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CWBA's New Judicial Due Diligence and Endorsement Policy


The CWBA Board of Directors approved a new judicial due diligence and endorsement policy at its September 2023 board meeting. We are thus lifting the temporary hold on endorsement and will begin implementation of the new policy for judicial openings this month. The CWBA had placed a temporary hold on the judicial due diligence and endorsement process in May to allow us the summer months to reconsider and revise our process.


Full details on the new process have been posted on the CWBA website. We would like to take the opportunity to present the new process and explain how we got here.


Background

For the last fifteen years, CWBA’s Judicial Committee conducted due diligence for judicial vacancies by calling all individuals listed in Question 15 of the shortlisted candidates’ applications and drafting an extensive memorandum that summarized all of the feedback received. We also solicited comments from CWBA members. Candidates would seek the CWBA’s endorsement by writing a letter stating their qualifications and commitment to the CWBA’s mission. The CWBA’s Executive Committee (comprised of 7 CWBA board members) made its endorsement decisions based on the due diligence memorandum, the judicial applications, and the endorsement request letters. CWBA sent both the due diligence memo and the endorsement decision to the Governor’s Office.


Process of Reconsideration

Since making the decision to reconsider the judicial due diligence and endorsement process, we have taken several steps to seek feedback on how the CWBA can most effectively engage in the judicial nomination process. We hosted a group meeting with current judges and CWBA Past Presidents, and also had subsequent discussions with judges. Additionally, we continued discussions with the President’s Diversity Council and with other Diversity Bars. Most recently, we met with the Governor’s Office staff again to discuss possible changes. We discussed the feedback from each of these groups internally to develop the new process.


New Process

The CWBA’s new due diligence process described below is intended to allow the Judicial Committee to gather sufficient information for the Executive Committee to make thoughtful and informed endorsement decisions. Through this new process, we hope to continue to serve the ultimate goal of a well-qualified, respectful, and diverse judiciary.


1. Reach out to short-listed candidates. Once the Governor’s office announces the names of the shortlisted candidates for each Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and District Court vacancy, the Judicial Committee will reach out to the candidates to provide information on the CWBA’s endorsement process.


2. Panel interview instead of calling Question 15 references. We will schedule a panel interview with any shortlisted candidate that seeks the CWBA’s endorsement. Each panel will include 2-3 Judicial Committee member volunteers, including one Judicial Committee co-chair. The same panel will interview each shortlisted candidate seeking endorsement for an opening. The interview may be conducted on a video conference platform or in person as scheduling allows. The panel will ask each nominee the same seven questions, as follows:


  1. Over the course of your career, how have you worked to advance women as leaders in the legal profession or the interests of women generally?

  2. If appointed to this judgeship, how would you identify and address potential bias towards women that might arise in the courtroom?

  3. In the past, how have you handled cases that involved parties, attorneys, or other judicial participants from diverse backgrounds?

  4. Reflect on a time when you acted with bias and talk about what you might do differently going forward.

  5. What steps would you take to ensure that people of diverse backgrounds are treated fairly and respectfully in your courtroom?

  6. How have you worked throughout your career to improve access to justice for all members of the community?

  7. In this judgeship, what would you do to foster a culture of respect and professionalism within the judiciary?

In addition, the CWBA panel may ask the candidate to expound upon information provided in his/her/their application materials.


3. Solicit CWBA member comments. Comments from CWBA members will continue to be an important part of our due diligence and endorsement process. Thus, we will continue to email all CWBA members seeking comments on the shortlisted candidates for each vacancy. The email will continue to include a link to a survey where any CWBA member can provide comments on any of the shortlisted candidates. Those comments will then be anonymized and provided to the Governor’s Office.


4. Executive Committee decision. The Judicial Committee panel will provide the Executive Committee a memorandum with summaries of the interviews, comments received from CWBA members, and an endorsement recommendation. The Executive Committee will review these materials and determine whether and whom to endorse. The CWBA President will prepare a letter to the Governor’s Office with the CWBA’s endorsement decision and attaching the anonymized member comments.

How to Get Involved

If you are interested in conducting interviews as part of the new process, please reach out to the current Judicial Committee Co-Chairs Andrea Bronson, Rachel Burkhart, and Rebecca Cohn. We will send a request for volunteers to all members on the Judicial Committee interest list before due diligence begins on each vacancy. If you would like to receive these emails and were not previously receiving our emails, please update your CWBA profile to indicate your interest in the Judicial Committee.


We also highly encourage you to submit member comments on judicial candidates. Your feedback is crucial to helping the Executive Committee evaluate judicial candidates and make endorsement decisions. Because we anonymize member comments before they are sent to the Governor’s Office along with the endorsement, it also provides members who prefer to comment anonymously an opportunity to have your voice heard without directly emailing the Governor’s Office.


Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments.

 

Judicial Committee Co-Chairs

Andrea Bronson is a partner at Davis Graham & Stubbs, LLC. Her practice focuses on regulatory, litigation and transactional counseling in environmental and natural resources law, with a particular focus on matters involving the Clean Water Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and water rights issues. Andrea previously served as co-chair of the Professional Advancement Committee. Originally from Maine, Andrea earned her BA in International Studies and French from Colby College. She then packed up, moved west, worked in translation for awhile, and later earned her JD from the University of Denver.


Rebecca Cohn is the Head of CED Law, the legal arm of the Community Economic Defense Project, where she manages fifteen attorneys and paralegals tasked with defending low-income renters located throughout Colorado against eviction and housing instability. Prior to her time at CED Law, Rebecca worked as a Housing Attorney at Bay Area Legal Services in Tampa, FL and as an Assistant Public Defender in Palm Beach County, FL. Rebecca graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2013 and The College of William & Mary in 2008. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, running, and traveling.


Rachel Burkhart, an associate at Dorsey & Whitney LLP, has substantial experience litigating complex construction, real estate, and financial disputes. She also regularly provides advice on contract negotiations, development, land use, planning, and dispute avoidance. Rachel has been involved in a wide range of public and private projects, including conventional and alternative energy generation, electrical transmission and distribution, water and wastewater infrastructure, deep tunnels, sports facilities, hotels and mixed-use resorts, and commercial buildings. She has worked with owners, developers, designers, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers, affording her with unique insights into the objectives of all parties involved in a construction project.

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