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From The Greeley Gadfly 

State’s top judicial body allows case to jump appeals court

Trenton Sperry

The Colorado Supreme Court on July 1 announced it will hear arguments in the appeal of a Weld district judge’s ruling that the Board of Weld County Commissioners violated state law during the redistricting of their own seats.

The news, first reported by Colorado Politics, means the state’s top judicial body has allowed the case to jump the Colorado Appeals Court. Per Colorado Politics’ reporting:

Recognizing Weld County would not likely have enough time to properly draw its commission districts, (Weld District Court Judge Todd) Taylor (in his March 1 order) allowed the board to use its pre-2023 map for now. The county and the plaintiffs both filed appeals with the Court of Appeals, but on June 7, the plaintiffs petitioned the Supreme Court to stage a rare intervention and immediately hear the case itself.

The (League of Women Voters of Greeley and Weld County and the Latino Coalition of Weld County, as well as voters Barbara Whinery and Stacy Suniga) argued the normal appellate process would not likely yield a final answer in time for the 2026 county election and, in the meantime, Weld County has asserted it does not need to draw new maps until 2033, following the next census. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office submitted a brief in support of the Supreme Court’s intervention.

The Supreme Court will consider five questions:

  1. Whether Taylor was wrong to decide a state law regarding commissioner districts“implies a private right of action;”
  2. Whether Taylor was wrong to decide the organizations and voters had standing to sue the county;
  3. Whether Taylor was wrong to decide the aforementioned state law applies to a Home Rule County “with a conflicting charter;”
  4. Whether Taylor was wrong to decide there is no conflict between Weld’s charter and state law;
  5. And whether Weld commissioners must be ordered by the courts to redo their commissioner redistricting process so that it complies with state law.

Is this good or bad news?

It’s certainly good news for Weld residents who value expediency and the rule of law. We owe Attorney General Phil Weiser some thanks for continuing to support this effort, and the Supreme Court was right to allow this case to jump the appeals court so these questions can be resolved more quickly.

As for whether that decision bodes ill for the Weld commissioners, it’s hard to say. State law allows the Supreme Court to take up cases pending before the appeals court under three conditions:

  1. The case involves a question the Supreme Court hasn’t yet decided or if the result would overrule a previous Supreme Court decision;
  2. The appeals court is being asked to decide an “important” statewide question which hasn’t yet been but probably should be determined by the Supreme Court;
  3. Or if the case is so important to the public that it justifies a quick ruling by the Supreme Court.

It’s possible the Supreme Court believes the Weld commissioner redistricting case falls into more than one of those scenarios, and so it’s hard to read the tea leaves here.

That said, my money is still on the groups and voters who brought the lawsuit. The Weld commissioners have shamed themselves by so brazenly ignoring state law, and I believe such experienced judges would be hard-pressed to somehow rule that county governments can overrule state law just because they feel like it and then wash their hands of the matter for a decade.

Whose seats does this affect?

The redistricting question applies only to commissioners who represent districts, meaning at-large Commissioners Kevin Ross of Eaton and Perry Buck of Greeley, both Republicans, would not be affected by any future ruling. However, any ruling would affect the three districts currently held by Republicans Mike Freeman of Ault (who is term-limited), Scott James of Johnstown and Lori Saine of Dacono.

Freeman will be replaced in District 1 by Republican Jason Maxey of Gill, who is running uncontested for the seat this year.

Saine will be replaced in District 3 by Republican Lynette “Kilpatrick” Peppler of LaSalle, who is running uncontested for the seat this year. Saine opted to challenge Buck for an at-large seat this year, and she fell far short in the GOP’s June primary. Peppler defeated Adrienne Sandoval in the June GOP primary.

James is in his second term in District 2, which concludes at the end of 2026

What’s next?

It’s not yet clear when the Colorado Supreme Court will hear this case. However, the court’s website lists the following dates for oral arguments during its 2024-25 term:

  • September 24
  • October 22-24
  • November 19-20
  • December 11
  • January 14-15
  • February 11-12
  • March 11-12
  • April 8-9
  • May 13-15
  • June 24-25

Even after the oral arguments take place, it will likely be months before the Supreme Court rules on the matter. Yet we can take comfort in the fact the court apparently was swayed by notion that these questions need to be resolved before the 2025 elections, at the very latest.

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