Judicial performance commission chair for 17th Judicial District resigns

Attorney Molly Jansen vacates post after her law license suspended

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Molly Jansen, the chairperson of the body that evaluates judges’ performance in Adams and Broomfield counties, resigned from her post early this month after learning that her law license would be suspended.

Though Jansen wouldn’t have been allowed to stay on the 17th Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission with a legal suspension, the defense attorney said other factors played into her decision.

Jansen told Colorado Community Media in a phone call, “It (resigning) was initially because I didn’t choose to stay on the commission. It was also my ethical obligation to resign due to the fact that I was no longer going to be licensed.”

Jansen’s departure from the commission came nearly a year after district court judges called for her resignation when the attorney was on legal probation for a different set of professional conduct violations.

Jansen, whose law practice is based in Denver but lives in Adams County, became well-known in the metro area after she ran as a Republican candidate in the 17th Judicial District Attorney race in 2016. She lost to Dave Young, a Democrat, whose term as DA ended in January. Jansen also competed on a season of the Discovery Channel series, “Naked and Afraid,” which aired in 2019.

Jansen started on the 17th Judicial District Performance Evaluation Commission in 2017 and became the chairperson in 2019. The commission is made up of 10 volunteers. Four members are attorneys; six are not. The commission oversees a months-long process evaluating district court judges who are up for retention.

The evaluation process concludes with a recommendation from the commission for or against a judge’s retention, which voters ultimately decide in a November election. The commission’s recommendation goes into the ballot information booklet, or the Blue Book.

Colorado Politics and the Brighton Standard Blade investigated the controversial performance evaluation of former Adams County District Court Judge Tomee Crespin between Sept. 2019 to August 2020. Ultimately, voters chose not to retain Crespin in the November election after the 17th Judicial District Performance Evaluation Commission recommended against Crespin’s retention.

Crespin’s performance evaluation was controversial, partly due to conflict between Crespin and Jansen. Earlier in Crespin’s performance evaluation, in a conversation between the two, Jansen made comments to Crespin about the judge’s “demeanor.” Jansen also talked to Crespin about a case in which Jansen, who was representing a client, appeared before Crespin.

Crespin and allies of the judge had concerns about Jansen’s ability to fairly evaluate Crespin. They were especially concerned that Jansen was on a two-year legal probation that began in October 2019 for violating multiple Colorado Bar Association rules of professional conduct.

During Crespin’s performance evaluation, when members of the 17th Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission indicated that Crespin would receive an unfavorable evaluation, fellow judges of Crespin and attorneys who knew Crespin wrote letters to the commission advocating for the judge.

Adams County District Judge Sharon Holbrook wrote a letter and in it, she specifically called out Jansen, saying, “The bench, myself included, was concerned that an attorney who is not in good standing was not in the best position to judge the performance of others, including judges.”

Though Jansen did not respond to a request for comment from Colorado Politics and the Brighton Standard Blade last year, Jansen responded to Holbrook’s criticism in her recent phone call with Colorado Community Media.

“My probation had nothing to do with anyone in Adams County. It involved clients, it did not involve judges. I had no personal biases that were affecting my ability to be on the commission and I was not required by law to resign,” Jansen said.

“It (the probation) was between clients and myself and our fee agreements and whatnot. So, it had no bearing and there was no reason for me to resign, regardless of the fact that a couple of judges didn’t like it,” she added.

A Colorado Supreme Court disciplinary court judge ruled on July 2 to suspend Jansen’s license, as first reported by the Denver Post. It was for similar reasons that she was put on probation in 2019 - she charged clients flat fees up front but did not meet certain benchmarks that she and the client agreed to beforehand — but was for different cases.

Jansen said she intends to continue practicing law after her suspension ends. When asked whether she would continue the same business practices that resulted in her legal probation and suspension, Jansen said, “I’m not going to comment on that.”

Jansen’s resignation from the 17th Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission was effective July 12.

Colorado Community Media reached out to Crespin about the news of Jansen’s recent legal suspension. “To now learn that she has again been investigated and found to have continued to engage in unethical behavior while remaining on the Judicial Performance Commission is unconscionable,” Crespin said in an email.

“While unethical behavior by attorneys chips away at that delicate trust and confidence, the public’s trust and confidence is destroyed when those, who are tasked with ensuring the system is held to the highest of standards, choose to do nothing when observing such glaring inappropriate actions.”

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