Second Judicial District - Denver County Court Judge
Honorable James Zobel
Retention Year: 2022
Recommendation: Meets Performance Standard
The Second Judicial District on Judicial Performance agrees by a vote of 9-0, with one Commissioner absent from voting, that Judge James Zobel MEETS PERFORMANCE STANDARDS. The Colorado statutory judicial performance standards are integrity, legal knowledge, communication skills, judicial temperament, administrative performance, and service to the legal profession and the public.
Judge Zobel presides over criminal and civil cases. Judge Zobel excels in all aspects of the performance criteria and writes and communicates in a clear, concise, and well-reasoned manner. His strengths, as described in survey results, include good case management, patience, fairness and treating all parties with respect. Commission members observed these qualities during their evaluation and interview. He is engaged and committed to his position, and the Commission commends him for his work to improve the efficiency and accessibility of the county court. The Commission did not identify any evaluation category in which Judge Zobel displayed a notable weakness.
The Commission met with the Presiding Judge of Denver County Court, and members of the Public Defender’s Office and Probation Department to discuss their impressions of Judge Zobel’s performance. The Commission conducted a personal interview with Judge Zobel, observed him during court proceedings and reviewed decisions he authored, case management data, comments received from interested parties, and judicial performance survey responses from attorneys and non-attorneys that self-reported they had sufficient interaction with Judge Zobel in the courtroom to meaningfully respond. The surveys reflected personal opinions on Judge Zobel’s Case Management, Application and Knowledge of the Law, Communications, Diligence, Demeanor, and Fairness. Of the 10 attorneys and five non-attorneys who completed the survey and reported they had sufficient knowledge of Judge Zobel’s performance to evaluate him, 100% of both attorneys and non-attorneys believe that he meets performance standards. Judge Zobel’s combined (attorney and non-attorney) survey scores are considerably above average for county court judges in the categories of Case Management, Application and Knowledge of Law, Communications, Diligence, Demeanor, and Fairness. As a result of procedural irregularities in the distribution of these surveys, the response rates for the 2022 survey were not as robust as compared to prior evaluation cycles. While the Commission used these survey results in its evaluation, limited weight was given to these survey results and the results were used in conjunction with several other tools to evaluate his performance. All the data reviewed by the Commission supports the recommendation that Judge Zobel be retained.
Mayor Hancock appointed Judge Zobel to the bench in February 2020. Prior to his appointment, he served as a Magistrate in Denver County Court. Judge Zobel is active on the Denver County Court Resource Committee, the Magistrate Hiring Committee, and the Judicial Outsight Group. He is also a member of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless Assertive Community Treatment Services Stakeholder Group. Prior to joining the Court, Judge Zobel served as a Deputy Public Defender for the Colorado State Public Defender’s office and a Denver Municipal Court Public Defender. Judge Zobel earned his undergraduate degree from Colorado State University and his law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.