While senate races, ballot measures and close calls took up many election result headlines, the Colorado 2022 election also came with changes to the state’s third branch of government.
Notably, voters approved an amendment allowing judges from the 18th Judicial District to be appointed to the future 23rd Judicial District and one county court judge lost her seat after the majority of voters didn’t retain her.
Judicial Retention Results
Of the 135 state judges up for retention this year, 134 were retained by voters but a La Plata County Court judge didn’t get the 50% approval needed to keep her seat.
While it’s not unusual for Colorado voters to not retain a few judges, Woods received a 6-3 “meets performance standards” designation by the 6th Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance in its 2022 evaluation of her performance.
Since 2010, voters have ousted eight judges according to data from the Colorado Secretary of State. But the last time a judge was voted out despite receiving a “meets performance standards” evaluation was in 2010, when all three judges that were given the boot by voters (Jolene Carman Blair, Terence Gilmore and W. Michael Porter) passed their evaluations.
Woods was appointed to the La Plata County Court in 2020 and was up for her first judicial retention election this year. On the bench, Woods oversaw a mix of civil cases and misdemeanor and traffic criminal cases. Prior to joining the bench, Woods worked in the 6th Judicial District Public Defender’s Office for five years.
In a statement to The Durango Herald last week, Woods seemed to credit the paper’s reporting with her non-retention.
“The community received a great deal of misinformation about who I was as a judge because they were fed cherry-picked facts about a few sensationalized cases,” said Woods in a text message to The Durango Herald.
The Durango Herald published a story in January about Woods’ record setting bail in felony criminal cases after it obtained a November 2021 order from the 6th Judicial District’s chief judge which the paper said effectively reassigned felony advisement hearings from Woods to other judges.
In a statement at the time of the publication, an executive for the district said the order was made due to a number of factors including changing legislation and case management in the district.
Amendment D and the 23rd Judicial District
A 67% majority of Colorado voters approved Amendment D to the Colorado constitution. As a constitutional amendment, it needed at least 55% voter approval to pass.
Amendment D will now allow the governor to assign judges from the 18th Judicial District to serve the remainder of their terms in the newly created 23rd Judicial District as long as they reside within the new district.
In 2020, the Colorado General Assembly approved creating a 23rd judicial district effective in 2025 by splitting off three counties from the 18th Judicial District, which is currently the largest judicial district in Colorado. The 23rd Judicial District will include Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties while leaving Arapahoe County in the 18th Judicial District.
Most of the affected counties were in favor of Amendment D, but 51% of voters in Lincoln County and 47% of voters in Elbert County were against the measure.
The 2020 law allowed 18th Judicial District Court judges living in the new 23rd Judicial District to carry over their position and complete the remainder of their term in the new district. But in order to do this, Colorado voters needed to approve a one time suspension of judicial selection rules from the state constitution.
Proponents of Amendment D argued it allows a smooth transition in 2025 for the newly created judicial district while critics argued it took away the constitutional rights of county residents to have a say in who their judges are through district nominating commissions.