Nathan Coats

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Nathan Coats
CO coats.jpg
Court Information:
Colorado Supreme Court
Title:   Justice
Salary:  $145,000
Appointed by:   Gov. Bill Owens
Active:   2000-2023
Past post:   Appellate Deputy District Attorney, Colorado Second Judicial District
Past term:   1986-2000
Past post 2:   Deputy Colorado Attorney General, Appellate Section
Past term 2:   1983-1986
Personal History
Undergraduate:   University of Colorado, 1971
Law School:   University of Colorado School of Law, 1977
Candidate 2012:
Candidate for:  Supreme Court
State:  Colorado
Election information 2012:
Incumbent:  Yes
Election date:  11/6/2012
Retention vote:  1,399,326
Retention vote %:  71.39% ApprovedA

Nathan B. Coats is an associate justice on the Colorado Supreme Court. He was first appointed to the court on April 24, 2000 by Governor Bill Owens. Justice Coats was successfully retained in 2002 and 2012. His term ends in January of 2023.[1]


Justice Coats earned his undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Colorado in 1971. In 1977 he earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Colorado School of Law.[1]


  • 2000-2022: Justice, Colorado Supreme Court
  • 1986-2000: Appellate Deputy District Attorney, Colorado Second Judicial District
  • 1983-1986: Deputy Colorado Attorney General, Appellate Section
  • 1978-1983: Assistant Colorado Attorney General, Appellate Section
  • 1977-1978: Associate, Hough, Grant, McCarren and Bernard[1]

Awards and Associatons


  • Member, Colorado Supreme Court, Criminal Rules Committee, 1993-2000
  • Chair, Colorado Supreme Court, Criminal Rules Committee, 1997-2000
  • Member, Colorado Supreme Court, Appellate Rules Committee, 1985-2000
  • Member, Colorado Supreme Court, Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions Committee, 1987-2000
  • Member, Colorado District Attorneys Council Legislative Committee, 1990-2000
  • Member, Colorado Supreme Court, Joint Civil/Criminal Subcommittee on the Colorado Rules of Evidence, 1996-2000
  • Member, Colorado Supreme Court Jury Reform Pilot Project Committee, 1998-2000
  • Reporter, Governor's Columbine Commission, Fall 1999-April 2000
  • Lecturer, Denver Police Academy, 1986-1997
  • Member, Colorado Supreme Court, Board of Law Examiners, 1984-1994[1]



Coats stood for retention in the general election on November 6, 2012, and was retained, winning 71.39% of the vote.[2]

See also: Colorado judicial elections, 2012

2002 election

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

Judicial performance evaluations

2012 performance evaluation

Colorado Commission on Judicial Performance

The Colorado Commission on Judicial Performance announced its recommendations for judges up for retention in 2012. According to its website, the commission evaluates judges based on the following criteria: integrity, legal knowledge, communication skills, judicial temperament, and administrative performance.[3]

Criticism of process

There are critics of the state's method for evaluating judges. The most common complaint is that the evaluations are simply "rubber stamps" for judges standing for retention. To learn more about this viewpoint, read: The Denver Post, "Evaluating the performance of justices," February 15, 2010.

Justice Coats was recommended for retention by a 10-0 vote. [4]

Clear the Bench Colorado

Clear the Bench Colorado is a conservative organization which provides evaluations for individual rulings of judges seeking retention. It summarized Justice Coats as voting 6-2-2 in upholding the Colorado Constitution. For a comparison of his votes in specific cases, see: Clear the Bench Colorado, Key Colorado Supreme Court Cases.

Support retention

2002 performance evaluation

The Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation voted unanimously to recommend Coats for retention. The COJPE reviews the answers of attorneys and District Judges and asked a variety of questions to determine the Judge's performance. The score is rated on a 4 point scale similar to school grades. Since 1990, which was the first election year after the statutory creation of judicial performance commissions and the use of performance evaluations, all Colorado Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges standing for retention have received do retain recommendations.[6] Until 2010 no additional information on judicial performance has been made available to the public.

Question classification Attorney score District Judge score Combined average
Impartiality 3.4 3.3 3.35
Clear opinions 3.3 3.3 3.3
Adequate explanation of opinion 3.5 3.1 3.3
Timely response 3.2 3.2 3.2
Response without criticism 3.5 3.4 3.45
Response based on law 3.2 3.3 3.25
Not ruling on extra issues 3.7 3.3 3.5
Respect towards all parties 3.7 3.7 3.7
No ex parte communications 3.9 3.7 3.8
Overall 3.49 3.78 3.64

Political Affiliations and Campaign Contributions

Judge Nathan B. Coats is currently listed as "nonpartisan" because Colorado judges are chosen via merit selection and retention elections are held for sitting justices; no campaign reports have been filed.[8]

Political ideology

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 ideology 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 are more liberal. Coats received a Campaign finance score (CFscore) of 0.29, indicating a conservative ideological leaning. This is more conservative than the average CF score of -0.29 that justices received in Colorado. 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 an academic gauge of various factors.[9]

See also

External links


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