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Governor wants better grading system for judges

KUSA – Gov. John Hickenlooper's not sure the grades given to judges up for election help voters decide who to keep and who to fire.

KUSA – Gov. John Hickenlooper’s not sure the grades given to judges up for election help voters decide who to keep and who to fire.

“There was not one A. Not one judge gets an A … ,” Hickenlooper said during an interview with 9NEWS. “And then you go down and there were only three B minuses. And the two judges that were held up as people who shouldn’t be reappointed they got B’s, not B minuses.”

Hickenlooper was responding to a recent investigation by 9NEWS, which found that since 1998 only three judges lost their elections following a bad review by the board.

The Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation compiles data on every Colorado judge up for election each cycle. It gives voters access to grades, recommendations and an array of data that most people never see.

“If this commission is going to suggest to voters that these judges should not be renewed, wouldn’t you think they should get a C or maybe a D?” Hickenlooper said.

He also thinks some judges are probably worthy of an A.

“My gosh, these are smart people … ,” Hickenlooper said. “You know all their references are the top people in the state, and they’re saying this person would be a great judge. Hard to believe that not one of them is an A.”

The commission gives judges an overall score that’s similar to a Grade Point Average that you’d get in school based on confidential reviews from people who had business with the judge and their lawyers.

These grades aren’t listed in the state-issued voter guide. They’re buried in the data linked to each judge’s performance review.

We compiled all the “GPAs” and turned those into letter grades using CollegeBoard’s conversion chart for our investigation.

The evaluations also put the panel’s reasons for recommending that voters fire a judge at the bottom of a long story about each judge’s background, education and personal interests.

That could explain why, on average, a judge deemed unfit to stay on the bench in Colorado will win re-election with 54 percent of the vote.

“Either we’re not doing the process properly,” Hickenlooper said. “Or we’re not getting the media to pay attention and make sure the public understands it properly.”