CHAPTER 3: OVERVIEW OF THE COLORADO COURT SYSTEM - Table of Contents
3.1 - Overview of the Colorado Court System • 3.2 - Overview of the Criminal Justice Program • 3.3 - Prosecutors and Defense Lawyers • 3.4 - Overview of the Civil Justice Process • 3.5 - Plaintiff and Defense Counsel • 3.6 - State Courts in Boulder County • 3.7 - Municipal Courts in Boulder County • 3.8 - Small Claims Courts in Boulder County
3.6 STATE COURTS IN BOULDER COUNTY
As noted above, Boulder County is the 20th Judicial District of the State of Colorado. As a judicial district, the County has both county courts and district courts. These state courts are governed by the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Colorado Rules of Evidence. These rules are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this manual. Currently in Boulder County, there are five county court judges, each of whom presides over a county court division. One of these divisions, Division 11, sits full-time in Longmont. The rest of the county court divisions sit in Boulder at the Justice Center at 6th and Canyon. Eight district court judges and divisions also sit at the Justice Center. Assisting the twelve county court and district court judges are six magistrates. The magistrates handle many juvenile, dependency and neglect, civil, domestic relations, and traffic and misdemeanor matters.
The county courts hear traffic and misdemeanor criminal charges, civil matters in which the amount at issue does not exceed $15,000, temporary restraining orders, and certain preliminary matters in felony cases. The preliminary matters in felony cases are the initial advisement, setting of bail, preliminary hearing and "status conference" or dispositional hearing. These procedures are described more fully in Chapters 4 and 7. When needed, county court judges may also be designated as district court judges to hear a particular matter when a district court judge is not available.
In Boulder, all of the county court judges share these responsibilities equally over time; in some other counties a judge may be assigned to hear nothing but civil matters, or nothing but preliminary hearings, etc. Boulder county court judges rotate the various responsibilities among themselves on a regular basis. The organizational plan for the county courts in Boulder, showing which division is responsible for which matters at which times, is available through the Colorado Judicial Department website.
The eight district court judges in Boulder split up the responsibilities by the subject matter of the lawsuit. That is, a judge will be assigned to hear a certain type of case for an extended period of time. The basic subject matters are criminal, civil, domestic, juvenile, dependency and neglect, probate and mental health. Two divisions are devoted to criminal and juvenile cases. There is also a division devoted to the special "Drug Court" (Integrated Treatment Court), which also handles probation violation cases. The remaining five divisions are devoted to domestic relations and the various other civil cases.
As noted, Boulder County currently has six magistrates to assist the judges. One of these magistrates handles juvenile matters, including the setting of bond, preliminary matters, trials to the court, accepting or rejecting plea agreements, and sentencing. Most of the more serious juvenile matters are sent to the district court judge who is assigned to the juvenile division. Another magistrate handles dependency and neglect cases. Another handles domestic relations matters, while yet another presides over general civil matters. There is also a magistrate who presides over the small claims court, and one who hears traffic and misdemeanor criminal cases. The "traffic and misdemeanor" magistrate handles most of the initial proceedings in traffic and minor criminal matters. These initial proceedings include arraignment, advisement, reviewing plea agreements, accepting pleas, and imposing sentences. This magistrate also assists the county court in the initial appearances for the purpose of setting bail that are held at the Boulder County Jail each day.
All of the judges and magistrates work together to try to ensure that matters are heard as promptly as possible and that cases are not postponed unless the postponement is absolutely necessary. For example, in pursuit of this goal, a judge who is assigned to hear civil matters ma be temporarily reassigned to the criminal docket if there is a criminal case that has priority over the civil matters but the judge assigned to the criminal matter is busy with another criminal case.
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