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Colorado State Publications Blog

December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month

Whether from drinks, drugs, or distractions, impaired driving is a serious hazard that puts lives in danger. Here are some resources from the State of Colorado that can help you learn about the hazards of driving impaired and how to stay safe:

SAFETY AND PREVENTION

FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AND COURTS

FOR OFFENDERS

COLORADO LAWS

STATISTICS

WEBSITES

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Jury Instructions for Criminal Cases

Each year the Colorado Supreme Court’s Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee issues an updated instruction book for juries on criminal cases. This highly detailed document includes laws and information on the jury selection process and information specific to each different crime category, from homicide to traffic offenses and everything in between. The instructions also include comments with legal references, cross references, and relevant case law citations. This guide is an essential resource for judges, attorneys (both prosecution and defense), and other courtroom personnel. Defendants and jury members may also find it helpful in clarifying certain legal matters. You can view the Colorado Jury Instructions – Criminal guide online from our library.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Colorado Attorney General

A.J. Sampson, Colorado’s first state Attorney General.

The Attorney General of Colorado is an elected official tasked with “represent[ing] and defend[ing] the legal interests of the people of Colorado and its sovereignty.” The Attorney General’s Office — comprised of the elected Attorney General and the state’s Department of Law — serves as legal counsel for state government and also focuses on issues of consumer/public safety and representing the state’s interest before the federal government.

Since Colorado became a state, thirty-eight people have served as Colorado’s Attorney General, beginning with A.J. Sampson in 1877. Two Colorado Attorneys General, Gale Norton and Ken Salazar, have served as United States Secretary of the Interior.* Several others have served in Congress. One third of them served in the State Legislature. The office has been held by twenty-three Republicans, twelve Democrats, one Populist, and two elected on the “fusion ticket” of the 1890s — a mix of votes from members of the Populist, Democrat, and Silver Republican parties.

The activities, cases, and opinions of the state Attorney General have been recorded in the office’s Biennial Report. The full run of the reports from 1877 through 1966 can be viewed digitally from our library, along with more recent reports from the past decade. You can also learn more about Colorado’s Attorneys General in The People’s Lawyer: The History of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, published in 2007 by Attorney General John Suthers and his staff. The book examines each Attorney General in detail. You can also find short bios and photos on the History of Colorado’s Attorneys General webpage from the Department of Law.

*Six Secretaries of the Interior have been appointed from Colorado: Henry M. Teller, 1882-1885, under President Arthur; Hubert Work, 1923-1928, under Presidents Harding and Coolidge; Oscar Chapman, 1949-1953, under President Truman; James G. Watt, 1981-1983, under President Reagan; Norton, 2001-2006, under President George W. Bush; and Salazar, 2009-2013, under President Obama.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Judicial Learning Center

The State of Colorado’s judicial branch offers a fun, unique way for all ages to learn about the state’s judicial processes — the Judicial Learning Center.  Developed in partnership with the Colorado Supreme Court Library, “the Learning Center is a 4,000-square-foot museum-style space that is full of interactive, fun, and informative exhibits,” according to their website.  The Learning Center’s website also contains a number of helpful educational resources, including curricula information for schools, lesson plans, and more.  Some of the Learning Center’s interactive exhibits include an animated wall demonstrating the development and application of the Constitution; video interviews of judges; demonstrations of the legal process and court hierarchies; games where the visitor can be the lawyer or the judge; and a touch-screen map of Colorado where visitors can select counties, districts, water divisions, or tribal lands. The Judicial Learning Center is a hands-on, experiential way to teach kids, visitors, new Coloradans, and anyone else about the Colorado court system.

The Learning Center is located in the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center and is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm. 

The Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center is located a 2 E. 14th Avenue (on 14th between Broadway and Lincoln) in downtown Denver.  Photo courtesy Colorado Judicial Branch.
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Admission to the Bar, 1924

This month, as hundreds of recent law school grads prepare to take their bar exams, we look back at the requirements for admission to the Colorado bar in 1924.  Much has changed since that year!  Back then, the examination fee was only $10 (today it’s $710),  and of course the exams were handwritten, not computerized like today.   The oath of admission, beginning on page 24 of the 1924 document, has also changed.  It is now quite a bit shorter and much of the flowery language has been replaced with vernacular.  To compare the 1924 rules with today, click here for the current oath of admission, and here for today’s Supreme Court rules for admission.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Supreme Court Justice – Mandatory Retirement Age

Last week, former Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, Michael Bender, reached the mandatory retirement age for judges.  (See news story here).  According to the Colorado Constitution, judges must be under the age of 72.  See Article VI, Section 20 for the constitutional requirement regarding mandatory retirement age for judges.

As a result, Colorado now has a new justice, William Hood III, while Nancy Rice has stepped into the role of Chief Justice.  For information on all of the state’s seven Supreme Court Justices, visit this page on the Colorado Judicial Branch’s website.  For information on past justices, visit the Colorado Supreme Court Library.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Ralph Carr Judicial Center

The Ralph Carr Judicial Center at 2 E. 14th Ave. in Denver is officially open, with opening ceremonies featuring United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  The building was designed by Fentress Architects, who also designed Denver International Airport, the Colorado Convention Center, the Jefferson County Administration Building (“Taj Mahal”), and other prominent structures around the world.  The new Judicial Center’s design includes neoclassical columns, dome, and other details echoing the nearby State Capitol and City and County Building, with a modern twist.  The building now houses the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado Judicial Branch, Colorado Supreme Court Library, and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.  For interior and exterior photos of the building, see the Judicial Branch’s photo gallery.

The Center is named for Ralph Carr, governor of Colorado during WWII, who stood up for Japanese-Americans at a time when many of them were being sent to relocation camps.  You can find out more about Ralph Carr and view his papers at the Colorado State Archives.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Supreme Court Justices

This past week saw both the appointment of a new Colorado Supreme Court Justice, Brian Boatright, and the death of a former Justice, Luis Rovira, who served from 1979 to 1995. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Justices of Colorado’s Supreme Court, see this page. Here you will find a listing of all Supreme Court Justices since 1859, along with biographical information and searchable by name and by year. You can also read about what the Justices do at the Colorado Supreme Court homepage.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Water Law

Water law is a major issue in Colorado, and our library owns a number of publications on this topic, including

  • Synopsis of Colorado Water Law, 2008
  • Recreational Water Rights, 2006
  • Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Water Law, 2003
  • Groundwater Law Sourcebook of the United States, 2003
  • Negotiating High Stakes Water Conflicts, 2003
  • Justice and Natural Resources, 2002
  • Two Decades of Water Law and Policy Reform, 2001
  • Water and Growth in Colorado: A Review of Legal and Policy Issues, 2001
  • Interstate Water Allocation, 2000
  • The New Watershed Source Book, 2000
  • Vranesh’s Colorado Water Law, 1999
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Capital Punishment in Colorado

Several state websites discuss capital punishment procedures in Colorado. The Dept. of Corrections has the webpage Capital Punishment in Colorado, which is a basic outline of information including privileges granted to death row inmates, procedures for execution day, and statistics. The Colorado Public Defender (which firmly states on their site that they are against capital punishment), has also prepared a webpage on the history of the practice in Colorado. In addition, the non-partisan staff of the Colorado Legislative Council has prepared two Issue Briefs. One, Colorado’s Death Penalty – Back in the Hands of a Jury (2003), explains Colorado’s death penalty’s shift from being decided by a jury, to a change in law that gave the decision to a panel of judges, and then, when that was ruled unconstitutional, given back to the jury. The other Issue Brief, The Death Penalty – Who Decides, Judge or Jury? was published in 2002 during the time when the issue was being debated.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Term Limits and Retention of Judges

This November one of the ballot issues will be Amendment 40, concerning term limits for Supreme Court and appellate judges. This proposal asks voters to decide whether judges should or should not be term limited to four years. Proponents of the measure argue that new judges every four years will add some fresh perspective, while opponents argue that if a judge’s performance is satisfactory, why make them leave? (See the 2006 Blue Book for the Legislative Council’s official description of the measure).

Also on the ballot, (and unrelated to Amendement 40), voters are asked, as they are annually, to vote on whether particular judges should or should not be retained. The Judicial Performance Commission issues recommendations on whether or not judges should be retained, based on the Commission’s evaluation of the judges’ performance. According to the Supreme Court’s pamphlet entitled “Colorado’s Judicial Merit Selection & Retention System,” (available in our library), the commission observes the judges and evaluates them based on several points including integrity, knowledge of the law, communication skills, “preparation, attentiveness, and control over judicial proceedings,” “docket management and prompt case disposition,” “effectiveness in working with participants in the judicial process,” and others. To become a judge, a nominee must have been licensed to practice law in Colorado at least 5 years; must be a “qualified elector of the state,” and must be under age 72 when their name is submitted for nomination.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Common Law Marriage

June is the month for weddings. Some couples, however, choose to skip the formalities and just live together. According to today’s news reports, a recent ruling opens the way for 12 year-old girls and 14 year-old boys to enter into common law marriages because the Colorado General Assembly has not passed a law specifically defining or forbidding them. What constitutes a common law marriage in Colorado? Check out the Colorado Attorney General web site on the topic for more information.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

The Court of Last Resort

The Colorado Supreme Court is indeed the state’s court of last resort and its decisions are binding on all other state courts.
Governor Owens recently appointed a new member to the Supreme Court, Allison Eid of Golden. She is the 95th person to serve and will have a provisional term of two years after which she must stand for retention to serve an additional ten years. Judges serve ten year terms. The Chief Justice is selected from the members of the body and, among other duties, appoints a Chief Judge for each of the state’s 22 judicial districts.
It’s possible to search the opinions of the Colorado Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The Colorado State Publications Library has reports from the Court including The State of the Judiciary (SC1.11/year), special reports, Research Links plus historical reports such as Rules of the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado: in effect January 22, 1917 (SC1.6/1917).