Welcome to Court Crawl, Colorado Politics' roundup of news from the third branch of government. This week, we say goodbye to two trailblazing justices and take note of several consequential decisions from the federal courts.
Hail to the Chief
> The first woman to be chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, Mary Mullarkey, died last week at age 77. She also served for 12 years at the top of the judicial branch, longer than any other person. Those who worked with her told Colorado Politics that "the Chief," as she was known, was a humble, quiet proponent of diversity and inclusion.
• "When I clerked for her, we could debate the hard stuff. We would debate the death penalty and indigenous land rights and affirmative action. She would just, with calm agility, make the arguments for both sides," said Annie T. Kao, a former clerk.
• You can find the final interview Mullarkey gave to Colorado Politics weeks before her death here.
Another trailblazer gone
> Another history-making justice, Gregory Kellam Scott, also died last week at age 72. He was the first Black person to sit on the state Supreme Court, and served between 1993 and 1999.
• "You'd just like to think that courts will have the kind of diverse presence that the state and country have, and that may not happen for a while," said Charles Casteel of Davis Graham & Stubbs, when Scott stepped down in 1999.
He was right: to date, no other Black person has been appointed to the High Court.
Supreme Court schedule
Remember: Oral arguments are taking place this week in Colorado's Supreme Court. You can check the schedule here. There are also two public hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday over rule changes.
A questionable right
> The federal appeals court based in Denver caused a stir last week when a three-judge panel said it did not matter that Denver police officers had received training about the public's right to video record them. Because the courts, not a training module, say what the law is, a right does not exist unless judges decide that it does. No court in the 10th Circuit clearly prohibited officers from taking a bystander's recording device and allegedly deleting a video of police brutality — so the panel granted Denver's officers qualified immunity when they did that.
• "This opinion is an illustrative example of why the judge-made doctrine of qualified immunity should be immediately abolished," said one civil rights attorney afterward.
He said what?!
> At a booze-fueled golf fundraiser for a small school district in eastern Arapahoe County, the school board president allegedly requested that a district employee expose herself. After she reported the comment, the board took away her job duties. A federal judge last week agreed that the sequence of events may point to retaliation.
Vacancies and appointments
> After 15 years on the Court of Appeals, Judge Diana Terry is stepping down. An appointee of Gov. Bill Owens in 2006, Terry is one of 22 members of the appellate court. Applications for the seat are due by April 26 for the vacancy that takes effect July 7.
• The Court Crawl hopes the citizen-led nominating commission will select candidates to mirror Terry's unique skill set. According to her official biography, she is a "featured vocalist in numerous legal-themed musical productions."
> Gov. Jared Polis has appointed Amanda W. DeWick to the Broomfield County Court to succeed Amy E. Bockman. DeWick is a graduate of both the University of Colorado and the University of Denver, and is a civil litigator with Higgins, Hopkins, McLain & Roswell, LLC.
> The White House made it official, choosing Regina M. Rodriguez to fill a vacancy on the seven-member U.S. District Court for Colorado. Rodriguez, a former prosecutor and current corporate attorney, was the sole choice of Colorado's Democratic U.S. senators. She was one of 11 nominees for posts nationwide who were largely women and people of color.
Lawyers find worthy cases among the self-represented
> A program exists at Colorado's federal trial court to match self-represented litigants with lawyers volunteering their time. Attorneys have discovered the cases, which vary from civil rights to prisoner petitions to employment discrimination, sometimes have merit. The problem is that self-represented parties are not legally prepared to take their claims all the way to trial — especially inmates, who face significant restrictions. That is where the pro bono lawyers come in.
In other news
> The 10th Circuit resurrected the claim of a former Denver mayoral candidate against the city, alleging retaliation.
> A circuit panel also reinstated the claim of a Colorado inmate against a prison nurse for refusing to treat his injuries, which later required medical attention.
> Environmental groups seeking to stop Denver Water's expansion of a reservoir in Boulder County experienced a setback when a federal judge ruled the nonprofits filed their claim in the wrong court and subsequently dismissed the case.
> On the other hand, environmental groups challenging a project to kill certain wildlife predators in Colorado were successful in getting a federal judge to reverse the approval.
> Best wishes for the Ninth Judicial District, which resumes jury trials today in Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties.