By Brad Jones, FACE THE STATE
The upstart campaign to turn out three Colorado Supreme Court justices got a boost Sunday from The Pueblo Chieftain, its first endorsement from a major newspaper. Clear The Bench Colorado, the all-consuming cause of Denver activist Matt Arnold, has this year pushed to the forefront the issue of judicial retention, usually an afterthought for most voters.
Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll has backed a “no” vote on two of the three targeted justices, though the the newspaper’s official editorial voice so far has been silent on the matter.
The Chieftain, in urging its readers deny retention to Justices Bender, Martinez and Rice, wrote, “These justices consistently have upheld tax increases without requiring voter approval, in direct defiance of the TABOR amendment to the Colorado Constitution.”
The paper points to three decisions in particular: The upholding of a school property tax “freeze,” the classification of certain taxes as “fees” exempt from TABOR, and the suspension of state tax credits “at the expense of Pueblo steelworkers’ paychecks.”
The endorsement provides a much-needed dose of positive press following a court decision that placed strict fundraising limits on the campaign, which until recently had been able to accept unlimited donations. That change comes late in the election season, however, and Clear The Bench has operated on a shoestring since its inception.
None of the three targeted justices has organized a formal campaign to be retained on the bench, though a coalition including the Colorado Bar Association and the League of Women Voters is mounting an effort to promote the positive reviews penned by the state’s Judicial Performance Commission. Clear The Bench is pushing its own evaluations, which are of course far less flattering.
No state Supreme Court justice has ever been denied retention under Colorado’s voter-approved “merit selection” system, in place since 1966.