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Colorado Supreme Court

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Colorado Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   7
Founded:   1876
Chief:  $
Associates:  $
Judicial selection
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   10 years
Active justices

Nathan Coats  •  Nancy Rice  •  Allison Eid  •  Gregory Hobbs  •  Brian Boatright  •  William W. Hood  •  Monica Marquez  •  

Seal of Colorado.png

Founded on August 1, 1876, the Colorado Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort.


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Justice Nathan Coats2000-2023Gov. Bill Owens
Chief Justice Nancy Rice1998-2021Gov. Roy Romer
Justice Allison Eid2006-2019Gov. Bill Owens
Justice Gregory Hobbs1996-2019Gov. Roy Romer
Justice Brian Boatright2011-2025Gov. John Hickenlooper
Justice William W. Hood2014-2016Gov. John Hickenlooper
Justice Monica Marquez2010-2025Gov. Bill Ritter


Article VI of the Colorado Constitution gives the Colorado Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction over potentially unconstitutional statutes, writs of habeas corpus, and criminal appeals. The court also has special jurisdiction over any cases involving the Public Utilities Commission, water rights, summary proceedings of the Election Code and over attorney and judge regulation. The court is the governing authority of the State Court Administrator, Board of Continuing Legal Education, Board of Law Examiners, Commission on Judicial Discipline, and Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.[1]

Judicial selection

See also: Judicial selection in Colorado

In 1966, voters in Colorado passed the constitutional amendment providing that state judges be appointed by the governor. Within 30 days of a vacancy, the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission must meet, select its nominees, and submit the names to the governor. [2] The judge must stand for retention in the next general election more than two years after taking office.

The Chief Justice is elected by their peers. The Chief Justice also serves as the executive head of the state judicial system and is the ex-officio chair of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The Chief Justice has the responsibility of appointing a Chief Judge for the Court of Appeals and each of the state’s District Courts.

Political outlook

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Colorado was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Colorado received a score of -0.29. Based on the justices selected, Colorado was the 16th most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[3]


Minimum qualifications for appointment to the court are:

  • Elector of Colorado.
  • Licensed to practice law in Colorado for at least five years prior.
  • Under the age of 72 when their name is submitted.

Removal of justices

Judges may be removed in multiple ways:


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2012 1,494 1,612
2011 1,387 1,440
2010 1,518 1,554
2009 1,643 1,554
2008 1,657 1,760
2007 1,534 1,450


Notable decisions

On Illegal Immigration: Initiative #55

On December 31, 2003, the "Defend Colorado Now" initiative was introduced, which, if passed, would have prohibited illegal immigrants from receiving public services except those required by the federal government. The bill was defeated. The initiative was re-filed in 2006, and the court issued a 4-2 ruling that the initiative "violated the state's single-subject rule and therefore could not be on the upcoming ballot."[8] Justice Martinez wrote the majority decision, with Justices Mullarkey, Hobbs, and Bender concurring; Justices Coats and Rice dissented. Justice Eid recused herself. According to the Rocky Mountain News, Justice Martinez wrote "that the measure asks voters to approve two subjects: decreasing taxpayer funds for medical and social services, and restricting "administrative services" such as registering a vehicle or filing property deeds with the county recorder."[9] On June 29, 2006, Governor Owens called a special legislative session to address the court's denial of the initiative. The result of this is that the inititative went to vote for all Coloradans to determine.[10]


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Colorado earned a grade of D in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[11]

History of the court

File:The Denver Post building Supreme Court Location.jpg
The Denver Post building, which houses the Colorado Supreme Court

In 1861, the "Territory of Jefferson," or what is now Colorado, was officially recognized by the Union. The first court session was held on July 10, 1861. When Colorado was admitted to the Union in 1876, its constitution "provided for a Supreme Court with a bench of three justices, as well as four judicial districts, with one judge serving each."[12]

Structure through time

  • 1876: 4 judicial districts; 1 judge in each
  • 1881: 7 judicial districts; 1 judge in each
  • 1887: 9 judicial districts; 1 judge in each, except Arapahoe County (including Denver) with 2
  • 1891: 13 judicial districts; first Court of Appeals
  • 1893: 2nd judge is given to the Pueblo area
  • 1895: 2nd judge is given to the Colorado Springs area
  • 1905: Supreme Court is given 7 justices; the first Court of Appeals is abolished
  • 1913: Second Court of Appeals is established, and lasts for four years
  • 1917: Second Court of Appeals is abolished
  • 1921: Court grows to 14 judicial districts
  • 1945: Court grows to 15 judicial districts
  • 1953: Court grows to 16 judicial districts
  • 1958: Court grows to 18 judicial districts
  • 1963: Court grows to 22 judicial districts--which is its present number
  • 1970: Third and current Court of Appeals was established
  • 1977: Supreme Court and Court of Appeals moved into current building
  • 2006: 275 judges statewide: 7 Supreme Court justices, 19 in the Court of Appeals, 144 district court judges, 105 county courts

Notable firsts

  • Justice Gregory K. Scott was the first African American appointed to the Court, where he served from January 15, 1993 until 2000.[13]
  • Justice Jean E. Dubofsky was the first woman appointed to the Court, where she served from 1979 until 1987.[14]
  • Justice Alex Martinez was the first Hispanic appointed to the Court, where he served from 1997 until October 2011.[15]
  • Justice Monica Marquez is the first Hispanic female and the first openly gay judge appointed to the Court, where she was appointed in 2010.[16]

Judicial term limits

In 2008, a ballot measure was proposed, the Judicial Term Limits Initiative, that would limit the terms of judges in Colorado. The official ballot initiative reads:

"An amendment to the Colorado constitution limiting terms for state court judges, and, in connection therewith, making a full term of office four years for justices of the supreme court, judges of the court of appeals, district court judges, county court judges, judges of the probate and juvenile courts of Denver, and any other state court judge with jurisdiction inferior to the supreme court; and limiting judges who are retained after January 1, 2010, from serving for more than three full terms of office at the same judicial level after January 1, 2010."

This initiative did not make it to the ballot.

See also

External links



Colorado Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Michael Bender BallotCheckMark.png 872,387 60.4%
Against retention 571,029 39.6%
Colorado Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Nancy Rice BallotCheckMark.png 891,962 62%
Against retention 548,633 38%
Colorado Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Alex Martinez BallotCheckMark.png 859,051 60%
Against retention 584,026 40%
Colorado Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Allison Eid BallotCheckMark.png 1,338,571 74.6%
Against retention 456,337 25.4%
  • Click here for 2010 General Election Results from the Colorado Secretary of State.


Colorado Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Gregory Hobbs BallotCheckMark.png 1,282,348 72.4%
Against retention 489,429 27.6%


Colorado Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2002 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Nathan Coats BallotCheckMark.png 828,622 74.3%
Against retention 286,961 25.7%

ColoradoColorado Supreme CourtColorado Court of AppealsColorado District CourtsColorado county courtsDenver Probate Court, ColoradoDenver Juvenile CourtUnited States District Court for the District of ColoradoUnited States Court of Appeals for the Tenth CircuitColorado countiesColorado judicial newsColorado judicial electionsJudicial selection in ColoradoColoradoTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg