Colorado Supreme Court
The Colorado Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of Colorado. It consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices.
Powers and duties
The Court principally handles certiorari petitions in cases decided on appeal by the Colorado Court of Appeals in appeals from courts of general jurisdiction, and from appellate decisions of courts of general jurisdiction in appeals from courts of inferior jurisdiction. In addition, the Colorado Supreme Court has jurisdiction over direct appeals in cases where a trial court finds a law unconstitutional, in death penalty cases, in water law cases, in certain election cases, in interlocutory appeals (i.e., appeals in the middle of a case) in certain matters of exceptional importance for which an ordinary appeal is not a sufficient remedy, and in certain other cases.
Original jurisdiction and supervisory powers
The Colorado Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction over attorney discipline procedings, over advisory questions presented by the state legislature or the state attorney general, and questions referred to it by the federal courts. Furthermore, the Colorado Supreme Court has general supervisory and budget authority over the judicial branch, the court rule making process, and the regulation of attorneys. Finally, the Colorado Supreme Court makes appointments to a number of boards and commissions, which often has the effect of providing a tie breaking member in situations where the other appointees are equally divided on partisan lines.
Colorado Supreme Court rulings on ballot measures
|Year||Type||Ballot measure||Legal issue||Plaintiff||Defendant||Court ruling||Impact|
|2008||CI||Equal Rights (Abortion) 2008||Single-subject rule||NARAL Colorado||Colorado for Equal Rights||The court ruled in favor of the defendant in a 7-0 vote||Ballot committee may proceed to collect signatures|
Current members and appointment process
The Justices are appointed by the Governor of Colorado to serve a term of ten years (after an initial two year term) from a list of three finalist candidates nominated by a Blue Ribbon Commission established by the state constitution. At the end of each term, Justices face a retention election at which voters can choose to retain or not retain a Justice. If a Justice was not retained, the vacancy would be filled by the Governor like any other vacancy. No appellate judge has ever been not retained in this manner since the retention election system was put in place in 1966. The Justices are not partisan officials, although they are ultimately selected by a partisan elected official.
An effort to change this system of retaining judges by initiative was rejected by voters in 2006, in part due to a campaign against the initiative which had strong support from both Democratic and Republican members of the Colorado Bar Association.
The Chief Justice is selected by the Justices from amongst themselves. As of July 1, 2006, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is paid $125,656 per year, and Associate Supreme Court Justices are paid $122,972 per year.
The current Colorado Supreme Court's membership, and the date each Justice was appointed, is as follows:
Appointees of Governor Roy Romer (a Democrat):
- Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey (June 29, 1987)
- Justice Gregory Hobbs (April 18, 1996)
- Justice Alex Martinez (September 12, 1996)
- Justice Michael Bender (January 2, 1997)
- Justice Nancy Rice (August 5, 1998)
Appointees of Governor Bill Owens (a Republican):
Decision making in cases before the Colorado Supreme Court is based upon individual legal issues and facts presented in the case and most cases are decided unanimously. But, Justices Eid and Coats tend to dissent more frequently than any of the other justices from decisions of the Court, often together in a single opinion. Justice Rice is the next most likely to cast a dissenting vote. Since Justice Eid has joined the Court, at least, Justice Hobbs has held the proverbial "swing vote" on the Court. He has dissented only once in 2007, as of July 19, 2007, less than any other Justice on the Colorado Supreme Court.
The most recent appointee to the Court, Justice Eid, recuses herself from consideration of cases before the Court much more frequently than the other Justices, as of July 2007, because she represented the State in many of these cases in her position as Solicitor General of Colorado prior to her appointment to the bench by former Governor Bill Owens. Her recusals are expected to grow less frequent once the cases she participated in work their way through the judicial process. Colorado Supreme Court cases often take two years or more to go from a filing of a petition for certiorari, to issuance of an opinion, and the solicitor general is involved in the process before a petition for certiorari is filed.