Judicial & Legislative News
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – People representing themselves in family law matters such as divorce or child custody can obtain free information and assistance from the legal community during an event Friday, May 4, 2018.
The Family Law Day event, set for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the El Paso County Judicial Building, 270 S. Tejon Street in Colorado Springs, is sponsored by the Fourth Judicial District (El Paso and Teller counties), the Fourth Judicial District Access to Justice Committee, The Justice Center, the Family Law Section of the El Paso County Bar Association and Colorado Legal Services.
Local volunteer attorneys, parenting professionals and court staff will provide free classes and information sessions on how to file a divorce case, child support and maintenance, parenting plans, custody disputes, self-representation in a courtroom and other matters.
Attorneys will be available to offer one-on-one advice and assistance, and mediators will be available to help with fine-tuning separation agreements and parenting plans.
For more information, please contact Charles Simon at 719-473-6212 or at email@example.com.
Monday, April 30, 2018
DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court announced today it has appointed Jessica Yates, a partner at Snell & Wilmer, LLP, as the state’s new attorney regulation counsel. She will replace James C. Coyle, who is retiring from the position effective June 30, 2018, after 28 years of service in the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel including serving the past five years as regulation counsel.
“We wish Jim all the best in his well-deserved retirement after nearly three decades of dedicated service to the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice. “We are confident Jessica will maintain the excellence and efficiency the office is known for throughout the country.”
The Supreme Court Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee interviewed applicants and nominated three finalists for consideration by the Supreme Court.
“We’re thankful for the committee’s work in the difficult task of selecting nominees from a broad field of highly qualified candidates,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice-designate Nathan B. Coats, liaison justice to the committee. “Jessica’s leadership qualities and experience in legal ethics will serve the office well in continuing its important work.”
Yates’ legal practice focuses on litigation and appeals in federal and state courts, as well as business issues and negotiations. She is head of Snell & Wilmer’s Ethics Committee in Denver, where she is responsible for ethics compliance and providing guidance to attorneys on matters involving ethics and professional responsibility.
“The work of the Office of Attorney Regulation is extremely important, and I’m excited to lead its efforts,” Yates said. “Being an attorney is more than a job. There are overarching responsibilities in being part of our system of law. I’d like every attorney in Colorado to embrace those responsibilities.”
Yates earned her undergraduate degree in 1992 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree from the University of York in England in 1994. Yates graduated in 2006 from the University of Virginia School of Law.
Before she became a lawyer, Yates served as special assistant to the assistant secretary, Office of Budget, Technology and Finance, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for three years ending in 2003. Before joining Snell & Wilmer in 2007, she spent a year in a clerkship for Judge David Ebel of the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
“Selecting a new leader for this office truly was difficult, but we believe Jessica’s experience and character will be a great fit with a devoted staff whose work is highly respected by similar offices around the world,” said Supreme Court Justice Monica M. Márquez,” liaison justice to the Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee. “Coloradans should be proud of the quality of work done by this office.”
The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel oversees attorney admissions, attorney registration, mandatory continuing legal and judicial education, attorney discipline and regulation of the unauthorized practice of law. Additional information on the office may be found at http://coloradosupremecourt.com/.
Friday, April 27, 2018
DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court Pattern Civil Jury Instructions Committee has updated and published the 2018 pattern civil jury instructions on the committee’s webpage for use by members of the public.
“As more and more litigants are representing themselves in court proceedings, we must continue to find ways to promote equal access to Colorado’s judicial system,” Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice said. “Publishing these civil jury instructions for all to use free of charge is one more step in the right direction.”
The pattern civil jury instructions are updated by the committee annually. The pattern instructions currently include 36 chapters covering all areas of civil law.
The posted civil jury instructions are intended for public use and are free of charge. However, this online publication is copyrighted and may not be reproduced distributed or transmitted in any form for any commercial purpose without the express, written consent of the Office of the State Court Administrator.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, April 12, 2018
DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court announced today that Justice Nathan B. Coats will be the Court’s next Chief Justice. The Court’s Associate Justices selected Justice Coats to head the Court effective June 30, 2018, upon the retirement of Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice.
Chief Justice Rice announced her retirement in March 2018. She has served a distinguished 31-year career as a judge, including nearly 20 years on the state’s highest court and four-and-a-half-years as Chief Justice.
“I am pleased and honored my colleagues have entrusted me with this very important role serving the judiciary and Colorado,” Justice Coats said. “I look forward to continuing to support the initiatives and programs Chief Justice Rice has successfully implemented and to bring forth new projects that will keep Colorado’s judiciary responsive to the state’s needs.”
Justice Coats was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court on April 24, 2000. Prior to his appointment to the bench, he was the Chief Appellate Deputy District Attorney for the Second Judicial District (Denver County) from 1986 to 2000. He also served in the Appellate Section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office in the 1970s and 80s. Justice Coats has served on numerous Colorado Supreme Court committees.
Justice Coats received his B.A. in economics from the University of Colorado in 1971, and his J.D. from the University of Colorado Law School in 1977. Justice Coats is the 46th member of the Court to be named Chief Justice since Colorado’s statehood in 1876.
The Colorado Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. Its decisions are binding on all other Colorado state courts. The Court is composed of seven justices who serve ten-year terms. The Chief Justice serves as the executive head of the Colorado Judicial Branch and is the ex-officio chair of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The Chief Justice appoints the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and the Chief Judge of each of the state's 22 judicial districts. Additionally, the Chief Justice is responsible for maintaining the Judicial Branch’s relationships with the Executive and Legislative Branches and administering the budget for the Judicial Branch.
The Colorado Judicial Branch is the state’s largest unified criminal justice agency and includes the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, as well as the state’s district and county trial courts. The branch is also home to the Department of Probation Services, which employs more than 1,100 people including approximately 900 probation supervisors and officers. The department’s officers are responsible for supervising more than 80,000 adult and juvenile offenders.
With probation, the Judicial Branch employs approximately 4,200 employees, including 417 justices, judges and magistrates. Last fiscal year, 777,000 cases of all types were heard in the state court system.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
DENVER – Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice today announced she will retire effective June 30, 2018, after 31 years as a judge, including nearly 20 years as a member of Colorado’s highest court and four-and-a-half years as chief justice.
“It’s the greatest honor of my life to have served Colorado as a judge for most of my career,” Chief Justice Rice said. “I’m extremely proud of our system of justice in Colorado, which serves as a model for the nation in just and efficient outcomes. This wouldn’t be possible without our thousands of dedicated judicial officers and employees. I will sincerely miss being a part of this great system.”
Chief Justice Rice, 67, was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court in 1998, and was selected by the members of the Court to serve as chief justice in 2013. Before that, she served as a District Court judge in the Second Judicial District (Denver) from 1987 to 1998. Before taking the bench, Chief Justice Rice served as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1977 to 1987 and as the deputy chief of the appellate division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado from 1985 to 1987. She also served as a deputy state public defender in the appellate division from 1975 to 1976. Chief Justice Rice received her undergraduate degree from Tufts University in 1972 and her law degree from the University of Utah College of Law in 1975. She has served as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Colorado Law School and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
“Chief Justice Rice’s leadership has helped bring about significant progress in numerous aspects of Colorado’s judicial system,” said State Court Administrator Christopher T. Ryan. “In the many years I’ve known and worked with her, she’s been a staunch supporter of our efforts to ensure everybody has access to the justice system and has worked tirelessly to support many initiatives to improve the system.”
During Chief Justice Rice’s time as head of the Judicial Department, she has overseen completion of electronic filing systems for civil and criminal cases, and she has advocated for new funding for probation officers and programs to help implement evidence-based programs to aid the rehabilitation of probationers while protecting public safety.
Also during her tenure, the Judicial Department, with help from the General Assembly, created a program to help counties obtain funding for courthouse improvements and new construction, helping to improve security, efficiency, and comfort in many courthouses around Colorado.
Chief Justice Rice also formed commissions and task forces to address issues important to the Judicial Department and the public. For example, she recently formed a blue ribbon commission to review and analyze bail and other pretrial-release services, and in 2015 she authorized each of the state’s 22 judicial districts to create task forces to study security and safety issues surrounding juveniles in courtrooms and develop tailored plans.
Another task force created during Chief Justice Rice’s tenure analyzed truancy petitions in the courts and helped greatly reduce the number of children ordered to detention in truancy cases. In other initiatives, the Judicial Department obtained resources from the General Assembly that allowed the department to increase the number and compensation of language interpreters, to expand the number of problem-solving courts around the state and to begin accrediting problem-solving courts to ensure they remain effective.
The Supreme Court Nominating Commission soon will interview applicants for the upcoming vacancy and nominate three candidates to the governor, who will appoint a new justice. Members of the Court will select a new chief justice, who will begin serving in that capacity upon Chief Justice Rice’s departure.
The Colorado Supreme Court Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee has released its annual update to Colorado’s model jury instructions for use in state criminal trials.
The model instructions adopted in 2017 can be accessed at the Committee’s webpage, and they contain instructions concerning all of the offenses defined in Title 18 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (the Criminal Code), as well as select offenses defined in Title 42 (Vehicles and Traffic). This annual update incorporates new legislation and published case law that developed 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 email@example.com.
DENVER – National Adoption Day is being celebrated in many of Colorado’s Judicial Districts throughout November, with judges and magistrates across Colorado finalizing the adoptions of 159 foster children into permanent families. Colorado is currently home to an additional 276 children waiting for permanent families.
“The celebration of National Adoption Day in Colorado is an ever-growing event and I am proud to see so many courts participating to bring children and families together to find their happily ever after,” said Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice.
Adoption Day events in Colorado are being coordinated through the courts, state and local human services departments, as well as other local and state child agencies and advocacy groups.
Following is a rundown of November’s Adoption Day activities in Colorado:
First Judicial District (Jefferson and Gilpin counties) – The First Judicial District will celebrate Adoption Day on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to noon in courtrooms 4A, 4B, 4C and 4D of the Jefferson County Courthouse (100 Jefferson Parkway, Golden, CO 80401). Judges Tamara Russell, Gail Meinster and Margie Enquist will join Magistrate Jamin Alabiso to preside over adoptions for 18 children into 16 families. Cameras are welcome. For more information, contact Mallory Albi, Jefferson County Department of Human Services, at 303-271-4389.
Second Judicial District (Denver County) – On Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse (520 W. Colfax, Denver, CO 80204), Denver Juvenile Court Judges Donna Schmalberger and Laurie Clark will join Denver District Court Judge Jay Grant and Magistrates Howard Bartlett, Melanie Gilbert and Lord Blegen to unite 47 children with 34 families. This is the thirteenth annual celebration of National Adoption Day in Denver. Expanded media coverage has been granted – cameras are welcome. For more information, contact Rob McCallum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eighth Judicial District (Jackson and Larimer counties) – Larimer County will celebrate Adoption Day on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, at the Larimer County Justice Center (201 La Porte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521). Eighteen children are expected to be adopted. There will be adoption proceedings throughout the day with Judges Blanco and Jouard presiding. After each adoption proceeding, the newly adopted children and their family and friends will head to the jury assembly room to enjoy entertainment, a balloon artist, a caricaturist and cookies, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats in a decorated room filled with music. Each child will receive a special adoption bear, a treat bag filled with donated free children’s meals, gift certificates and treats from local businesses, as well as a book about adoption. For more information, please contact Donna Hochberg, Esq., Hochberg Law Office, PLLC at email@example.com or 970-493-1718.
Tenth Judicial District (Pueblo County) – The Tenth Judicial District will celebrate Adoption Day for the ninth year in a row on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 401 at the Pueblo County Courthouse (501 N. Elizabeth Street, Pueblo, CO 81003). District Court Judge Larry C. Schwartz will preside over the adoptions of eight children into six families. Following the adoptions, a cake and refreshment celebration will be held. Expanded media coverage has been granted. For more information, contact Amanda Ledbetter at 719-583-4716.
Twelfth Judicial District (Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties) – The Twelfth Judicial District will host a reception on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, honoring all families who have adopted children and all children who have been adopted in the Twelfth Judicial District in the last year. Forty-five children were adopted into 35 families in the last year. Members of the public, the courts, Department of Human Services, county attorneys and county commissioners are expected to be in attendance. Chief Judge Pattie Swift will address the group to discuss the important role of adoptive families in the justice system and thank all DHS staff, attorneys, adoptive parents, and foster parents for the work that they do. For more information, contact Christina Gallegos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fourteenth Judicial District (Grand, Moffat and Routt counties) – On Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, at 2 p.m. Chief Judge Mick O’Hara will preside over one adoption in Courtroom 2B at the Routt County Courthouse (1955 Shield Drive, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487). Photography will be permitted with consent of the family. For more information, contact Chief Judge O’Hara at 970-879-5020.
Sixteenth Judicial District (Bent, Crowley and Otero counties) – On Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, the Sixteenth Judicial District will host a celebration for all families who adopted children in the Sixteenth Judicial District in 2017. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. at the Otero Combined Court (13 West Third Street, Room 206, La Junta, CO 81050). Caseworkers, attorneys, and CASA volunteers will be present with the Honorable Mark MacDonnell to celebrate with the families. There will be a reception and a guest speaker for the families. The celebration is open to the public and guests are encouraged to use the south entrance to the courthouse. For more information contact Wendy Larsen at 719-383-7123.
DENVER – In a one-year pilot program designed to help readers more quickly identify its holdings in published opinions, the Colorado Court of Appeals will provide brief summaries of those opinions.
Beginning Nov. 16, 2017, each published opinion will be preceded by a summary which will briefly discuss issues in the case and the Court’s holdings on those issues, similar to the headnotes included with each opinion issued by the Colorado Supreme Court.
The Court will assess the success of the pilot program after one year and will decide whether to make it a permanent program of the Court.
“Transparency and enhancing public understanding of our work are important goals we’ve set for the Court of Appeals,” said Chief Judge Alan M. Loeb. “We are pleased to be able to begin offering opinion summaries to make what we do more easily understandable and accessible.”
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
DENVER – A group of more than 110 people representing many segments of Colorado’s legal community have reviewed and prioritized more than 60 recommendations to help improve the state’s capacity to ensure everybody has equal access to the courts.
The recommendations considered during an October meeting at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in Denver will be incorporated into a strategic plan to be implemented in 2018.
The meeting was the culmination of a year-long effort to identify ways to fill gaps and improve coordination among access-to-justice service providers. Colorado was one of seven states to receive a $100,000 planning grant from the National Center for State Courts in its Justice for All project supported by the Public Welfare Foundation.
“Colorado was one of the first states to form an Access to Justice Commission, and I am gratified to see that hard work acknowledged and advanced by this grant,” said Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice, who kicked off the event with opening remarks in the Supreme Court courtroom. “Equal access to justice through the courts is an important goal in our system, and these recommendations will go a long way toward achieving that goal.”
Summit attendees considered more than 60 recommendations from several working groups, including:
The Justice for All summit brought together judges, court staff, legal aid and private lawyers, representatives of both Colorado law schools, the Colorado Bar Association and various social service organizations.
The work is part of an effort to implement a resolution approved by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators which envisions state justice systems in which everyone has access to effective assistance for their essential civil legal needs.
According to the state’s grant application, Colorado’s long-term goal is to develop a comprehensive system to respond to the needs of people with civil legal needs who cannot afford a lawyer by offering a range of services to provide them with meaningful and appropriate assistance. The Justice for All summit had two principal goals: to reach consensus on ways to expand and strengthen the continuum of services and to find ways to foster continued communication and coordination.
The Justice for All planning committee was co-chaired by Colorado Access to Justice Commission Chairman Fred Baumann, Colorado Bar Association President Dick Gast and Colorado Supreme Court Justice William W. Hood III.
DENVER – Marking the 11th anniversary of the Colorado Supreme Court Pro Bono Legal Service Commitment and Recognition Program, Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice has proclaimed Oct. 22-28, 2017, as Pro Bono Week.
Colorado is fortunate to have many attorneys who donate legal services to low-income residents, but they cannot meet the civil legal needs of the more than 500,000 people in Colorado who fall below the poverty level.
“Access to the courts to resolve civil disputes is a fundamental and essential right in our society,” Chief Justice Rice said. “The assistance of pro bono attorneys is an invaluable part of providing access to justice for all.”
The pro bono commitment program encourages every Colorado attorney to provide at least 50 hours of legal services at no charge, primarily to indigent people and/or organizations serving indigent people.
The Colorado Supreme Court in 2007 began recognizing those law firms, solo practitioners, in-house counsel and government attorneys making the commitment and achieving the 50-hour goal. For an organization to achieve the goal, each attorney within the organization must complete an average of 50 hours of pro bono service annually.
In calendar year 2016, hundreds of organizations committed to achieving the 50-hour goal.
A complete listing of the participating organizations is available at https://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Supreme_Court/Pro_Bono.cfm.