Colorado Court of Appeals
Honorable Steven L. Bernard
Retention Year: 2016
The State Commission on Judicial Performance recommends by a vote of 9 to 0, with one recusal, that Judge Steven L. Bernard BE RETAINED.
Judge Bernard joined the Colorado Court of Appeals on July 5, 2006. Judge Bernard was born and raised in Colorado Springs and received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Colorado. Judge Bernard began his legal career in the District Attorney’s Office in the Seventeenth Judicial District, and was promoted to Chief Trial Deputy in 1982. From 1993 to 2004 he served as the Assistant District Attorney. Judge Bernard was a Chief Deputy District Attorney at the District Attorney’s Office in the Nineteenth Judicial District from 2005 until his appointment to the Court. He also served on various committees, including the governing board of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. He is a past president of the Adams County Bar Association. Currently, Judge Bernard serves on the leadership council of the Colorado Institute for Excellence in Judicial Education, the judiciary’s Probation Standing Committee, the Executive Committee of the Colorado Bar Association’s Criminal Law Section, and the Executive Committee of Our Courts.
The Commission reviewed survey responses from attorneys and judges regarding Judge Bernard’s performance, read opinions he authored, observed him in oral arguments, reviewed his self-evaluation, and conducted a personal interview. Among the survey questions was “how strongly do you recommend that Judge Bernard be retained or not be retained in office?” Of attorneys completing the survey 64% recommended to retain, 32% recommended not to retain, and 5% made no recommendation regarding retention. Among judges completing the survey 98% recommended to retain and 2% recommended not to retain.
Attorney survey responses indicate that Judge Bernard’s performance is strong in the area of being prepared for oral argument. Judge Bernard received relatively low marks in making decisions based upon the law and the facts, and particularly low scores for being fair and impartial. Numerous attorneys stated that he has a bias in favor of the prosecution in criminal cases. Judge Bernard was commended by several attorneys and judges for the high quality of his writing. The Commission found Judge Bernard to be well prepared for oral argument and courteous and respectful to attorneys appearing before the Court. Both attorney and judge surveys scored him below average in the area of refraining from reaching issues that need not be decided. The Commission’s review of several of Judge Bernard’s opinions confirmed this. The Commission’s review of Judge Bernard’s most recent opinions, as a whole, do not reflect a prosecutorial bias. The Commission believes Judge Bernard should remain vigilant to ensure that he is not viewed as favoring the prosecution and urges him to take additional steps to understand the reasons for these criticisms. The Commission concludes that Judge Bernard is a hard-working judge on the Court of Appeals and commends him for his continued efforts to teach about the legal profession.