The act establishes the office of the judicial discipline ombudsman (office) as an independent office in the judicial department that is operated pursuant to a memorandum of understanding between the office and the judicial department. The judicial discipline ombudsman (ombudsman) is the director of the office.
The act establishes the judicial discipline ombudsman selection board (board) to be made up of 5 board members who must be appointed not later than January 1, 2024. The duties and responsibilities of the board include:
- Overseeing personnel decisions of the ombudsman, which include appointing a person to serve as the ombudsman, filling a vacancy in the ombudsman position, evaluating the ombudsman's performance, and developing a complaint process concerning the ombudsman's performance;
- Overseeing and advising the ombudsman on the strategic direction of the office and its mission;
- Working cooperatively with the ombudsman to provide fiscal oversight of the general operating budget of the office;
- Ensuring compliance with the provisions of the act, the memorandum of understanding, and state and federal laws;
- Promoting the mission of the office; and
- Providing assistance to the ombudsman when requested.
The powers and duties of the ombudsman include:
- Creating and maintaining an anonymous reporting system for complainants to submit complaints;
- Helping complainants understand their rights and options in reporting and filing a complaint with the commission on judicial discipline (commission) and other appropriate authorities;
- Providing complainants with necessary referrals for additional support services and care if needed or requested;
- Reporting appropriate cases to the commission, the office of attorney regulation counsel, law enforcement, and the judicial department;
- Serving in an advisory capacity to the commission and the judicial department on rule-making;
- Ensuring accountability and consistency in the operating policies and procedures of the office; and
- Serving as a liaison for communications between a complainant and the commission or the judicial department.
The act requires that, to be appointed, the ombudsman must have prior experience serving as an ombudsman; have a deep understanding of and expertise in organizational culture and diversity, equity, and inclusion; have professional experience working with human resources; and possess the ability to act in a nonpartisan manner.
The act requires all communications and information disclosed to the ombudsman by a complainant to be kept confidential unless the complainant gives the ombudsman permission to disclose the information. Disclosed information and records are not discoverable if the information and records are received during and within the scope of the ombudsman's duties and responsibilities. The act requires the ombudsman to disclose a complaint that alleges judicial misconduct and to keep the identity of the complainant confidential unless the complainant gives permission to disclose the complainant's identity.
The records related to complaints received by the office are not subject to the "Colorado Open Records Act".
The ombudsman is exempt from mandatory reporting rules, statutes, and policies, and may only report an incident made known to the ombudsman by a complainant if the complainant consents to the disclosure.
The act authorizes the office to promulgate rules necessary to implement the requirements of the act and to ensure confidentiality of disclosures made to the office by complainants.
The act appropriates $100,543 from the general fund to the judicial department to purchase legal services from the department of law.
APPROVED by Governor June 7, 2023
EFFECTIVE June 7, 2023
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)