Mary Mullarkey was the Chief Justice of the seven-member Colorado Supreme Court. She was appointed to the court as a justice by then-governor Roy Romer, a Democrat, in 1987. In 1998, she was selected by her fellow justices to serve as the court's presiding justice. Mullarkey retired from the court on November 30, 2010.
Mullarkey received her undergraduate degree from St. Norbert College and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.
After graduating from Harvard Law in 1968, Mullarkey went to Washington, DC to work for the Interior Department.
From 1975 to 1982, she specialized in appellate practice, first while heading the Appellate Section in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and then while serving as Colorado’s Solicitor General. She has also served as the legal adviser to Governor Richard D. Lamm, held legal positions with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of the Interior, and engaged in the private practice of law.
Awards and associations
In 2010, Mullarkey received the Herbert Harley Award from the American Judicature Society.
Mullarkey has received the 2002 Mary Lathrop award from the Colorado Women’s Bar Association and the 2003 Judicial Excellence award from the Denver Bar Association.
Chief Justice Mullarkey is Co-Chairman of The Permanent Committee on Gender & Fairness of the Colorado Supreme Court along with James Benway, Court Administrator of the Colorado Judicial Branch.
Mullarkey is considered to be a Democrat, although her official party affiliation is "nonpartisan."
Because Colorado implemented merit selection of judges over 40 years ago, she has no campaign contributions.
On Merit Selection
In November 1966, Colorado voters adopted an amendment to the state constitution changing how judges are selected. As a result, the state’s judges are selected through merit selection. May 1, 2006, through April 30, 2007, Colorado will celebrate the 40-year anniversary of merit selection of judges in Colorado.
“Forty years ago, Colorado took a great step forward in building a better state,” says Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey. “Voters abandoned the partisan political election of judges that had prevailed since statehood, and adopted the merit selection of judges.
“It was a bold and visionary move,” continues Mullarkey. “No longer would judges be subject to political whims, from that time on judges have been held accountable to the constitution and laws.”
Notable rulings of Mary Mullarkey
On Contract Enforcement
- Hanover School District No. 28 v. Barbour (2007)
- Justice Mullarkey concurred in the majority opinion, authored by Justice Martinez, which, in a 5-2 decision, found that a teacher whose contract was not renewed, but who did not recive timely notice of this failure to renew, (1) was entitled to an entire year's salary; (2) was under no obligation to attempt to mitigate her damages by finding another job; and (3) was entitled to a year's salary even though he immediately found an equal-paying job.
On Criminal Justice
- In a 4-3 decision, Justice Mullarkey concurred in the majority opinion, which concluded that a police officer's search of the defendant and his vehicle, which resulted in the discovery of marijuana and cocaine, was unconstitutional because the officer's stop was predicated only on the belief that the tree-shaped air freshener hanging from the defendant's-driver's rear-view mirror unlawfully obstructed the defendant-driver's vision.
- Bostelman v. People (2006)
- Mullarkey concurred with the majority opinion of the Court, which concluded that a 13-year-old accused of burglary could not be tried or sentenced as an adult, even though he had turned 14 since the time of the crime, and had committed the crime when 13.
- People v. Bradshaw (2007)
- In a 4-3 decision, Justice Mullarkey concurred in the majority opinion, written by Justice Martinez, which concluded that the defendant's confession to sexual assault should not be admitted as evidence against him because the defendant indicated that he had a desire to speak with an attorney prior to making the confession.
- People v. Humphrey (2006)
- In a 5-2 decision, Justice Mullarkey concurred in the majority opinion, written by Justice Martinez that in a first-degree murder case, the defendant's confession to stabbing the victim was not made voluntarily, and therefore was not admissible against him at trial, where, even though the defendant waived her Miranda rights, the defendant's confession was made under "psychological coercion" and "emotional vulnerability" because the questioning officers informed the defendant that the victim had just died from the stabbing wounds; and that the "persistent questioning of the defendant after her emotional breakdown was psychologically coercive."
On Illegal Immigration
- In the Matter of the Title and Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2005-2006 #55 (2006)
- In a bitterly disputed 4-2 decision, Justice Mullarkey concurred in the majority opinion, written by Justice Alex J. Martinez, which struck down a citizen-sponsored ballot measure that, if passed, would have prohibited Colorado from providing non-emergency government services to illegal immigrants. The Majority characterized the measure as violative of the Colorado's single subject rule because it contained "at least two subjects," that it viewed as "unrelated:" "decreasing taxpayer expenditures" and "restricting unrelated administrative services."
On Elections Law
- In the Matter of the TITLE, BALLOT TITLE AND SUBMISSION CLAUSE, FOR 2007-2008, #17 (2007)
- Justice Mullarkey concurred with the majority opinion in a 4-3 decision which struck down a voter-proposed ballot measure that would have created an environmental conservation agency with a mission of protecting land, wildlife, water, and public resources by resolving conflicts between "economic interests" and "public ownership and values" in favor of the latter. The Majority held that the inclusion of the mission and the creation of the agency constituted two separate subjects, and thus that the initiative violated [Colorado's single subject rule].
On Property Rights
- Droste v. Board of County Commissioners the County of Pitkin, Colorado (2007)
- Mullarkey concurred with the majority opinion (authored by Justice Hobbs), which concluded that because a county was justified in implementing a complete moratorium on the development of property in that county, so that the impact of development could be studied, even though the county did not specify when the moratorium would end, and even though Colorado law, specially the Land Use Enabling Act only provided for a maximum moratorium of six months.
- In a bitterly divided 4-3 decision, Justice Hobbs provided the deciding vote when he concurred (along with Justice Mullarkey) in the Majority opinion in which the Court adopted the "reverse piercing of the corporate veil" doctrine. This doctrine, previously unrecognized in Colorado, allows a plaintiff to recover against a corporation for the debts/liability of one of its shareholders (as opposed to the traditional "piercing of the corporate veil" doctrine, which allows a plaintiff to recover against a shareholder for debts/liabilities of a corporation in which the shareholder owned shares).
- Colorado Supreme Court
- Mullarkey Biography (dead link)
- Mountain Valley News "Judge’s decision to step down bears closer look," June 9, 2010
- Chieftain.com, "Chief justice wields clout over reapportionment," March 28, 2010
- Colorado Judicial Branch News, "Chief Justice Mary J. Mullarkey honored for 20 yeras of service on Colorado Supreme Court," July 3, 2007
- Denver Magazine, "2009 People of Power: Mary Mullarkey," December 29, 2009 (dead link)
- Law Week Colorado, "Mary Mullarkey's Tales From the Bench," July 12, 2011