Colorado Supreme Court Justice Alex Martinez announces impending resignation, takes city job in Denver
Colorado Supreme Court Justice Alex Martinez unexpectedly announced earlier today (Wednesday, August 24th 2011) that he intends to resign his seat on the state’s highest court in order to take a job with the City of Denver as Manager of Safety.
Justice Martinez, who was retained in office November 2010 with the lowest percentage of “retain” votes for an incumbent state supreme court justice in Colorado history (59%, narrowly edging current Chief Justice Michael Bender’s 60% and Justice Nancy Rice’s 62% for “worst ever;” incumbent supreme court justices are typically retained with 75-80% of the vote) could have continued to hold office for another decade.
Clear The Bench Colorado considers it a win for Colorado – and the damaged reputation of the Colorado judiciary – that he will not.
At the risk of once again being called “the skunk at the garden party” by the Denver Post, we point out the “troubling legacy” of Justice Martinez’s tenure on the bench (much as the “troubling legacy” of resigning Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey was reviewed at the time of her resignation – by the Post).
Justice Martinez was in fact one of the most reliable members of the highly political “Mullarkey Majority”, joining in or writing all of the key decisions over the past decade that made a mockery of constitutional jurisprudence in Colorado:
- Joining in the 2003 Salazar v. Davidson majority, Martinez helped perpetrate a judicial power grab as the courts conducted Congressional redistricting despite clear constitutional language reserving that power to the ’General Assembly’ and defining the General Assembly as “consisting of a senate and house of representatives.”
- Justice Martinez authored the blatantly political decision to keep a citizen’s initiative to restrict taxpayer funding of services to illegals (Initiative 55) off the 2006 ballot based on an “elastic definition” of the single-subject rule. Even the Denver Post (which vehemently opposed the initiative) decried the ruling. Former Democrat Governor Dick Lamm panned the court as “Politicians in Black Robes“, saying “This is not justice; it is politics – of the worst kind.”
- Justice Martinez joined Justice Michael Bender’s politically-derived opinion allowing unions to skirt Colorado campaign finance laws in the 2008 CEA v. Rutt case, overturning the Colorado Court of Appeals which had held (correctly) that unions made illegal contributions when they coordinated their activities with a candidate’s campaign.
- Justice Martinez joined in Colorado’s version of the infamous Kelo eminent domain abuse case, the 2008 “Telluride Land Grab” (Telluride v. San Miguel), authorizing government taking of private property via eminent domain – despite contrary statutory language and despite the fact that the property taken was outside the jurisdiction of the seizing authority.
- Justice Martinez joined the majority in the Nov. 2008 Barber v. Ritter decision which declared that “fees are not taxes” as long as they are called “fees” – laying the groundwork for the notorious and regressive Colorado Car Tax (“FASTER”) tax (er, “fee”) increase.
- Justice Martinez joined the Mullarkey Majority on the infamous March 2009 “Mill Levy Tax Freeze” (Mesa County v. Colorado) ruling which deprived Coloradans of their constitutional right to vote on tax increases, and also eliminated constitutional protections for existing tax credits and exemptions (leading to the “Dirty Dozen” tax increases passed by the legislature the following year).
- In a case with significant and still unfolding implications for Colorado (Governor Hickenlooper recently described the potential consequences as “devastating”), Justice Martinez joined in overturning two lower courts holding (again, correctly) that educational funding policy was not a matter for the courts to decide in the 2009 Lobato v. Colorado case.
- Just days before the Nov. 2010 election, Justice Martinez joined “in one of those quirky rulings for which it is now notorious, reversed the conviction of a man who used another person’s Social Security number to obtain an auto loan.“
- After the election, it didn’t get any better, as Justice Martinez joined in creating a windfall for personal injury trial lawyers (the “ambulance-chaser” set) in the late-November (28th) 2010 Volunteers of America v. Gardenswartz case. (That ruling was apparently the straw breaking the camel’s back for a national association evaluating state courts, which added Colorado to the list of jurisdictions nationally qualifying as a “judicial hellhole”).
Justice Martinez’s legacy on the Colorado Supreme Court is indeed “troubling” – as noted in the Evaluations of Judicial Performance published prior to the November 2010 election.
While we bear Justice Martinez no personal animosity (by all accounts, he’s a nice guy) and wish him the best in his future endeavors as Denver Manager of Safety, we greet his departure from the Colorado Supreme Court with favor and look forward with guarded optimism to welcoming a new Colorado Supreme Court justice dedicated to upholding the Colorado Constitution and restoring the rule of law.
Clear The Bench Colorado will, with your support, continue to promote transparency and accountability in the Colorado judiciary, informing the public to increase awareness of the substantial public policy implications of an unrestrained activism and political agendas in the courts. We will continue to work to educate voters and provide information of relevance related to the judicial branch, and to provide useful and substantive evaluations of judicial performance.
Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.