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Colorado’s top judge will step down after 31 years on the bench

Author: Dan Njegomir - March 8, 2018 - Updated: March 8, 2018

Donna LynneColorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice, left, with Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne and Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2016. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice has announced her retirement effective June 30. She has served on the high court nearly 20 years, the last four as chief justice. She was appointed to the Supreme Court by Democratic former Gov. Roy Romer.

A press release from the state Judicial Department offers this bio on the judge who has helped craft judicial precedent — effectively steering a wide range of state public policy — for two decades:

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.

The Judicial Department listed some milestones during Rice’s time at the helm of the court. Among them:

  • She oversaw completion of electronic filing systems for civil and criminal cases;
  • She advocated for new funding for probation officers and programs to help implement evidence-based programs to aid the rehabilitation of those on probation;
  • She oversaw creation of a program to help counties obtain funding for courthouse improvements and new construction.

What’s next for the high court? Says the department:

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.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.