Fourteenth Judicial District - Moffat County Judge
Honorable Sandra H. Gardner
Retention Year: 2018
Recommendation: Meets Performance Standard
Retention Recommendation: The Fourteenth Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance unanimously (9-0) voted that Judge Sandra H. Gardner MEETS PERFORMANCE STANDARDS.
Background: Judge Gardner was appointed judge to the Moffat County Court in 2006. She graduated from Colorado College in 1985, and received her Juris Doctorate from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1991. Before she became a judge, Judge Gardner practiced as an attorney in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where she focused on civil and criminal cases, as well as family law, mediation, and dependency and neglect matters. Judge Gardner presides over all County Court cases filed in Moffat County, including civil, small claims, misdemeanor, felony, traffic offense, and traffic infraction cases. She conducts bench and jury trials as needed.
Evaluation Methods: Judge Gardner was evaluated as to Integrity, Legal Knowledge, Communication, Judicial Temperament, Administrative Performance (Management), and Service to the Legal Profession. The Commission reviewed written evaluations of Judge Gardner, which included verbatim comments from attorneys and non-attorneys. The non-attorney responses were from jurors, law enforcement, social services, courthouse personnel, and non-attorney litigants who have appeared before her. Of the 20 attorneys who responded to the survey (out of 62 surveys sent), 79% found that Judge Gardner meets performance standards, 11% found that she did not meet performance standards, and 11% expressed no opinion. (Due to rounding, the percentages exceed 100%.) Of the 42 non-attorneys who responded to the survey (out of 881 surveys sent), 85% found Judge Gardner to meet performance standards, 10% found that she did not, and 5% expressed no opinion. The Commission also considered Judge Gardner’s self-evaluation, orders and opinions that she wrote, observations of Judge Gardner in her courtroom, and Judge Gardner’s responses in a face-to-face interview.
Performance: In response to the survey, Judge Gardner received high marks for her case management, communications, demeanor, and diligence. She is fair, courteous, and respectful to all parties, and maintains excellent control over the courtroom. Commission members observed that her opinions and orders are clearly written and explain both the legal basis for her decisions and the facts on which she relies. Survey respondents described her as “patient and understanding,” “committed to fairness,” “polite,” “pleasant,” and a “hard worker,” among other positive comments. Some respondents criticized her approach to setting bonds, but Judge Gardner notes that Colorado law has changed within approximately the last five years and that she has changed her approach to bonds since this law came into effect. Judge Gardner often works exceptionally long hours, and is committed to becoming more efficient in the management of her cases. She focuses her community involvement on programs that benefit children and self-represented litigants and on the training of judges.