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S_JUD_2018A 03/21/2018 01:46:24 PM Committee Summary

Date 03/21/2018
Coram X
Fields E
Kagan X
Cooke X
Gardner X
Time 01:46:24 PM to 03:33:04 PM
Place SCR 352
This Meeting was called to order by Gardner
This Report was prepared by Juliann Jenson
Hearing Items Action Taken
SB18-203 Lay Over

SB18-203 - Lay Over

01:46:34 PM  

Senator Marble, sponsor, explained SB18-203, concerning the provision of independent counsel to indigent defendants in municipal courts.  She expressed concern that defendants in some municipal courts are not receiving adequate representation.  The bill sets up a structure for an independent entity to provide a list of qualified public defenders for the municipal court.  She answered questions from the committee about current practices in municipal court. 


01:53:01 PM  

Judge David Cooke, representing Arvada Municipal Court, spoke in opposition to the bill.  He expressed concerns that the bill infringes upon home rule, as well as legislates to the exception.  He also relayed that there are remedies in place to address concerns about attorneys.  He answered questions from the committee about the process of choosing public defenders, rate of pay, and the role judges. 



02:06:18 PM  

Meghan Dollar, representing Colorado Municipal League (CML), testifed about the bill in a neutral capacity.  She provided a history of the subcommittee working on this issue and the compromises involved.  She also mentioned home rule concerns. 



02:13:24 PM  

The committee discussed a section of the bill regarding local or regional independent indigent defense commissions. 

02:14:49 PM  

Judge David Juarez, representing the municipal court in Commerce City, testified in opposition to the bill.  He discussed concerns about home rule, outside evaluators, and unfunded mandates.  He emphasized that independent, conflict-free representation already exists and summarized remedies in cases of substandard representation.  He also suggested that funds would be better spent on social safety nets. 

Discussion followed regarding the independence of the Judicial Branch, authority of presiding judges, the problems of finding attorneys in rural areas, mandatory fines, unintended consequences, legislating to the exception, and the appointment and evaluation of municipal court judges. 



02:37:58 PM  

Jacob Starkovich, representing himself as a public defender, testified in opposition to the measure.  He brought up issues with the Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel (ADC) and reiterated that municipal court judges are qualified to decide who can practice in their courts. 

02:46:08 PM  

Judge Ann Stavig, representing the city of Lakewood, spoke in favor of the bill if amended.  She discussed her involvement with the CML subcommittee regarding this bill and spoke to the concerns raised about judicial independence, home rule, and unfunded mandates.  She also noted perception problems with municipal courts and expressed that the bill has some elements in it that could help with this.   

Discussion followed regarding how the bill could be amended to address concerns. 


02:58:23 PM  

Denise Maes, representing the Aamerican Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), spoke in support of the bill.  She discussed her involvement with the CML subcommittee and the need for independent public defenders in municipal courts.  She referenced a report by the ACLU , as well as constitutional issues and American Bar Association standards.  She noted problems with judges contracting directly with public defenders and emphasized that county and state courts have to follow certain standards regarding publc defenders. 

03:08:20 PM  

Rebecca Wallace, representing the ACLU, testified in favor of the bill.  She emphasized that there are well documented problems in municipal courts.

03:13:50 PM  

Lindy Frolich, representing the ADC, testified in a neutral capacity.  She provided a history of the ADC and the evolution of the qualified attorney list.  She expressed concerns that attorneys will often take cases they are not qualified to take to appease judges.  She also mentioned that judges are not in the position to answer complaints about attorneys.    

The Rifle Municipal Court submitted a letter of opposition to the bill (Attachment A).

The committee took a brief recess.

03:23:40 PM  

The commtitee was called back to order.  

Senator Gardner announced that the bill will be laid over for one week to work on amendments.  

03:33:04 PM   Committee Adjourned

The effective date for bills enacted without a safety clause is August 7, 2024, if the General Assembly adjourns sine die on May 8, 2024, unless otherwise specified. Details