State could hire 63 new judges over four years to keep up with new cases
DENVER – State lawmakers are considering hiring 63 more judges over the next four years to keep up with an increasing number of civil and criminal cases.Fifteeen of Colorado’s 22 judicial districts would get at least one new judge along with support staff. It’s been about three decades since some of those districts, including those covering Denver, Pueblo, Routt, Moffat and Grand counties, have gotten a new judgeship.The proposal, set to be considered Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would use court fees to pay for the new positions, money that now flows into the general pot of money that state uses to support the overall budget. The plan (House Bill 1054) would cost $7.8 million in the first year.Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said the plan is being phased in to give counties enough time to find or build space in their court houses for the additional judges and staffers. He said the courts need to catch up with the state’s growth in population and that companies consider a state’s legal climate when deciding where to do business.”If you don’t have the judicial system to handle it, it can take years for complex corporate ligitigation to make its way through the courts,” Shaffer said.The Colorado Civil Justice League, which represents businesses supporting tort reform, backs the measure. Since civil cases take a backseat to criminal cases, executive director Jeff Weist said the slow moving process can sometimes lead businesses to settle cases they might otherwise try to beat in court.”That just invites more litigation to be filed for the settlement value of the claim,” Weist said.The 8th Judicial District, which covers Larimer and Jackson counties, is the most understaffed. According to the state court administrator, five judges are now handling a caseload that should be shared by nine judges. Under the plan, it would get four district court judges and one county judge over four years.The 19th District, covering fast-growing Weld County, has seen felony criminal cases increase by 124 percent in the last decade, according to the court administrator. It would get four new district court judges.The proposal has already been backed by the House. If the bill passes out of committee, two-thirds of senators would have to approve it by March 9, the deadline for the Senate to vote on bills from the House, Shaffer said.Elsewhere this week:- Sex education courses would have to be based on information from doctors, health services and public health departments departments under a proposal (House Bill 1292) set to be considered Monday by the House Education Committee. The bill from Democratic Rep. Nancy Todd, a retired teacher, would urge teachers not to promote religious values in those courses but she has said it would not bar discussions about the moral and religious issues involved in sexuality that are bound to come up naturally in classrooms.- A proposal (House Bill 1011) to expand Colorado’s “Make My Day” law will get its first hearing in the Senate on Monday. It would allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves in their businesses in addition to their homes.- Senators will start discussing how much to spend on state schools next year in an Education Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
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