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Schmalberger, Donna 2010 Evaluation


Second Judicial District - District - Juvenile Court Judge 

Honorable Donna J. Schmalberger

Retention Year: 2010
Recommendation: Retain


2010 Retention Survey Report

2009 Interim Survey Report


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The Second Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance unanimously recommends that Judge Donna J. Schmalberger BE RETAINED.

Judge Schmalberger became a District Court Judge for the Denver Juvenile Court in October, 2007, having previously served an Assistant County Attorney in Arapahoe County for 5 years and in private practice for 14 years as a Guardian ad Litem and respondent attorney. Judge Schmalberger graduated magna cum laude from Lafayette College in 1973 and from the University of Colorado Fleming Law School in 1982. Judge Schmalberger has spoken to a wide variety of community groups, provided CASA training, and worked with her law clerk to administer the court’s summer intern program. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Rothenberg/Schmalberger group at the Marsh Inns of the Court.
The Commission reviewed the results of surveys of lawyers, non-lawyers and appellate judges who are familiar with Judge Schmalberger’s work, observed the judge in her courtroom and interviewed her. In addition, Commissioners reviewed three written opinions. In her two and one-half years on the Juvenile Court, Judge Schmalberger has made case management a priority and has very few cases that remain open beyond the performance benchmark.

The number of attorneys who returned surveys was relatively small (22); those who did respond were divided in their commentary of Judge Schmalberger. Favorable comments included that Judge Schmalberger is consistently respectful to all parties, maintains a polite, respectful atmosphere and is in control of her courtroom, is unbiased, and has good knowledge of case law. Unfavorable comments included significant criticism about her scheduling cases, identifying and analyzing relevant facts, basing decisions on evidence and arguments, treating parties with respect, conducting her court in a neutral manner, and consistently applying rules and the law. Judge Schmalberger was rated below average in these areas compared to all other district court judges. Her scores did improve from 2008 to 2009 still leaving her with an average score below average. While non-attorneys rated her slightly below the state average for district judges, the non-attorney commentary was generally positive, including comments that Judge Schmalberger was respectful, calm, compassionate, impartial, and patient. Unfavorable commentary from non-attorneys included the need to improve the efficiency of her docket, the number of hearings, and looking at the whole picture in making decisions. The Commission believes that with additional experience and a performance improvement plan, Judge Schmalberger can improve in the below average areas listed above.

Of all attorneys surveyed about retention, 59% recommended to retain, 28% recommended not to retain, and 14% had no opinion. Excluding those who had no opinion, 69% recommended to retain and 31% not to retain. Of all non-attorneys surveyed, 85% recommended to retain, 10% not to retain, and 6% no opinion. Excluding those who had no opinion, 90% recommended to retain and 10% not to retain. (These percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.)