I was recruited to and joined the Colorado Judicial Institute in 2011, as a non-attorney with legal understanding—I "spoke legal" as I was a "headhunter" in this world (CJI’s bylaws require that 51% of its board are not attorneys and, as such, I was a good fit for both of these reasons).
I had never heard of this organization.
First, a little background. Colorado does not elect our judges. This is confusing because every time election season is upon us, there are judges on the ballot. It’s important for clarification that we ARE NOT electing new judges, we are voting to RETAIN our judges—do they get to keep the jobs that they have already been appointed to?
CJI's mission statement:
The Colorado Judicial Institute's mission is to preserve and enhance the fairness, impartiality, and excellence of Colorado's Courts, to further public understanding of the Colorado judicial system, and to ensure that the courts meet the needs of the people. [Ed.'s note: CJI's mission statement was officially revised in July 2022. Read the revised version here.]
So, why has this become my primary philanthropic interest and why support CJI?
I believe in fairness and an impartial judiciary. I don’t care what anyone says about the ability for judges who, after receiving a large donation from any outside organization for an election, can possibly remain completely impartial in court, consciously or unconsciously. CJI preserves and defends impartiality and the integrity of our judiciary vigorously. We have members of the board who monitor our legislature to make sure there are no nefarious bills coming before our state congress, that might threaten to overturn Merit Based Selection (MBS).
I know that the judicial branch of our government is the least understood of the three, that helping the people of Colorado appreciate and recognize this, is extremely important to all of us, and why we should be so vigilant in protecting Merit Based Selection.
There is a likelihood that at some point in our lives, either personally (family court, etc.) or at work for some dispute, the majority of us in Colorado will be before a judge one way or another. I am comforted by MBS, that there is a high probability of no implicit bias resulting from a financial contribution to that judge's seat on the bench.
Through several funding sources, I have been responsible for donations of just shy of $70,000 to promote awareness, understanding, education, and outreach for CJI. I recently completed a two-year term as the first female, non-attorney board chair in 29 years, and have one year left before I am termed off the board. My commitment is real.
My hope is that, through our initiatives in literacy around our judiciary, most in Colorado will know about CJI, want to financially support its mission and will become ambassadors through membership in promoting this important organization. Please join us.