Phillips, J. Stephen 2004 Evaluation


Second Judicial District - District Court Judge

Honorable J. Stephen Phillips 

Retention Year: 2004
Recommendation: Retain

The Second Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance, by a vote of nine to one, recommends that Judge J. Stephen Phillips BE RETAINED.

Judge Phillips received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wyoming, and received his law degree from the University of Colorado. He was admitted to the Colorado Bar in 1968. Judge Phillips served as an attorney in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps for four years. He worked as a Colorado Assistant Attorney General for seven years and was chief of the criminal appeals and enforcement sections. In early 1982, Judge Phillips became an Assistant United States Attorney, where he worked for 15 months until he was appointed to the district court bench. He has been a district court judge for 21 years. Judge Phillips and his wife have three grown sons.

Judge Phillips has served in every division of the Denver District Court at least twice. He was chief judge for three years. His present assignment is in the civil division, where he has served since early 2003.

The Commission considered the survey questionnaires completed by attorneys and non-attorneys, and met with Judge Phillips twice, in part because he initially expressed some criticism of the retention/evaluation process. The Commission noted that Judge Phillips' ratings from attorneys dropped substantially from his last evaluation. Judge Phillips generally scored at or below the statewide averages for district court judges. There were criticisms in the surveys from lawyers about his temperament. His demeanor was rated well below average by lawyers as was his willingness to reconsider errors. Judge Phillips agreed this was an area in which he needs to improve. He theorized the criticisms may stem from the fact that he strives to meet American Bar Association guidelines to get cases tried within a year from filing, and that this relatively quick pace does not sit well with some attorneys.

Non-attorneys gave Judge Phillips very high marks in all categories. Non-attorneys rated his overall demeanor significantly higher than the statewide average and gave him high marks for treating the participants in the process with dignity and respect.

Eighty-two percent of attorneys recommended that Judge Phillips be retained, while 18% recommended that he not be retained. Ninety-two percent of non-attorneys recommended that Judge Phillips be retained, while 8% recommended that he not be retained.