Second Judicial District - District Court - Juvenile Judge
Honorable Donna J. Schmalberger
Retention Year: 2016
Recommendation: Meets Performance Standard
The Second Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance, on a vote of 10-0, 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 School of Law in 1982. Judge Schmalberger has attended a number of seminars, conferences and continuing legal education programs in order to remain current in both legal and non-legal developments in juvenile law. Judge Schmalberger is the Lead Judge for the Denver Best Practice Court Team, an organization of stakeholders that oversees improvement projects within the juvenile court. She has spoken to a wide variety of community groups, provides legal training to Court Appointed Special Advocates, and lectured to the local colleges and universities. She is a member and past president of the Thompson G. Marsh Inn of Court.
The Commission reviewed the results of surveys of lawyers, non-lawyers and appellate judges who were familiar with Judge Schmalberger’s work, interviewed the judge, and reviewed her self-evaluation and three transcripts of her oral rulings. In addition, selected members of the Commission observed Judge Schmalberger in court. Of the attorneys completing surveys, 87% recommend retention, 0% recommended against retention, and 12% expressed no opinion. Of non-attorneys completing the survey, 37% recommend retention, 37% recommend against retention, and 25% express no opinion. These percentages do not total 100% due to rounding. Given the small number of persons completing surveys (9 attorneys and 8 non-attorneys); the Commission urges caution in drawing inferences as to Judge Schmalberger’s performance based solely on the survey results.
The results of the surveys of lawyers showed Judge Schmalberger’ overall scores equal or exceed those of the average of all district court judges standing for retention in the areas of communication, demeanor and diligence but below the average in the areas of case management and application and knowledge of the law. A concern of both lawyer and non-lawyer survey respondents is the length of time Judge Schmalberger spends on legal matters in her courtroom. The written comments reveal that Judge Schmalberger is regarded as patient, caring and, as one attorney respondent described her “always kind and respectful to all of the parties.” Judge Schmalberger’s oral rulings adequately explain the issues presented and the basis for her rulings. Commission members observed these positive traits as well as support for the concerns expressed during their observations of Judge Schmalberger. In her interview, Judge Schmalberger acknowledged case management and completing her work in a timely manner as a challenge and is focused on improving on delegation and setting priorities.