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  • 05/25/2023 10:09 AM | Britt Kwan (Administrator)

    Former Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph “Joe” R. Quinn died on Thursday, May 18, 2023, at the age of 90. His family shared with the Court that Justice Quinn died peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones. 

    Justice Quinn was appointed to the Court in 1980 and was named chief justice by his colleagues on the Court in 1985. He served as chief justice until his retirement in 1993, although he continued to serve the judiciary as a senior judge into his 80s. Prior to his appointment to the Colorado Supreme Court, Justice Quinn served as a district court judge in Denver beginning in 1973.

    Justice Quinn will be remembered fondly by those he touched in Colorado’s legal community. Justice Carlos A. Samour, Jr., recalled meeting Justice Quinn when he was a senior trial court judge and Justice Samour was a young deputy district attorney trying one of his first cases. 

    “He expected nothing less from the attorneys appearing in front of him than he did of himself. He prepared extensively for every case, whether it was a county court DUI case or a district court felony murder trial,” Justice Samour said. “Those of us who appeared in front of him learned tremendously from his thoughtful preparation, deliberation, and dedication to the rule of law. In my opinion, those of us who had the opportunity to learn from him and strive to achieve his standard of professionalism are better attorneys and judicial officers for it. For that we should all truly be thankful. He was a great jurist and a wonderful human being. May he rest in peace.”

    Justice Samour added that he and Justice Quinn kept in touch over the years and would often get together when Justice Samour was the Chief Judge of the 18th Judicial District and Justice Quinn was on assignment as a senior judge in Arapahoe County.  

    At the age of 18, Justice Quinn enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and fought bravely in the Korean war. After achieving the rank of sergeant and earning an honorable discharge from the Corps, he earned his B.A. at St. Peter’s College and graduated with honors in 1957. He then entered Rutgers Law School and received an LL.B. degree in 1961. 

    Moving west, Justice Quinn began his professional career in Denver in 1961 as legal aide to Chief Justice Leonard V.B. Sutton. He spent four years in private practice before being named one of the first appointees to the Office of the Denver Public Defender in 1966, and then to the Office of the Colorado Public Defender in 1969.  In 1971, he resigned his position to return to private practice, concentrating on criminal defense work.  He was an instructor at the University of Denver College of Law from 1976 to 1982 and was a member of the American and Colorado bar associations.

    A funeral mass will be held for Justice Quinn on June 9, 2023, at 1 p.m. at the Gardens at St. Elizabeth, 2835 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, CO 80211.

  • 04/12/2023 7:43 PM | Britt Kwan (Administrator)

    Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright on Wednesday signed Chief Justice Directive (CJD) 23-02, requiring judicial officers to livestream certain proceedings in criminal cases subject to staffing and technological limitations.

    After receiving more than 100 public comments on a draft version of the CJD, the Supreme Court’s Virtual Proceedings Committee adopted some clarifying revisions. The CJD seeks to balance consistent transparency in criminal proceedings with a trial court’s discretion to determine when the public’s interest in observing proceedings remotely is outweighed by the interests of the parties and witnesses. The CJD will go into effect on May 15, 2023.

    “We’ve heard loud and clear that throughout the pandemic, the public has come to appreciate and expect the ability to remotely observe proceedings in criminal cases,” Chief Justice Boatright said. “This CJD will create as much consistency as we believe possible while allowing judicial officers enough flexibility to decide when circumstances in a specific case, or even in a specific hearing, do not favor live streaming.”

    Under the CJD, proceedings would be live streamed only if a courtroom’s staffing and technological capabilities can accommodate it. Disruptive viewers could be expelled or muted by the court without warning and be subject to contempt proceedings; and audio or video recording, screen shots, or photos of any livestreamed court proceedings is prohibited without express permission from the court, also subject to contempt proceedings.

    The Virtual Proceedings Committee will continue to meet regularly and recommend any modifications of the CJD while continuing its work on a related draft CJD regarding remote participation in court proceedings.

  • 03/28/2023 12:31 PM | Britt Kwan (Administrator)

    The Colorado Supreme Court has approved the licensure of legal paraprofessionals in a new rule that is designed to make legal representation more widely available and more affordable to people in certain domestic-relations matters. 

    With approval of the new Rule 207 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, the state becomes one of five that will issue some form of limited license for non-lawyers to practice law. As of September 2022, the other four states are Arizona, Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah; Washington and California both developed limited-license programs, but neither is actively licensing non-lawyers, according to the American Bar Association.

    Under the rule, licensed legal paraprofessionals (LLPs) may complete and file standard pleadings, and represent their clients in mediation. They also may accompany their clients to court and answer a court’s factual questions, though they may not present oral argument or examine witnesses in a hearing.

    In Fiscal Year 2022, 74 percent of parties involved in Colorado domestic-relations cases such as marriage dissolution and allocation of parental responsibility represented themselves.

    “Making it easier for people to secure legal representation in these often difficult matters has been a long-term goal of our commitment to ensuring access to justice for all Coloradans,” said Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright. “Allowing non-lawyers to provide limited legal representation for people who otherwise couldn’t afford it will not only help those litigants, but it will help the courts efficiently and effectively handle their cases.”

    LLPs will have to pass a written examination to be administered by the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel and will be subject to character and fitness standards similar to those required of licensed attorneys. 

    By the time an applicant takes the LLP examination, the applicant must meet certain educational requirements and have completed 1,500 hours of substantive law-related practical experience, including 500 hours of experience in Colorado family law, within the three years immediately preceding the date of the examination. The Court approved an exception to the educational requirements for individuals who have worked for three years in family law.

    Applicants also will have to pass an ethics class, pass a professional conduct exam, and complete continuing legal education requirements, and they will be subject to a complaint and discipline process similar to that of licensed attorneys.

    The Colorado Supreme Court in 2021 charged the Advisory Committee on the Practice of Law with developing a plan to license legal paraprofessionals. A subcommittee made up of current and former judges, family law lawyers, an experienced family law paralegal/mediator, a family court facilitator, the Attorney Regulation Counsel, and the Chair of the Advisory Committee developed the rule, which was subject to public comment before the Supreme Court approved the final version. The first LLPs could receive their licenses in July 2024.

    Rule 207 is available for viewing at https://www.courts.state.co.us/userfiles/file/Court_Probation/Supreme_Court/Rule_Changes/2023/Rule%20Change%202023(06).pdf.

  • 03/01/2023 10:55 AM | Britt Kwan (Administrator)

    Recent public health concerns caused Colorado’s trial courts to quickly change the way they had conducted business for more than a century prior. Public health policies and the courts’ concerns for public safety effectively put the brakes on in-person hearings. However, laws guaranteeing timely hearings did not pause, and the courts turned to virtual appearances and live streaming to continue operations during this time. 

    Today, public health concerns aside, the effectiveness and efficiency of having litigants appear for certain hearings virtually, as well as the value of allowing streaming of virtual proceedings in the interest of openness and transparency for the public cannot be denied. As such, the Colorado Supreme Court intends to codify how virtual proceedings will be used through uniform guidance offered by Chief Justice Directives (CJDs).      

    “It is a forgone conclusion that virtual proceedings are here to stay, and they provide a tremendous benefit in many respects,” Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright said. “Before the Court takes any action regarding this valuable public resource, we feel it is critically important to hear from all stakeholders who have now had nearly three years to adapt to this new environment and technology.”

    Chief Justice Boatright added that any CJD issued by the Court defining how virtual participation and livestreaming may be used will ensure that judges retain discretion over the proceedings. 

     “We look forward to everyone’s thoughts on this aspect of a possible CJD, as well as everything else in consideration of this historic opportunity to modernize the way we do business and provide a new level of transparency to our courts,” Chief Justice Boatright said. 

    The draft CJDs are posted to the “Special Announcements” section of the Court’s homepage. The public comment period will close on March 15, 2023. Comments may be sent to supremecourtrules@judicial.state.co.us.

  • 02/07/2023 3:38 PM | Britt Kwan (Administrator)

    Eight participants in the 4th Judicial District (El Paso and Teller counties) Recovery Court, an intensive oversight and monitoring program for eligible offenders with substance use disorders, will celebrate their graduation from the program during a ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.

    Recovery Court is a voluntary program allowing for a cost-effective alternative to incarceration that helps reduce recidivism while protecting community safety. It requires defendants to complete at least two years of substance use disorder treatment, maintain sobriety, comply with community service and employment requirements, make frequent court appearances, and pay fines and costs. 

    “The goal of Recovery Court is to provide extensive substance use disorder treatment and wrap-around services that are needed to overcome participants’ addiction so that they can be productive members of the community,” said Magistrate Gregory Duncan, who presides over the 4th Judicial District Recovery Court. “Recovery Court has proved to be an innovative, cost effective program to assist substance-abusing individuals in making life-changing differences for themselves, their families, and the community. We are proud to be able to honor these graduates’ achievement in reclaiming their lives.”

    The El Paso/Teller Counties Recovery Court was initiated in January 2001 as the second problem-solving drug court in Colorado. It follows an evidence-based model for problem-solving courts, which has proved effective in handling criminal cases of substance abusers with a heavy focus on treatment, close probation supervision, and regular drug testing.

    Defendants are referred to the program by the public defender’s office, private attorneys, deputy district attorneys, probation officers and judges who believe the program is appropriate for and would be beneficial to the defendant.

    Nearly 70 problem-solving courts are in operation around Colorado, including adult and juvenile drug courts, family/dependency and neglect drug courts, DUI courts, adult and juvenile mental health courts, veteran trauma courts, and truancy courts.

    The graduation ceremony is set for 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 9, in the Jury Assembly Room at the Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex at 270 S. Tejon Street in Colorado Springs. Members of the news media are invited to attend. The use of cameras must be approved in advance, and all persons whose images are captured must give their consent to photography or videography.

    Read the full announcement here.

  • 02/07/2023 3:36 PM | Britt Kwan (Administrator)

    The Colorado State Court Administrator’s Office has opened a 30-day public comment period for proposed changes to Chief Justice Directive 04-08, which sets the Colorado Judicial Department’s policy regarding child and family investigators (CFIs).

    CFIs are appointed by a court to investigate, report and make independent and informed recommendations to the court regarding the best interests of the children in cases involving parental responsibilities including parenting time and decision making.

    In February 2022, Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright formed a work group of judges, court executives and administrative staff to review CJD 04-08 and make recommendations for changes. The last comprehensive review of CJD 04-08 was conducted in 2012. The work group is proposing amendments in several areas:

    • Changing the complaint process to mirror the requirements regarding complaints against parental responsibility evaluators as detailed in CJD 21-02. The new process would require findings in the trial court before a formal complaint can be filed. The work group believes this new procedure will make the complaint process less subjective.
    • Increasing the payment cap for privately paid CFIs;
    • Providing clarification for mixed pay cases; and
    • Modifying several of the standards guiding CFIs and their conduct.

    Read the full announcement here.

  • 01/27/2023 12:44 PM | Britt Kwan (Administrator)

    The Colorado Supreme Court Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee has released its annual update to Colorado’s model jury instructions for use in criminal trials.

    This edition updates Instruction E:03, which is titled “Presumption of Innocence, Burden of Proof, and Reasonable Doubt.” Previously, Instruction E:03 had defined “reasonable doubt” in part as, “a doubt which is not a vague, speculative or imaginary doubt, but such a doubt as would cause reasonable people to hesitate to act in matters of importance to themselves.” After extensive deliberation, the Committee decided to update that definition. Instruction E:03 now defines “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt” as “proof that leaves you firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt.”

    It also explains that the prosecution’s burden “requires more than proof that something is highly probable,” though “it does not require proof with absolute certainty.” The instruction informs jurors that if they “are firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt, then the prosecution has proven the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt,” but if they “think there is a real possibility that the defendant is not guilty, then the prosecution has failed to prove the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Committee encourages judges and practitioners to read the comments accompanying the new model instruction.

    The model jury instructions may be found online; they include instructions concerning all of the offenses defined in Title 18 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (the Criminal Code), along with instructions addressing select offenses defined in other titles of the Colorado Revised Statutes (including Title 42, Vehicles and Traffic).  In addition to updating the definition of “reasonable doubt,” this annual update incorporates 2022 legislation, as well as caselaw published since the release of the prior edition.

    Users may download Word and PDF versions of the instructions, both of which feature hyperlink capabilities for ease of use.  For any questions regarding the instructions, users are encouraged to contact the Committee at mcjic@judicial.state.co.us.

  • 11/04/2022 11:54 AM | Britt Kwan (Administrator)

    DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court announced today that starting in 2023, the minimum passing score, or cut score, on the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) required for admission to practice law in Colorado will be lowered from 276 to 270. 

    The change is prospective, applicable to candidates for admission beginning with the February 2023 administration of the UBE as well as to candidates who seek to transfer their scores to Colorado from the February 2023 administration of the UBE in other jurisdictions. 

    The Court consulted with the Law Committee of the Colorado State Board of Law Examiners before making the decision. Justice Maria E. Berkenkotter did not participate in the decision.

    Colorado’s cut score of 276 was instituted in 1985, before Colorado joined the UBE, and it is now the second-highest cut score among the 41 states that use the UBE. Only Alaska uses a higher cut score (280), and only three other UBE jurisdictions use cut scores above 270: Arizona (273), Idaho (272), and Pennsylvania (272).

    When Colorado joined the UBE and began administering the UBE in February 2012, it retained its cut score of 276 on the premise that UBE scores would correspond to scores under the prior exam. Numerous UBE jurisdictions have lowered their cut scores after initial adoption, including Oregon, which lowered its score twice. In 2018, Oregon lowered its cut score from 284 to 274, and then last year, following a study, it lowered its score to 270. The 41 UBE jurisdictions have cut scores ranging from 260 to 280, but the largest cluster, 16 jurisdictions, have settled at 270. 

    Oregon’s recent study focused on the written portions of the UBE, which the Court believes are particularly useful as a measure of a candidate’s ability to perform the tasks required of lawyers in entry-level positions or in opening their own law offices, and the Court finds the Oregon study persuasive.

    The Court also recognizes that significant changes to the bar exam are coming in a few years. The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) is developing a new exam, known as “NextGen,” that will be in a different format and test fewer subjects, but with more focus on lawyering skills. Each jurisdiction will decide whether to join a compact similar to the UBE Compact, which will allow applicants to transfer their exam scores to other jurisdictions, and each will determine its own passing score for admission to its bar. 

    The Court plans to invite public input on the broader question of how to determine minimum competency of candidates for admission to the Colorado bar, and will announce details once the NCBE has defined the timing and content of the proposed NextGen exam.

  • 10/19/2022 10:29 AM | Crystal Rayos (Administrator)

    Application period opens for Judicial Nominating Commission positions

    Governor, Attorney General and Chief Justice to appoint commission members

    DENVER – Applications are now being accepted for upcoming, and current vacancies on 11 Judicial Nominating Commissions throughout Colorado.

    As of Dec. 31, 2022, there will be 14 upcoming Judicial Nominating Commission vacancies as detailed below. Also listed are five current Judicial Nominating Commission vacancies on three nominating commissions. Judicial nominating commissioners are volunteers and serve six-year terms interviewing applicants for judicial vacancies and nominating candidates to the governor.

    Each judicial district nominating commission consists of seven citizens residing in that judicial district. No more than four members can be from the same political party, and there must be at least one voting member from each county in the district. Commission members serve six-year terms. Non-lawyers, who are the majority of every nominating commission, are appointed by the Governor. Lawyer members are appointed by joint action of the Governor, Attorney General, and Chief Justice

    • First Judicial District (Gilpin and Jefferson counties) – one upcoming non-attorney vacancy.
    • Second Judicial District (Denver County) – one upcoming non-attorney vacancy.
    • Third Judicial District (Huerfano and Las Animas counties) – two upcoming non-attorney vacancies.
    • Fourth Judicial District (El Paso and Teller counties) – one current non-attorney vacancy.
    • Fifth Judicial District (Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake, and Summit counties) – one current non-attorney vacancy. 
    • Tenth Judicial District (Pueblo County) – one current non-attorney vacancy, and two upcoming attorney vacancies.
    • Eleventh Judicial District (Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, and Park counties) – one upcoming non-attorney vacancy.
    • Fourteenth Judicial District (Grand, Moffat and Routt counties) – one upcoming non-attorney vacancy, and one upcoming attorney vacancy.
    • Eighteenth Judicial District (Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties) – two upcoming non-attorney vacancies.
    • Twenty-Second Judicial District (Dolores and Montezuma counties) – one upcoming attorney vacancy.
    • Supreme Court (statewide) – One current non-attorney vacancy for the 2nd Congressional District and one current attorney for the 5th Congressional District, as well one upcoming non-attorney vacancy in the 1st Congressional District and one upcoming attorney vacancy in the 7th Congressional District.
    More information on nominating commissions may be found on the Judicial Branch Web site at http://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Supreme_Court/Nominating.cfm.

    Applications are due no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. Applications may be made only online at the State of Colorado Boards and Commissions Application page. Applicants should include a current resume or biography where indicated on the application.

    Please contact boards@state.co.us with questions or for more information.

    See Announcement

  • 10/11/2022 10:01 AM | Crystal Rayos (Administrator)

    DENVER – People with business in the courts of the First, Fourth, Eighth, Ninth and Twelfth Judicial Districts will be invited to participate in a pilot of a revamped program gathering feedback from court users. The courts will use the feedback to improve services.

    All people who interact with the courts – including parties to cases, people filing forms or asking questions, attorneys, jurors, and law enforcement – will be asked to complete a 3-minute electronic survey. The survey gauges court users’ perceptions of service quality and fairness and asks how they think the courts could improve. The survey link will be distributed to people via e-mail, made available on business cards, and posted in courthouses. The survey initially will be available in English and Spanish, but soon will be translated into eight other languages.

    Similar court-user surveys have been conducted previously in Colorado, most recently in 2019. Prior surveys were administered in-person over one or two days in select court locations. The new electronic survey will be available on a continuous basis and asks additional questions designed to gather information that will be used to improve services.

    The Judicial Department believes the electronic format will vastly increase the number of responses. The new format also will allow individual court locations to receive specific feedback faster and target service improvements. The pilot in the five districts will run through the end of 2022.

    The five districts cover 15 counties: Gilpin, Jefferson, El Paso, Teller, Jackson, Larimer, Garfield, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache.

    See Official Announcement

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