Eleventh Judicial District - Custer County Court Judge
Honorable Peter F. Michaelson
Retention Year: 2010
The Eleventh Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance unanimously recommends by a 10-0 vote that Judge Peter F. Michaelson BE RETAINED.
Judge Michaelson graduated from the University of Denver College of Law and was admitted to practice in 1982. He was appointed to the Custer County Court bench in August, 2003. Judge Michaelson serves as a County Court Judge on a part-time basis.
At the time of being appointed to the bench, he had been engaged in the private practice of law for approximately six years. Previously, he had served approximately nine years as the elected District Attorney for the Fifth Judicial District and four years as a Deputy District Attorney for Summit County.
Based upon courtroom observations, attorney and non-attorney performance survey results, and an interview with Judge Michaelson, the Commission concludes that he is an able, experienced and conscientious judge. Attorneys who participated in the survey rated Judge Michaelson average for county court judges. Attorneys gave him high marks for his efforts to make sure that all parties understand the proceedings in which they are involved. The Commission was impressed with his diligence and patience when dealing with complicated fact patterns and with parties who are not represented by attorneys. In contrast to the attorneys who responded to the survey, non-attorneys rated Judge Michaelson significantly below the average for county court judges. The Commission is concerned about the number of non-attorneys who see Judge Michaelson as biased and lacking compassion. The Commission is encouraged, however, that Judge Michaelson’s ratings by non-attorneys improved in 2009 over prior years. In his interview with the Commission, Judge Michaelson described his sentencing practices as tougher than those of most county court judges. He believes that tough sentences deter crime. It is likely that these sentencing practices contribute to the perception by some attorneys and non-attorneys that he is biased. The Commission applauds Judge Michaelson’s commitment to reducing crime, but encourages him also to consider the community’s interest in maintaining a court system that is seen as fair and just.
Of all attorneys surveyed about retention, 83% recommended to retain, and 17% not to retain. Of all non-attorneys surveyed, 60% recommended to retain and 41% not to retain. (These percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.) On balance, the Commission has found that Judge Michaelson works hard to accomplish appropriate results in the cases that appear before him. The Commission recommends that he be retained.