CWBA Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination in the Judicial System:

What's Been Happening?

Thank you to the 119 members who attended the February 12, 2021, CWBA membership Town Hall Meeting to discuss the then-recently reported sexual harassment and sex discrimination issues in Colorado’s Judicial Department. During that Town Hall, many of you shared excellent ideas about necessary reforms to address these issues, to bolster the public’s confidence in the Judicial Department’s integrity, and to make the Judicial Department a safe and positive working environment for all, especially for women, persons of color, gender non-conforming individuals, other marginalized communities, and interns and law clerks.


We heard your demand for change and your mandate that the CWBA demonstrate leadership on these issues. As a result, CWBA leadership formed the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination in the Judicial System and appointed me chair. The Ad Hoc Committee had its first meeting on February 24, 2021, and it included working group sessions.

The Ad Hoc Committee is currently comprised of four working groups to research and analyze discrete issues and to identify needed procedural, rule, statutory, or constitutional changes:


  1. Judicial Performance Evaluation, Retention, and Discipline. This working group is focused on: greater transparency in judicial evaluation and discipline; performance evaluation survey improvements to inquire about harassment and discrimination and to filter out implicit bias; improvements to resources for commissions on implicit bias; sharing of information regarding complaints and discipline with nominating commissions, performance evaluation commissions, Office of Attorney Regulation, and Office of Judicial Discipline; a potential partnership with IAALS on judicial performance evaluation reform; and any necessary funding enhancements.

  2. Office of Independent Monitor. This working group is focused on: other states’ models for an independent monitor or ombudsman to collect and investigate complaints; and other states’ models for centralization of complaint-collection.

  3. Law Students/Law Clerks/Law Schools. This working group is focused on developing programming and resources for law students who intern and alumni who clerk for judges. This group will also review existing programming and resources at University of Colorado’s and University of Denver’s law schools and recommend any enhancements.

  4. CLE. This working group is focused on identifying and developing CLE programming needs. The first product of this group’s efforts was the “From Bystander to Upstander” webinar CLE, on March 31, 2021, from 12-1:15 p.m. The webinar featured Hon. S. Kato Crews, U.S. Magistrate Judge and member of CBA-CLE Board of Directors; J. Ryann Peyton, Esq., Director, Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program and member of CBA Executive Council, and Alexis H. Ronickher, Esq., Partner, Katz, Marshall, & Banks, LLP. Topics included: an overview of the law concerning workplace harassment; examination of the “bystander effect” and why it occurs; understanding harassment beyond the gender binary; judges’ and attorneys’ ethical duties to report; and practical tips. Over 400 people attended the event. And a home study version is available for purchase at: https://cle.cobar.org/Seminars/Event-Info/sessionaltcd/EM033121W

We have advised these working groups to complete their work by mid-to-late summer. At that time, CWBA leadership will review and consider the working groups’ work product, and discuss the reform proposals with key community stakeholders.


In addition to these working groups, CWBA leadership has met with several community stakeholders to discuss reform possibilities. We have met with some of the Colorado Supreme Court justices; Kent Wagner, the Director of the Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation and members of Colorado’s Commission on Judicial Performance Evaluation; Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, Chief Deputy Natalie Hanlon Leh, and Deputy Attorney General Maritza Dominguez Braswell; Rep. Mike Weissman and Sen. Faith Winter, and IAALS. Additional stakeholder meetings are in the works.


In sum, since the February 12th Town Hall, the CWBA has been hard at work to lay the groundwork for possible reforms. If you are interested in joining one of our four Ad Hoc Committee working groups, please contact CWBA’s Executive Director Kim Sporrer at kimsporrer@cwba.org. Also, to learn more about the working groups’ work, please register to attend our next Ad Hoc Committee meeting on Thursday, May 13, from 12-1:15 p.m.: https://www.cwba.org/event-4239965. Together we can effectuate change.

Kathryn Starnella is Special Counsel at Wells, Anderson & Race LLC, where she handles trial-level defense litigation and civil appeals in federal and state court in the areas of civil rights, employment law, products liability, insurance defense, and other commercial litigation. Previously, Kathryn served as an assistant attorney general for the State of Colorado where she represented the Colorado Department of Corrections in state and federal court and the state’s top elected officials in constitutional challenges to state laws and election-related issues. Kathryn chairs the CWBA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination in the Judicial System and co-chairs the CWBA’s Professional Advancement Committee. She previously served as CWBA’s Secretary. In 2018, while president of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association (CHBA), she served as the CHBA’s representative on the CWBA board. Kathryn attended Northwestern University for undergrad and law school. She is a 2017 graduate of the Colorado Bar Association’s Leadership Training (COBALT) program.


79 views0 comments