Colorado Supreme Court Justice Nominees Profiled

The three nominees selected a week ago by the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission (Judge Brian Boatright, attorneys Frederick Martinez and Patrick O’Rourke) were each interviewed Friday by Governor John Hickenlooper, and earlier today (Monday) by Lt. Governor Joe Garcia.  Governor Hickenlooper, who has the final say on which of the three will be appointed as the next Colorado Supreme Court justice (replacing resigning  Justice Alex Martinez, resigning to take a “city job” as Denver Manager of Safety) is expected to announce his pick later in the week (no later than Friday October 28th, or the pick will fall to Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Bender, according to the provisions of Colorado Constitution, Article VI (Judiciary), Section 20).

If the governor shall fail to make the appointment (or all of the appointments in case of multiple vacancies) from such list within fifteen days from the day it is submitted to him, the appointment (or the remaining appointments in case of multiple vacancies) shall be made by the chief justice of the supreme court from the same list within the next fifteen days.

The selection of three finalists by the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission after reviewing applications and interviewing candidates over the last couple of weeks represents the sole “check” or “balance” to the power of the governor to select and appoint judges in our state (unlike the system for appointing federal judges, there is no “advise & consent” function exercised by the state legislature).

(Click here to know more about how individuals are selected & appointed to judicial office in Colorado)

Governor Hickenlooper, to his credit, followed the precedent recently established by former Governor Bill Ritter in accepting public input on the 3 nominees to become the next Colorado Supreme Court justice (soliciting E-mails to with your comments, concerns, or suggestions).

Also following recently established precedent (established for the first time earlier this year), the Denver Post published a profile of the nominees for this important public office (Sunday edition 23 October, “Hickenlooper to choose new Supreme Court justice“).

Until recently, the most information available to the public would have been the names of the finalists – a situation lacking in the transparency and accountability the public has every right to expect in relation to holding public office.  Clear The Bench Colorado has been among the leaders calling for reform in the judicial selection and nomination process (”No More Secrecy in Colorado Supreme Court judicial hiring“), as noted in last year’s Denver Post article on replacing Mullarkey:

These are people who are auditioning to become government employees occupying some of the highest offices in the state about which there is no knowledge or public input or transparency or accountability,” Arnold said. “I would certainly urge the legislature to take a look at this…

For only the second time in state history, additional information on the nominees (including the public portion of their applications) is available to the public for review.  Law Week Colorado has again made the applications available for view (”State Releases Applications Of Finalists For Colorado’s High Court“).

Unfortunately, although the Denver Post profile of the nominees provides a (brief) overview of the respective professional accomplishments of each of the nominees, and some anecdotal insights into their personalities, it does little to illuminate the qualifications each brings to the state’s highest judicial office.  Although one of these three individuals will be elevated into a position of “supreme” power to interpret and apply the law, the public is provided no insight into their judicial philosophy or decision-making process.  Particularly when only one of the nominees has ever served as a judge at any level, do they understand and will they exemplify the qualities that make a good judge?  Will they exercise judicial power fairly and impartially, and with appropriate restraint?

An independent, fair and impartial judiciary is indispensable to our system of justice … the judiciary plays a central role in preserving the principles of justice and the rule of law.

The governor’s decision – which of these three nominees he ultimately appoints to the Supreme Court – will have deep and lasting implications for the state, perhaps greater than any other decision he makes.  May he choose wisely…

In any event, Clear The Bench Colorado will be watching.

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.

However, we can’t do it alone –  we need your continued support; via your comments (Sound Off!) and, yes, your contributions.  Freedom isn’t free –nor is it always easy to be a Citizen, not a subject.

Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.

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