The Fourth Judicial District Nominating Commission will meet March 14, 2017, at the El Paso County Judicial Building to interview and select nominees for appointment by the governor to the office of county judge for El Paso County. The vacancy will be created by the retirement of the Hon. Jonathan L. Walker, effective Feb. 15, 2017.
To be eligible, the applicant must be a qualified elector of El Paso County at the time of investiture and must have been admitted to the practice of law in Colorado. The current annual salary for this position is $152,466. The initial term of office of a county judge is a provisional term of two years; thereafter, the incumbent county judge, if approved by the voters, has a term of four years.
Application forms are available from the office of the ex officio chair of the nominating commission, Justice William W. Hood III, 2 E. 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203; and the office of the district administrator, Danny Davis, 270 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, CO 80903. Applications also are available on the court’s home page at http://www.courts.state.co.us/Careers/Judge.cfm
The original, signed application and an identical copy stored as a PDF must be filed with the ex officio chair no later than Feb. 27, 2017. Late applications will not be considered. Any person wishing to suggest a candidate to fill the vacancy may do so by letter to be submitted to any member of the nominating commission, with a copy to the ex officio chair, no later than Feb. 21, 2017.
The members of the nominating commission for the Fourth Judicial District are: Jack Donley, Larry Gaddis, Beth Lieberman, Juan Moreno, and Mary Linden, all of Colorado Springs; and Daniel Nicholson and Philip Mella, of Woodland Park.
Pursuant to Rule 34 of the Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline (“Colo. R.J.D.) and based upon his consent, on November 8, 2016, El Paso County Judge Jonathan L. Walker was temporarily suspended with pay pending the outcome of the preliminary investigation and related formal proceedings related to this matter.
A Statement of Charges was filed on November 23, 2016. Judge Walker filed an Answer to the Statement of Charges on December 17, 2016. A hearing with three special masters was set for February 27, 2017 through March 1, 2017. The Statement of Charges and Answer asserted the following summarized claims and defenses:
a. The Judge engaged in undignified and disrespectful conduct, including harassment, toward three female Judicial employees, in violation of Canon Rules 1.2 (promoting confidence in the judiciary), 2.3 (bias, prejudice and harassment), and 2.8 (undignified conduct toward court staff). The Judge denied these allegations, asserting that his actions were misconstrued and that one staff member’s allegations were in response to a Judicial Branch evaluation of the staff member’s performance issues.
b. The Judge retaliated against another Judicial staff member once he learned that the staff member had been interviewed as part of an investigation into his conduct in violation of Canon Rule 2.16(B) (prohibition of retaliation) and 2.8(B) (undignified conduct toward court staff). The Judge denied these allegations, asserting he and this staff member did not get along and the staff member was a poor performer.
c. The Judge improperly modified plea agreements in a number of cases without informing the parties, violating his duty to promote confidence in the judiciary and avoid the appearance of impropriety and unfairness, in violation of Canon Rule 1.2 (promoting confidence in the judiciary) and 2.2 (impartiality and fairness). The Judge admitted that he modified plea agreements but asserted that his modification was lawful.
d. The Judge failed to disqualify himself from cases where his personal attorney was representing a litigant, in violation of Canon Rule 2.11 (disqualification). The Judge denied these allegations, asserting that he instructed a staff member to place his attorney on the recusal list and the staff member failed to do so without advising him. On the two occasions that his personal attorney appeared in his courtroom, the Judge asserted that he acted in conformance with his duty to disqualify himself.
Because Judge Walker has agreed to retire from the bench effective February 15, 2017, the Commission requested the dismissal of the proceedings pending against him. On February 9, 2017, the Colorado Supreme Court approved the recommendation of the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline for the termination of disciplinary proceedings involving Judge Walker.
The Court ordered that the conclusion of these proceedings should be made public. The Commission's records in other respects remain confidential.