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Ruddick, Stephen 2002 Evaluation


Eighteenth Judicial District - Arapahoe County Court Judge

Honorable Stephen R. Ruddick 

Retention Year: 2002
Recommendation: Do Not Retain

The Eighteenth Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance recommends that Judge Stephen R. Ruddick NOT BE RETAINED. This recommendation was not unanimous.

The Commission personally interviewed each judge in the district whose term was nearing completion and who was seeking retention. Further, written evaluations were required from a random sample of attorneys, court employees, law enforcement personnel, jurors, litigants, crime victims and other constituents who have been involved in the proceedings in each judge’s court. Survey results were designed and compiled by an independent agency to provide confidentiality.

Judge Ruddick was appointed to the Arapahoe County Court in 1994 and has served as acting District Court Judge in felony, domestic, juvenile and some appellate matters. He has served as a Senator in the Colorado General Assembly. He was an Assistant City Attorney in Aurora prior to assuming his duties as a County Judge.

Forty-five percent of non-attorneys and 56% of attorneys responded to the survey on the performance of Judge Ruddick. Of the attorneys responding, 61% said Judge Ruddick should be retained as opposed to a 83% retention rate for all other county judges. Thirty-three percent said he should not be retained and the average of all county judges not being retained was 11%, with 6% having no opinion. Judge Ruddick’s "do not retain" percentage by attorneys was three times the statewide average for other county judges. However, among non-attorneys, the comments about Judge Ruddick were more favorable than not. Eighty-six percent of non-attorneys recommended he be retained in office as opposed to the statewide average for county court judges of 81%. Eight percent responded not to retain versus the statewide average for county judges of 9%.

The questionnaires rated the judges on the basis of letter grades. The attorney questionnaires rated Judge Ruddick one letter grade below average on being courteous toward parties, witnesses and pro se parties; in explaining court procedures clearly and thoroughly; in maintaining a professional demeanor in the courtroom; patience and listening skills; managing his docket; being punctual in starting proceedings; using court time efficiently; and providing quick access to the court in emergency matters. The attorneys rated him significantly below average in communicating verbally in a clear, thorough and well-reasoned manner. Non-attorneys scored Judge Ruddick average or above average in all categories.

Judge Ruddick appeared before the Commission a second time to discuss the survey results. At the second interview, Judge Ruddick presented a series of letters supporting his judgeship and a corrective action plan he is willing to follow to mitigate the concerns of the Commission. A majority of Commission members did not feel that this corrective action plan was sufficient to overcome its concerns, particularly because he has been on the bench for eight years. It is recommended that Judge Ruddick not be retained as a County Court Judge.

Judge Ruddick responded to the Commission's analysis by pointing out that he has a very busy docket, and has been strict in sentencing repeat DUI offenders. He believes the survey reflects negatively because there were no prosecutors surveyed, and the number of attorneys surveyed was small. He submitted a large number of supportive letters from attorneys, citizens and other professionals to the Commission and voluntarily submitted an action plan intended to improve his performance. He also supplemented the Commission's summary of his past and present activities to include references to his being a past president of the Aurora Bar Association, past County Court Presiding Judge, is currently president of the Trial Judges’ Council and is a member of the County Judges Association.