Fifteenth Judicial District - Baca County Judge
Honorable Debra M. Gunkel
Retention Year: 2018
Recommendation: Meets Performance Standard
The Fifteenth Judicial District Judicial Performance Commission agrees by a majority vote that Judge Debra M. Gunkel MEETS PERFORMANCE STANDARDS, and does so by a vote of five in agreement and three in disagreement.
Judge Gunkel was appointed to Baca County Court in 2010. Judge Gunkel received her undergraduate degree from Colorado College. She received her law degree from Southwestern University, and an LL.M. in taxation from Boston University. Previously, Judge Gunkel served as a prosecutor for the 16th Judicial District in Colorado. Judge Gunkel is classified as a 20% judge, and she also maintains a private practice.
The Commission conducted a personal interview with Judge Gunkel, reviewed opinions she authored, reviewed appeals briefs and decisions of her opinions, observed her in court, reviewed comments received from interest parties during the evaluation, and reviewed survey responses from both attorneys and non-attorneys who had experience with Judge Gunkel. Among the survey questions was “based on your responses to the survey questions related to the performance evaluation criteria, do you think Judge Gunkel meets judicial performance standards.” Of the attorneys responding, 33% answered yes, meets performance standards, 33% answered no, does not meet performance standards, and 33% had no opinion regarding whether Judge Gunkel meets performance standards. Of the non-attorneys responding, 50% answered yes, meets performance standards, 25% answered no, does not meet performance standards, and 25% had no opinion. (These percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.) A total of three attorneys and eight non-attorneys responded to the judicial performance surveys expressing their opinion of Judge Gunkel’s performance.
Judge Gunkel presides over civil, misdemeanor, traffic, and small claims matters. Attorneys responding to the surveys were more critical of Judge Gunkel than non-attorneys. Judge Gunkel’s performance evaluations were less favorable than in previous years. Attorneys rated Judge Gunkel’s performance in “Diligence” lower than all other categories for which she was reviewed. The Commission was satisfied that Judge Gunkel meets performance standards despite such concerns but believed that she should take steps to be better prepared for hearings. Attorneys and non-attorneys rated Judge Gunkel’s performances in “Application and Legal Knowledge” lower as compared to other county court judges. The Commission shared concerns regarding Judge Gunkel’s “Application of Legal Knowledge” in reviewing her written orders. Ultimately the Commission was satisfied that Judge Gunkel meets minimum performance standards despite such concerns but believes Judge Gunkel should work to improve both her legal knowledge and writing abilities. Judge Gunkel is described as being respectful of all litigants. Commission members observed this trait during their evaluation and interview with Judge Gunkel. Based on these findings the Commission agreed that Judge Gunkel meets judicial performance standards.