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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 11, 20185min1125

Former Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland wants to take down one of the judges who released a convicted serial child molester from his 324-year prison sentence in February. Reports the Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Rowland — who now leads the county’s program advocating for abused and neglected children — is spearheading a campaign to oust Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Craig Welling when he faces a judicial retention election in 2020.

Welling is one of three judges on the panel who overturned Michael McFadden’s 2015 conviction by a Mesa County jury for molesting several young boys and girls. The appellate judges found that delays surrounding questions that McFadden’s lawyers had wanted to submit on the questionnaire for the jurors was a violation of  his right to a speedy trial.

Rowland, long prominent in West Slope Republican politics, may be familiar to Coloradans elsewhere in the state as the unsuccessful Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006. That was the year the GOP’s former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez lost the governor’s race to Democrat Bill Ritter. Rowland, who early in her career was a child-protection caseworker for the Mesa County Department of Human Services, is now executive director of CASA/Court Appointed Special Advocates of Mesa County.

Rowland’s campaign to persuade voters statewide to dump Welling is called Justice for All Colorado and is raising funds for the endeavor. Colorado judges are not elected directly to the bench but instead are appointed by the governor from lists of finalists recommended by the state’s judicial nominating commissions. Once appointed, judges — even the seven justices of the Colorado Supreme Court — subsequently face voters in retention elections. Rarely is anyone removed from the bench.

Why just Welling rather than either or both of the other two Court of Appeals judges who sided with him in the McFadden appeal? Rowland told the Daily Sentinel’s Erin McIntyre that one of the other judges has since retired, and the other isn’t up for a retention election until 2024.

McIntyre offers details of Justice for All Colorado’s planned campaign:

The group is in the beginning stages of raising money and registering as a political-action committee to campaign against Welling, and has set up a website at www.justiceforallcolorado.org.The campaign will include videos, social media posts and advertising across media platforms, Rowland indicated. The group’s current goal is to raise $300,000 to $500,000 and the group is looking for campaign leaders in all 64 Colorado counties, since voters across the state can vote to retain Welling.

‘We’re not here to debate the legal aspects of this case,’ she told the group, stating that they were trying the case in the court of public opinion. ‘We’re trying this in the court of common decency.’

The ruling by the Court of Appeals has hit a nerve in Mesa County, and efforts are afoot by law enforcement there to put McFadden back behind bars, McIntyre reports:

Rowland said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein is working to determine whether charges in an older case could be filed against McFadden.

When McFadden was initially released from prison, it was believed he didn’t have to register as a sex offender. However, a previous conviction of sexual assault on a child in 1990, involving an 8-year-old boy who had been sodomized, was used to require his registration. He had been released from prison on parole in 2005. The crimes on the six children in the more recent case happened not long after that, between 2008 and 2012, and he was arrested in 2013.


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Tom RamstackTom RamstackJanuary 7, 20187min593
WASHINGTON — The Colorado Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case next week on in vitro fertilization that is stretching child custody issues into times before fetuses enter their mothers’ wombs. It also is drawing support or criticism nationwide from groups that seek to protect rights of women, parents or unborn children. In the […]

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Ernest LuningErnest LuningDecember 5, 201712min1927

Both sides agree it's a question of rights but differ sharply whose rights should prevail under the law in a case argued Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court — whether it's the baker and his religious beliefs or the same-sex couple and their right to be treated like any other customers. As the divisive case had its day in court — pitting Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips against the married couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins — Colorado politicians hewed mainly along partisan lines assessing the case.


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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandOctober 6, 20174min752
In a defeat that doesn’t happen that often, Matt Arnold and his Campaign Integrity Watchdog drew a losing verdict  from the Colorado Court of Appeals, when the court ruled in favor of the state Republican party on a campaign finance issue. The appeals court ruled unanimously to overturn an administrative law judge’s decision in favor of […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 29, 20175min674

One of the more compelling beginning-of-life test cases that you’ve probably never heard of — one that arguably lends new meaning to “pro-life” and “pro-choice” — is playing out in Colorado’s courts. It combines latter-day cryogenic technology with an old-fashioned, bitter divorce, and it centers on a rather unusual custody battle.

And even though the matter is all about defining life before birth, it has nothing to do with the perennial political fight over Roe v. Wade or abortion rights. Of course, the stakeholders in that fight are nonetheless likely to watch the case closely.

As intriguing as all that sounds, though, it turns out the case has received scant media attention.

Here are the particulars: Onetime Coloradans Drake and Mandy Rooks were experiencing fertility issues, so they had nine eggs removed from her body and fertilized in vitro. Three of the eggs were then implanted in her, and she gave birth to three children. The six remaining fertilized eggs were frozen for future use.

Eventually, they divorced. She got custody of the three kids and the right to move them out of state. She also sought to take possession of the frozen embryos so she could have more children. Her ex fought her in court because he wanted the embryos destroyed.

He won at trial, and she appealed. Absent a Colorado precedent, the Colorado Court of Appeals looked to other states for guidance and, in a ruling last October, ended up affirming the “balancing of interests” standard that had been employed by the trial court. As Colorado Springs attorney and Gazette legal columnist Jim Flynn characterized it at the time, “Drake Rooks’ interest in not having another child from these embryos” was deemed to have “outweighed Mandy Rooks’ interest in having another child from the embryos.”

Now, the mother is appealing the ruling before the Colorado Supreme Court, and this week, the pro-life Thomas More Society announced it has filed an amicus brief in support of her legal action on behalf of its own client, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Thomas More, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm, is known for its legal advocacy on beginning-of-life issues, among other conservative causes. Yet, this case isn’t your usual pro-life/pro-choice standoff. As Thomas More attorney Rita Gitchell contends in a press release Monday:

“Neither the appellate or lower district court cited any law that permits the court to terminate the life of a human being without a compelling reason. For those who argue that Roe v. Wade permits termination of an unborn child during pregnancy, … that does not apply when a mother desires to give birth to her child. Because Mandy Rooks wants to bring her embryonic children to birth, Roe is inapplicable to this case. Roe does not grant a father the right to terminate his genetic embryonic child to avoid procreation, which has already occurred.”

And here’s Gitchell on the upshot of her group’s legal action:

“The appellate court erred in adopting a ‘balance of interest’ approach and treating the preserved human embryos as marital property in the divorce. Current science has established that these embryonic children are the result of procreation and are not property.”

Perhaps it’ll merit more media coverage this time around as the state’s highest court ponders the issue. After all, here’s a mom who is fighting a court battle for the right to choose life for her frozen embryos. Which just might make her pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. You don’t see that every day.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningJune 22, 201710min897

Democratic candidates for Colorado attorney general this week tore into Republican incumbent Cynthia Coffman’s month-old decision to appeal a court ruling critics say could bring a halt to oil and gas production in the state, with two of the Democrats vowing to scrap the appeal if elected and one of them lashing his primary opponents for not weighing in sooner.