported to the Commission by filing a Request for Evaluation of Judicial Conduct (RFE). The Executive Director or a member of the Commission will conduct a preliminary review of the allegations to determine whether they involve the conduct of a judge and provide a reasonable basis for the Commission to process the RFE as a complaint through disciplinary proceedings. The Rules require that RFEs which are groundless or frivolous or that focus on issues under the jurisdiction of the trial or appellate courts will not be pursued by the Commission. If there is a reasonable basis for a complaint, the judge is notified and asked to respond to the allegations, and the Commission will conduct a thorough investigation of the alleged misconduct.

Under Rule 5, grounds for disciplinary action include:

•  Willful misconduct, including misconduct that, although not related to judicial duties, brings the judicial office into disrepute or is prejudicial to the administration of justice

•  Willful or persistent failure to perform judicial duties

•  Intemperance, including extreme or immoderate personal behavior, recurring loss of temper or control, abuse of alcohol or medications, or the use of illegal narcotic or dangerous drugs

•  A violation of the Canons

Upon a finding of judicial misconduct, the Commission may issue a letter of admonition, reprimand, or censure to the judge, which will be directed at correcting or improving the judge's conduct under the Rules and the Canons. The Commission may also require a judge to seek training or counseling, provide periodic docket management reports, or in a situation where a physical or mental health condition appears to be affecting a judge's conduct, the Commission may direct the judge to seek medical treatment. The Commission also may initiate disability proceedings to determine if the judge should be placed on inactive status or retired from office. Because the Constitution provides that the papers and proceedings of the Commission are confidential, most disciplinary action is taken privately rather than publicly. However, when it deems appropriate, the Commission also may conduct formal proceedings that may lead to a recommendation to the Colorado Supreme Court for the public censure, retirement, or removal of a judge or justice.

It is important to recognize the limitations on the authority of the Commission. Its focus is on the conduct of the judiciary under the Canons and the Rules, rather than on decisions rendered by a court that are alleged to be erroneous – for example, it cannot modify a trial judge's rulings or an opinion of the Court of Appeals. It has no jurisdiction over the conduct of magistrates, court staff, probation officers, prosecutors, defense counsel, private attorneys, law enforcement officials, correctional facilities staff, administrative law judges (e.g., workers compensation hearing officers), or the federal judiciary.

Municipal judges are not considered part of the state judiciary. For example, county court judges in the city and county of Denver also serve as municipal judges. Their compliance with the Canons can be reviewed by the Denver County Court Commission on Judicial Discipline.

The discipline of a lawyer serving in a judicial role other than as a state judge, e.g., as a magistrate, municipal court judge, or administrative law judge, is under the jurisdiction of the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. The evaluation of a judge's competence and performance – rather than the examination of misconduct under the Canons and the Rules -- is the responsibility of the Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation, which provide periodic feedback to judges and publish reports to the public during election years.

Examples of RFEs that typically provide a reasonable basis for disciplinary proceedings include a judge's delay in issuing a decision within a reasonable time after taking a matter under advisement; a pattern of bias or improper courtroom demeanor; inappropriate personal conduct that reflects adversely on the judiciary; communications with only one party in litigation ("ex parte communications"); using court resources for personal business; or participating in partisan political activities.

Examples of RFEs that do not provide a basis for disciplinary proceedings include disputes about a judge's rulings on motions, findings of fact, conclusions of law, final judgments, or sentencing which belong in the appellate courts; and allegations directed at the conduct of a police officer, magistrate, prosecutor, or defense counsel, over whom the Commission has no jurisdiction.

The Commission's Annual Reports summarize the types of complaints considered and acted upon by the Commission.

The Commission will provide, on request, a form on which the RFE may be stated; however the Commission will consider a request for evaluation in any written format. The RFE may be accompanied by a letter or relevant court documents. The Executive Director can make arrangements to accommodate disabled persons who have difficulty filing a written RFE. The Commission is also authorized to initiate disciplinary proceedings on its own motion.

An RFE may be filed by mail, fax, or sent by email.

Prior to July 1, 2017, allegations of judicial misconduct were filed on a complaint form which was often used as an attempt to complain about procedural, evidentiary, or legal issues rather than violations of the Canons. Such matters belong in an appellate court. The RFE focuses directly on a judge’s conduct and solicits the type of information required by the Rules for disciplinary or disability proceedings.

Articles and Other Information.
Judge's Corner - The New Commission on Judicial Discipline by Hon. Roxanne Bailin; November 2009
Judge's Corner - The Other Side of the Bench: Reflections on Ten Years in Family Court by Hon. Angela R. Arkin; July 2010

Current Members of the Commission and Staff

Elizabeth Espinosa Krupa, Chair – Attorney
Hon. Rachel Fresquez, Secretary – County Court Judge
Hon. David Prince Vice-Chair – District Court Judge
Jim Carpenter – Citizen
Bruce A. Casias – Citizen
Hon. Sara Garrido – County Court Judge
Yolanda Lyons, – Citizen
Hon. Bonnie McLean – District Court Judge
Drucilla Pugh – Citizen
Mindy Sooter - Attorney

Christopher Gregory, Executive Director
Sherri Hammerly, Administrative Assistant