Judicial term limits proposed

Denver, Jan. 7 -- Backbone America Citizens Alliance, a conservative action group, started the clock yesterday on a proposed ballot issue to term-limit the Colorado Supreme Court and court of appeals. "Voters have repeatedly signaled their desire for greater accountability in public officials through term limits," said John Andrews, alliance chairman and former President of the Colordo Senate. "It's just common sense to limit the terms of these powerful judges in the same way as we already do for the executive and legislative branches of state government."

The Backbone America proposal calls for three 4-year terms on each court, after which a judge would be ineligible to continue on that court. Andrews said this would increase judges' accountability to the will of the people, in whom all political power and law originate -- yet the 12-year limit would keep courts insulated from public mood swings. (Colorado legislators and executive branch officials are under an 8-year term limit.)

"Our petition will ask citizens if they want virtual life terms on the bench" Andrews said. "We think Coloradans will decide rotation in office is better."

Among recent court decisions blatantly rewriting the state constitution, dubbed by Andrews as "poster kids for abuse of judicial authority," he cited three in particular:

1- Murderers let off on a technicality. That was last year's Harlan case where one juror read from the Bible.

2- Property rights trampled. The Taylor Ranch case invoked a 150-year-old Spanish land grant to give hundreds of local residents access and use to Taylor's land. It clouds every land title in the state.

3- School vouchers thrown out. 20,000 poor black and brown kids would be out of bad schools today, attending private or religious schools of their parents' choosing, if the 2003 voucher law hadn't been voided on a technicality to please teacher unions.

"Term limits for judges?" was the headline on today's story about the proposal in the Rocky Mountain News.

Proponents of record are John Andrews and Kathleen LeCrone of Centennial. Petitioning for the 68,000 signatures required to place the measure on the November 2006 ballot will start when several weeks of review by state election authorities are completed. The official text is as follows:

Article VI of the constitution of the state of Colorado is amended by the addition of a new section to read:

Section 27. Terms of office and term limits. Future terms of office for Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judges shall be four years and shall end on November 15 of an even-numbered year. At each level, no one shall serve more than three future terms of office. Any future partial term, including completing the term of another judge, shall also be a term of office. Anyone who has served eight years or more at one court level shall be eligible for only one future term at that level.

Repeal. Section 7 of Article VI of the constitution of the state of Colorado is repealed as follows:

Section 7. Term of office. [strikeover from here] The full term of office of justices of the Supreme Court shall be ten years. [strikeover ends here]