Hickenlooper taps Samour as Supreme Court justice

Author: Joey Bunch - May 30, 2018 - Updated: May 31, 2018

Gov. John Hickenlooper named Carlos A. Samour Jr. to the Colorado Supreme Court on Wednesday. (AP file photo)

Gov. John Hickenlooper named Carlos A. Samour Jr. to the Colorado Supreme Court in an announcement at the state Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

“I can promise you that as a justice on the Supreme Court, an associate justice, I will sacrifice, suffer and struggle every day in the pursuit of justice,” he said at the news conference, where he stood before the six other high court justices.

“I will seek justice every day with tireless exertion and passionate concern, and I will do everything in my power to make Colorado proud.”

He said the perception of justice is as important as justice itself.

“If people don’t trust the justice system, our democracy fails,” he said.

Samour will fill the vacancy left when Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice retires July 1 after 31 years.

Carlos A. Samour Jr. addresses reporters at the state Capitol Wednesday after Gov. John Hickenlooper introduced him as the newest member of the Colorado Supreme Court, as the other justices looked on. (Photo by Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics)

“It is a great honor to be appointed to the Supreme Court, the greatest honor of my career, obviously,” he said. “But it’s also an honor to join these jurists on the Colorado Supreme Court.”

Samour is an immigrant whose family fled political upheaval and threats of violence against them in El Salvador. His father was a judge who would not bend justice to accommodate pressure of political forces there. The family of 12 children spoke no English and had no access to their savings in their home country when they arrived in Denver to live with relatives when the new justice was 13 years old.

His father took a job driving a school bus and in the summers earned extra money sanding down buses that were to be repainted, because he couldn’t work in the U.S. legal system. His son attended Columbine High School, the University of Colorado Denver and received a law degree from the University of Denver.

His father would get up at 4:30 in the morning to drive his bus route and endured freezing temperatures behind the driver’s seat of the bus. The hard work and dedication left an impression on his son.

“Here was a man who had been a judge in his homeland, and he was doing whatever it took to make sure his family survived and ensure his family could succeed, to make sure we would have an opportunity to be successful,” Samour said. “I owe it all to my parents.”

Samour presided over the Aurora Theater shooting trial in 2013 and last year ordered the release of Cuban immigrant Rene Lima-Marin who had been re-jailed on theft charges after he was released prematurely in 2008. Lima-Marin was pardoned by Hickenlooper.

Samour was selected from among three finalists put forth by a Supreme Court Nominating Commission two weeks ago.

The other nominees were Maria Berkenkotter of Boulder and Karen L. Brody of Denver.

Samour becomes Hickenlooper’s fifth appointment to the seven-member high court since he took office in 2011. In December he picked University of Colorado law professor Melissa Hart to replace Justice Allison Eid, who was elevated to the federal bench by the Trump administration to fill the appellate court seat left vacant when Neil Gorsuch became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.