The Colorado legislature has listened to judges, litigants and court staff complaints about the draconian budget cuts affecting the administration of justice—and they responded. The men and women of the General Assembly developed a promising two-year solution to keep the court
system alive. But our representatives also knew that their solution would be unpopular. For that reason, they launched another midnight bill passage, thereby circumventing open discussion and potential defeat. This author does not blame them—something had to be done and they did it.
Starting April 1, 2004, attorneys licensed to practice in Colorado must serve court duty one day a month. We must do the work left undone during the past two years of serious budget cuts and thus free up the judges, law clerks and court staff to focus on their back logs. The good news is that those of us who perform the duty without the necessity of mailed reminders will receive $5 off our next license registration. The act’s less attractive details are as follows.
• Court duty draftees get to pick their tasks on a first come, first served basis. Available jobs include: building maintenance and repair, file room clerical, micro film and micro fiche reader repair and maintenance, security, cafeteria, judging, and answering telephones.
• The licenses of attorneys who miss two days of scheduled duty or more will be suspended by operation of law until they catch up.
• Draftees must perform their tours of duty in courts in which they do not practice. As a practical matter, this will mean that metro area lawyers must travel to courts located in rural counties such as Baca, Saguache or Rio Blanco to report for court duty and vice versa.
• All draftees, except judges, while on duty, will wear uniforms consisting of orange t-shirts and navy dockers. Draftee judges will wear bright blue robes (indicating their specialness) with the word "temp" discreetly stenciled in yellow. The uniform requirement was most hotly debated before passage of the act. The rationale behind it, and the reason for its ultimate passing, is the lawmakers’ intent to protect regular court staff from adverse public reaction. Drafted attorneys working for no more pay than the privilege of keeping their licenses and a $5 renewal fee discount tend to be less motivated and less qualified than regular court staff in the performance of their assigned duties. This may create a temporary drop in service quality. The professional court staff should not have to suffer from any repercussions in public opinion. Easy identification of draftees will prevent that from happening.
In the event that enough "volunteers" don’t step forward, a squad of enforcers will be visiting the new Racines in the morning (for 8:30 sessions) and The Palm right after lunch for afternoon cases.
For more information on how to sign up for your first tour of duty and where to obtain your uniform, you may log on the website www.yousilly.com.