Second Judicial District - Denver County Court Judge
Honorable Dianne L. Briscoe
Retention Year: 2014
Recommendation: No Opinion
The Second Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance, on a 5-5 vote, expresses NO OPINION on the retention of Judge Dianne L. Briscoe. If retained, the Commission unanimously recommends that Judge Briscoe enter into an improvement plan. Judge Briscoe voluntarily has agreed to enter into such a supervised improvement plan.
Judge Briscoe was appointed to the bench in January 2011. Prior to her appointment, she ran her own law practice from 1986-1988. From 1988-1996, she worked as counsel in the Colorado Governor’s Job Training Office. From 1996 until her appointment, she worked as an assistant city attorney for the City and County of Denver. Judge Briscoe received her undergraduate degree from Lincoln University, a master’s degree in business from East Texas University, and her law degree from the University of Denver. Judge Briscoe has presided in the juvenile division and currently sits in a municipal criminal division. Judge Briscoe has been active in many professional activities, and has served on the board of several bar associations.
The Commission reviewed the results of surveys of lawyers and non-lawyers, interviewed the judge, reviewed three oral rulings, and selected Commission members observed Judge Briscoe in court. Of the attorneys surveyed, 42% recommended retention, 36% recommended that she not be retained, and 24% expressed no opinion. The Commission notes that the survey sample for attorneys was small. Of the non-attorneys surveyed, 81% recommended retention, 9% recommended that she not be retained, and 11% expressed no opinion.
Judge Briscoe’s first two years as a judge were in the juvenile division, for which there are no survey results. Judge Briscoe had prior experience in juvenile law and believes that experience helped her perform well in the juvenile division. However, in her current assignment, in each area of case management, application and knowledge of the law, communications, demeanor and diligence, Judge Briscoe received scores from attorneys significantly below the average of scores for all other county court judges standing for retention. Her scores from non-attorneys in most areas were consistent with the average scores received for other county court judges. While the survey sample from lawyers was small (20 respondents), courtroom observations by members of the Commission and review of her oral rulings confirmed many of the concerns raised by the survey results. While Judge Briscoe displayed appropriate judicial demeanor and was patient and respectful to those appearing in her court, the Commission has significant concerns about Judge Briscoe’s application and knowledge of the law. Especially concerning was her apparent lack of familiarity or understanding of relevant law and rules even though she had been in her current assignment in the municipal criminal division for over 15 months at the time of her interview. In her interview, Judge Briscoe acknowledged her deficiencies in application and knowledge of the law. Judge Briscoe’s apparent lack of preparation on some matters and the difficulty she experienced in making sure some defendants without lawyers adequately understood the proceedings also concerned the Commission.