Justice Nathan B. Coats named next Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice
The Colorado Supreme Court announced in a press release earlier today that Justice Nathan B. Coats will be the next Chief Justice, effective 30 June 2018.
Justice Coats, most recently retained in the 2012 elections (see CTBC’s 2012 evaluation of judicial performance) was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court on 24 April 2000 by Governor Bill Owens, and has been considered among the court’s “conservative” minority.
The appointment of Justice Coats as Chief Justice shatters a decades-long lock on the position by Democrat appointees – which has been a lynchpin of strategic approaches to ensure that congressional redistricting and state legislative district reapportionment are sent to an often left-leaning court majority and chief justice.
Justice Coats may put an end to that decades-old Democrat strategy.
First and most obviously, as Chief Justice his four appointments hold the balance of power on the 11-member state legislative district reapportionment commission (a balance of power which has been effectively wielded by Democrat Chief Justice appointees in the past, most notably in 2000 when then Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey stacked the commission to 6-5 Democrats despite Republicans holding the governor’s office and the state house majority).
Second, Justice Coats’ dissents in key cases handing congressional redistricting wins to Democrats in past years point to a less partisan, more constitutionally compliant approach – putting the onus back on the state legislature, as defined in the Colorado Constitution, Article V Section 44).
Coats dissented from the majority ruling in the 2011 redistricting case Hall v. Moreno (11SC842) drawing the state’s current congressional districts, and notably left the door open for the legislature to do its job at a later date.
Coats also dissented from the notorious Mullarkey Majority decision in the 2003 congressional redistricting case Salazar v. Davidson in which the Court effectively declared itself “part of the legislature” in order to sanction its post-hoc re-drawing of Colorado’s congressional districts.
Justice Coats has been among the consistently constitutionalist justices on the Colorado Supreme Court; his pending appointment as Chief Justice is a tremendously positive development for those favoring a court promoting the rule of law rather than a partisan agenda.
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.