If you ever want to see the epitome of arrogance, live and uncensored, then I highly recommend you spend a day at your local county courthouse—most of the judges there will have it in abundance.

These men and women of the bench have power in spades. Not only do they have the ability to massively impact the lives of those attached to whatever case they are presiding over, but they also know that their ruling could set a legal precedent that could have ripple effects throughout every similar case in the nation going forward.

With that much power, a heightened level of arrogance is to be expected.

Keeping this in consideration, it's important to understand that I don't think all judges are narcissists who wield the law in a more punitive, weaponized fashion, all while skirting those same laws after the robes come off. I'm fully aware there are members of the judiciary who know the impact their rulings can have and will wholeheartedly base their verdicts on what is in the best interest of justice, and not a personal/moral agenda.

Yet, there have been enough incidents involving judicial ethics violations over the last few years to warrant the need for a more thorough dissection as to how this branch of the government can so easily flaunt its disgust for the very laws it's supposed to serve.

While investigating, the first thing you learn is that there is no transparent, actionable system of accountability for the judges of Colorado at all. You quickly notice there are no real safeguards from keeping those with this much power in check, and the laws are written as such to keep the visibility of their actions murky at best. When this fact became apparent, I was somewhat surprised these judges haven't totally run amok already.

It’s worth noting that though they haven’t run amok, the things which they have been caught doing within the last few years have been terrible enough.

First off, before I get into the scandals, I need to clarify something. Though I may have painted the picture to appear otherwise, we do actually have a form of judicial oversight in the state. It’s when you begin to question its current level of effectiveness that things become dicey.

The Colorado Constitution allows for the creation of a commission made up of judges, attorneys, and non-attorneys tasked with investigating misconduct allegations and passing on discipline recommendations to the Colorado Supreme Court. However, the Colorado Supreme Court currently has financial oversight of the commission’s funding—thereby creating a huge financial conflict of interest.

As the saying goes, “Always follow the money.” But wait, there’s more.

Some of the other scandals to befall the judiciary during this decade have included multiple agencies investigating allegations ranging from reports that Colorado judges discriminated against staff to reports of sexual harassment. Allegations also claim that complaints to the committee on judicial discipline went uninvestigated and disciplinary actions weren’t taken.

Another scandal from 2022 that hit the judicial branch hard came about when it was found that Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright might have violated several rules of judicial conduct. He did this by frequently offering his opinion about the veracity of allegations that a Supreme Court justice approved a multi-million-dollar contract given to a Judicial Department employee facing firing to prevent a tell-all lawsuit. This tell-all lawsuit was also a scandal in and of itself that lasted over three years.

It is literally scandal-Inception … all with even more layers.

Representatives from the state's commission on judicial discipline spoke at length in February this year, alerting lawmakers to an increase in credible allegations of judicial misconduct. The vice chair of the commission, Fourth Judicial District Court Judge David Prince, disclosed the disciplinary body had initiated 10 times as many formal proceedings against judges in 2022 as compared to the historical average.

Though all of this news is grim, it does appear that there is hope for us Greenies.

To help with the financial entanglements, SB22-201 was signed into law in 2022. The law created a special judicial discipline committee that is funded through various appropriations, freeing up over $1.2 million. This allotment will help reduce the amount of corruption generated through the holding of the purse strings by the Supreme Court.

And in 2023, a few pieces of legislation were introduced to combat the lack of visibility when it comes to holding judges who break the law accountable. The first would ask Colorado voters to approve a constitutional amendment to establish an independent body, separate from the existing Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline, to decide whether a justice or judge engaged in misconduct, as well as weigh in on prosecution or discipline. This new board would only come into play if the commission, through its retained investigatory functions, determines a formal hearing is warranted. The amendment also would change provisions in the state constitution relating to confidentiality, so that complaint victims are kept up to date with the status of their case’s investigation.

A second bill would change Colorado statutes about confidential and anonymous reporting throughout the commission’s hearings.

Also, a third bill would create an Office of Judicial Ombudsman, which would act as a confidential adviser for anyone who is unsure what the right course of action to take is when it comes to potential misconduct in the department.

In a surprise to no one, the Colorado Judicial Department has made it clear that they oppose any kind of independent oversight board.

We’ve all heard the phrase “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and I believe the examples above provide an incredibly compelling argument. When you combine the power of the law at your disposal with complete knowledge of its intricacies and then add zero fear of being held accountable for breaking any of those laws, that is absolute power. And as we’re witnessing, it’s all being followed by a healthy dose of corruption.

In layman’s terms; when you lump everything together, you get what Mr. Lahey from the Trailer Park Boys would call a “shit-onion.”