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CU Law’s Melissa Hart newest member of Colorado Supreme Court

Author: Marianne Goodland - December 14, 2017 - Updated: December 15, 2017

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Melissa Hart, back, a University of Colorado law professor, smiles as she is introduced by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper as the newest member of the Colorado Supreme Court Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2017, during a news conference in the State Capitol in Denver. Hart will take the place of Allison Eid, who was appointed to Denver’s federal appeals court, on the state’s seven-member Supreme Court. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Gov. John Hickenlooper Thursday named CU law professor Melissa Hart as his next appointment to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Hart, 48, will replace Justice Allison Eid, who was named by President Donald Trump to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Eid was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for the post on Nov. 2. She replaced Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump named to the U.S. Supreme Court last January.

During a Thursday press conference attended by the other six members of the Colorado Supreme Court, Hickenlooper said he is encouraged by Hart’s “ideas on how to make the judicial system more effective, efficient and less expensive.”

“She is without question a brilliant legal mind. I have dozens of recommendations from lawyers and judges from all over the state, attesting to her intellectual capacity,” Hickenlooper said in making the announcement. Hickenlooper also noted Hart’s volunteer experience on family and adoption cases, and her representation of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students seeking legal status.

Hart is a tenured full professor at the CU law school and director of the University of Colorado Byron R. White Center for Constitutional Law. She has been a law professor at CU since 2000, with a focus on employment discrimination, due process, access to justice and constitutional law. A graduate of Harvard-Radcliffe and with a law degree from Harvard, Hart clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the Second Circuit, and for Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. She also worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Hart told Colorado Politics her years in academia have been spent digesting and writing about tough legal questions.

“That’s exactly what I will have to do to hit the ground running on the court,” she said.

Justice Eid had also been on the faculty at CU law school when she was appointed to the state’s highest court. Hart will continue to teach at the law school, according to the university.

CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano, in a statement issued Thursday, lauded Hart as “part of a growing legacy at CU Boulder of state and federal supreme court appointments. We are proud of Professor Hart, and we are pleased she will continue to share her expertise on constitutional law issues with our students.”

Colorado Law Dean S. James Anaya said Hart’s “legal acumen, coupled with her commitment to public service, make her an ideal selection to the Colorado Supreme Court.”

Hart was a finalist for the Supreme Court once before, in 2015, but Hickenlooper instead appointed Richard Gabriel. She was one of three nominees for Eid’s replacement, along with Holland & Hart attorney Marcy Glenn of Denver and Judge Pattie P. Swift of the 12th Judicial District Court in Alamosa. 

Hart is a registered Democrat who ran for the at-large University of Colorado regent seat in 2010. Her biggest contributions came from teacher and labor unions as well as county and state Democratic party coffers. She lost that race, gaining 40 percent of the vote to 46 percent to incumbent Steve Bosley of Boulder.

Hart’s appointment is effective immediately. She will stand for voter retention in 2020 and if approved for retention, will be voted on every ten years thereafter.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.