Colorado Rules for Magistrates

Posted in Family Law on January 9, 2019

A magistrate is similar to an appointed judge but has more limits regarding his or her role in the judicial system. A magistrate only has the power to resolve certain disputes in the state of Colorado. The most common job of a magistrate is to resolve family law cases, such as temporary orders and parental responsibility hearings in divorce cases. Magistrates must follow specific and unique rules regarding their authority in Colorado court cases.

What Is a Magistrate?

A magistrate is someone with the ability to administer the law, either as a lay judge or civil officer. It is the magistrate’s duty to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice. Most often, a magistrate presides over minor offense courts and preliminary hearings for more serious cases, rather than taking on major cases like an appointed judge. Like a judge, a magistrate will hear evidence and rule whether a person is guilty or not guilty. The magistrate also imposes an appropriate penalty as he or she deems fit. A judge has more power in court than a magistrate.

Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure

Colorado has a set rulebook for magistrates and judges: the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. This guide states that judges may not set aside facts of a case unless they are clearly erroneous. Judges and magistrates must also give due regard to the opportunity of the court to gauge witness credibility. It encourages judges to include sufficient explanations on decisions and motions, to help both parties and a reviewing court. It states that the findings of a master will represent the findings of the court. The Rules of Civil Procedure also has specific guidelines for magistrates.

  • All parties involved in a case must consent to a magistrate performing the functions for which he or she has consent. Both parties must receive notices of a magistrate’s involvement in writing before the trial, or else receive an oral notice in open court. If this is the case, all parties may either consent or object.
  • A magistrate in Colorado has the right to preside over probable cause hearings, pursuant to the rules of the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision. However, a court magistrate cannot perform any function that requires special consent, unless the oral or written notice of the function complies with the rules.
  • Parties involved in a case using a magistrate have the right to appeal the final decision. Failure to file a petition to review the case within the deadline will serve as proof of both parties’ consent to the magistrate’s judgment.

Magistrates in Colorado mostly hear cases involving protection orders, temporary orders in family law cases, child support motions, parenting time or visitation orders, and legal custody hearings. The Colorado Supreme Court issues the court rules that govern magistrates.

How to Petition for Review of Magistrate Order in Colorado

If a person on either side of a case is unsatisfied with the final order a magistrate gives during a family law decision, that person has the right to petition for a review. Petition for Review of Magistrate Order requests a review of the magistrate’s order by the District Court, based on the belief that the magistrate made the judgment in error. The petition is not to request a new hearing or to correct a clerical error, but to review the decision.

A party has 21 days from the entry of a magistrate’s final judgment to file a Petition for Review. The petition must contain complete details of the case, as requested, and specific authorities that support the petition. A District Court Reviewing Judge will review the case separately from the presence of both parties. Once the deadline for petitions passes, the District Court will review the case file without holding a new hearing. Upon deciding on the case, the District Court will issue written copies of the final ruling to both parties.

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