Colorado Supreme Court
Colorado Supreme Court courtroom.JPG
The Colorado Supreme Court courtroom
Composition methodMissouri plan with retention elections
Authorized byColorado State Constitution
Appeals toSupreme Court of the United States
Judge term length10 years
Number of positions7
WebsiteOfficial site
Chief Justice
CurrentlyBrian Boatright
SinceJanuary 1, 2021

The Colorado Supreme Court is the highest court in the U.S. state of Colorado. Located in Denver, the Court consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices.

Powers and duties

Appellate jurisdiction

Discretionary appeals

The Court principally handles certiorari petitions. Certiorari petitions ask the Supreme Court to grant an additional review of a case. The primary review [appeal of right] was either done by:

Only a small fraction of certiorari petitions are granted by the Colorado Supreme Court. From petitions filed in 2015 and 2016, only 6% of all cases were granted an additional review.[1] It takes three of the seven justices to vote in favor of a certiorari petition for it to be granted.[1]

Appeals of right

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.[2]

Original jurisdiction and supervisory powers

The Colorado Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction over attorney discipline proceedings, 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.


Current makeup

Main article: List of justices of the Colorado Supreme Court

The current Colorado Supreme Court's membership, and the date each Justice was appointed, is as follows:

Justice Born Took office Appointed by College Law school Term up
Brian Boatright, Chief Justice (1962-06-16) June 16, 1962 (age 60) January 1, 2021[a] John Hickenlooper (D) Westminster College Denver 2024
Monica Márquez (1969-04-20) April 20, 1969 (age 53) December 10, 2010 Bill Ritter (D) Stanford Yale 2024
William W. Hood III 1963 (age 58–59) January 13, 2014 John Hickenlooper (D) Syracuse Virginia 2026
Richard L. Gabriel (1962-03-03) March 3, 1962 (age 60) September 29, 2015 John Hickenlooper (D) Yale Penn 2028
Melissa Hart 1969/1970 (age 52–53) December 14, 2017 John Hickenlooper (D) Harvard Harvard 2030
Carlos Samour 1965/1966 (age 55–57) July 2, 2018 John Hickenlooper (D) University of Colorado at Denver Denver 2030
Maria Berkenkotter 1962/1963 (age 58–59) January 1, 2021 Jared Polis (D) Western Michigan Denver 2024
  1. ^ Originally appointed as an Associate Justice; elected unanimously as Chief Justice and sworn in on January 1, 2021.[3]

Appointment process

When a vacancy on the court occurs, a commission established by the state constitution reviews submitted applications.[4] The commission submits three names to the Governor. The Governor of Colorado then has 15 days to select the next justice from that list.

The justice selected serves a provisional two-year term before facing a retention election. The voters then chose whether to retain or not retain the justice. If the justice is retained, they go on to serve a full 10-year term before the next retention election.

If a justice is not retained, the appointment process starts again. However, no appellate judge has ever lost a retention election since the system was put in place in 1966. The Justices are not elected as partisan officials, although they are initially appointed by a partisan elected official.

In 2006, an effort to change this system of retaining judges by initiative was rejected by voters, in part due to a campaign against the initiative which had strong support from both Democratic and Republican members of the Colorado Bar Association.[5]

The chief justice is selected by the justices from amongst themselves.

Yearly pay

The pay is set by the legislature in the yearly budget. The budget year in Colorado starts on July 1.



2017 – 2018

2018 – 2019

2019 – 2020

Court building

Former Colorado State Judicial Building, since demolished
Former Colorado State Judicial Building, since demolished

While there is a chamber originally dedicated to the Colorado Supreme Court in the state capitol building, the Colorado Supreme Court and Colorado Court of Appeals were located in their own building across the street from the state capitol from 1977 to 2010. In August 2010 the building was imploded to make way for a larger court building.[9] Construction of the new building began in September 2010.[10] That new building, dubbed the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, opened in early 2013. Named for a former governor of Colorado,[11] the building is located at 2 East 14th Avenue in Denver.

The State Supreme Court Building was a box-like structure raised off the ground by two square columns located on the east and west ends of the building. The only parts of the building actually on the ground level were the columns, which contained the entrances and elevators for the building.

The underside of the building featured a 150-foot mural designed by Colorado artist Angelo di Benedetto. It depicted several notable figures, including Hammurabi, Moses and Martin Luther King Jr. The figures represented persons who are believed to have made significant contributions to law and justice. Directly beneath the mural was a large window embedded into the ground that looked down into the underground law library. Persons in the library were able to look up onto the mural via the ground level glass window.[12] The mural was removed before the building was demolished, but its ultimate fate is uncertain.[13]

The courtroom itself was located on the fifth floor of the building (the ground level columns being the first floor). The entrance to the courtroom consisted of two large brass colored metallic doors with a textured design on them. The courtroom was dimly lit with two stained glass windows depicting previous Supreme Court Justices. The well of the courtroom was circular, with a podium for counsel in the center. The podium was a circular column that resembled a container of lipstick that, unlike the rest of the courtroom, was well lit. It faced a semicircular bench with seats for seven justices. Behind the bench was a large drape through which the Justices entered the courtroom.

The former building was designed by John Rogers and RNL Design. See RNL Architecture.

The Ralph L. Carr Justice Center was designed by Fentress Architects. The judicial wing is four stories tall and contains the Supreme Court courtroom and chambers and Court of Appeals courtrooms. The justice center also includes an adjacent wing that is a twelve-story office tower containing the office of the State Attorney General as well as offices for other State agencies.[14]

The new Justice Center is named for former Colorado Governor Ralph Lawrence Carr, who served from 1939 to 1943 and was noted for his opposition to Japanese American internment during World War II.[15]

Publication of opinions

All opinions of the Colorado Supreme Court are published.[16] Court opinions are initially released as slip opinions and posted on the court's website. They are ultimately published in Westlaw's Pacific Reporter, a regional case reporter that is the designated official reporter for the State of Colorado. Westlaw also publishes the state-specific Colorado Reporter, repeating all Colorado cases from the Pacific Reporter and reusing that reporter's pagination and citations. The Colorado Bar Association also publishes all Colorado Supreme Court opinions in its monthly journal, The Colorado Lawyer.[17]

Between 1864 and 1980, the State published its own official reporter, Colorado Reports. Concurrent coverage in the Pacific Reporter began in 1883.[18]

Notable cases

In re Ballot Title #3, 1996

Romer v. Evans, 1996

Union of Taxpayers v. Aspen, 2016

Colo. Oil & Gas v. Martinez, 2017

Common-law same-sex marriage, 2021

In January 2021, the Colorado Supreme Court made a ruling to retroactively recognise common-law same-sex marriage.[31]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Colorado Judicial Branch – Supreme Court – Protocols". Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  2. ^ About the Court, Colorado Supreme Court web page (2016). Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  3. ^ "Chief Justice Nathan B. Coats announces retirement, Justice Brian D. Boatright to serve as next Chief Justice as Colorado Supreme Court moves to rotational terms for Chief" (Press release). Denver, Colorado: Colorado Judicial Branch. August 19, 2020. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  4. ^ "Colorado Judicial Branch – Supreme Court – Judicial Nominating Commissions". Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  5. ^ "Direct Democracy and the Electoral College: Can a Popular Initiative Change How a State Appoints Its Electors?". Fordham Law Review. Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  6. ^ "Colorado judges seek steep pay hikes that also would benefit lawmakers". Denver Post. December 27, 2016. Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  7. ^ a b "HB 18-1322, p. 135; Colorado Judicial Budget for 2018–2019, Page 12" (PDF).
  8. ^ "2019 Colorado Long Bill, Ch 454, Pg 4261, (PDF Pg 149)" (PDF).
  9. ^ McGhee, Tom. "Colorado judicial building puts on show, disappears – The Denver Post". Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  10. ^ "Search Results for "ci_16162810" – The Denver Post".
  11. ^ New Colorado Judicial Center named after former Governor 9News, May 2, 2013 Archived 2013-06-28 at
  12. ^ "Search Results for "ci_15011048" – The Denver Post".
  13. ^ "Search Results for "ci_15370881" – The Denver Post".
  14. ^ "Will Justice Center, Unveiled Today, Last 100 Years? | State Bill Colorado". 2010-09-27. Archived from the original on 2017-01-01. Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  15. ^ "Archives |". 2016-12-27. Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  16. ^ Linz 2010, p. 118.
  17. ^ Linz 2010, pp. 99–102
  18. ^ Linz 2010, pp. 99, 101.
  19. ^ In Re Ballot Title #3, 2019CO57, p. 2 ¶ 1.
  20. ^ In Re Ballot Title #3, 2019CO57, p. 2 ¶ 4.
  21. ^ In Re Ballot Title #3, 2019CO57, p. 3 ¶ 9.
  22. ^ In Re Ballot Title #3, 2019CO57, p. 5 ¶ 17.
  23. ^ "In re PROPOSED INITIATIVE 1996-4". Retrieved 2022-09-20.
  24. ^ In Re Ballot Title #3, 2019CO57, p. 7 ¶ 23 and p. 8 ¶ 27.
  25. ^ In Re Ballot Title #3, 2019CO57, p. 9 ¶ 28.
  26. ^ In Re Ballot Title #3, 2019CO57, p. 13 ¶ 40.
  27. ^[bare URL PDF]
  28. ^ "Romer v. Evans at Oyez;". Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  29. ^[bare URL PDF]
  30. ^[bare URL PDF]
  31. ^ "State Supreme Court recognizes same-sex common law marriages prior to 2015 legalization".


Coordinates: 39°44′17″N 104°59′12″W / 39.738136°N 104.986741°W / 39.738136; -104.986741