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Nieto, Henry 2002 Evaluation


Colorado Court of Appeals

Honorable Henry E. Nieto 

Retention Year: 2002
Recommendation: Retain

The State Commission on Judicial Performance recommends that Judge Henry E. Nieto BE RETAINED. The vote was not unanimous.

Judge Nieto was appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals in November 1999, and is deputy chief judge of that court. He was a district judge in the First Judicial District from 1985-1999 and Chief Judge of that district from 1995-1999. From 1978-1985 he was a Jefferson County judge. Prior to his appointment to the bench, he served as deputy, chief deputy and assistant district attorney of the First Judicial District (1967-1978) and was in private law practice (1970-1974).

Judge Nieto places great importance on community service activities, which the Commission believes is important for the judiciary. He speaks frequently to clubs and schools and believes that it is important to "put a human face" on the judiciary.

While trial judges surveyed gave Judge Nieto high ratings, especially with regard to treating parties equally and assisting other judges on the court, attorneys’ marks were lower. Attorneys were particularly critical in three areas: rendering well-written and understandable opinions, managing cases with minimum delay and making correct decisions based upon the law and facts. These ratings concern the Commission, which believes timely, clear and legally sound appellate decisions are essential. In his interview with the Commission, Judge Nieto stated that while he has some weaknesses in his knowledge of the law, computer skills and reading efficiency, he is working hard to improve in these areas. He also indicated that some of the criticism from the attorneys may be due to his long tenure as a trial court judge. Judge Nieto told the Commission that he was more comfortable as an appellate judge because he has more time to consider his decisions.

The Commission’s lack of unanimity on Judge Nieto’s retention reflects a concern that, despite his 24 years of experience on the trial bench, Judge Nieto has not met the higher standards for appellate court judges. A majority of the Commission believes, however, that this should not disqualify him from serving on the Court of Appeals, particularly in view of his willingness to work to overcome his deficiencies, and therefore supports his retention.