Controversial Colo. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey to Step Down: Retirement May Be Prompted by Clear the Bench Movement

After 23 years sitting on the bench of the  Colorado Supreme Court , Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, 66, decided “now was the right time to step down and pursue other interests,” according to a press release from the Colorado Judicial Branch.   Chief Juctice Mularkey is one of four justices targeted by Clear the Bench Colorado, for a no-retention vote this November.

The movement stems from votes upholding unconstitutional property tax increases and the so-called dirty dozen tax increases – a result of calling these otherwise TABOR-violating tax increases  “fees” or the elimination of “exemptions.”  Mularkey is targeted along with three other Colorado Supreme Court justices up for retention vote this November.  The other three are Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, and Nancy Rice.

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission later this summer will interview applicants for the upcoming vacancy and nominate three candidates to the governor, who then will appoint a new associate justice.   Members of the court will select a new chief justice.

Unfortunately, the governor doing the appointing will still be career prosecutor, and lame-duck gubernatorial disaster, Democrat Bill Ritter.  ExPat ExLawyer will be reporting in detail on how to best get an appropriate replacement appointed for Justice Mularkey.

The root of the problem in the Colorado judiciary extends well beyond these four justices.  The retention criteria themselves are artificially limited to exclude issues that should be considered before a rubber stamp is given to the voters by the Commission on Judicial Performance. Larimer County District Court judges Jolene Blair and Terry Gilmore committed egregious prosecutorial misconduct in a murder case when they were DAs by withholding and manufacturing evidence.  That misconduct resulted in an undisputably innocent man, Tim Masters,  going to prison for 10 years, the guilty suspect likely going free, and Larimer County paying a $4.1 million dollar judgment to Masters.

Incredibly, because the misconduct was not proved until Gilmore and Blair were already appointed to the bench, the Commission on Judicial Performance deems it irrelevant to their “retention” recommendations.   The misconduct resulted in rare disciplinary action by the Colorado Supreme Court for ethical violations by a prosecutor.  Ironically, these two are free to consider a defendant’s entire life history when pronouncing their judgments.  I will be devoting a major portion of blogging effort to researching and writing about what needs to be done to make Colorado’s judiciary more accountable to the public.

Updated: Chief Justice Mullarkey’s decision now, more than six months before her actual retirement date has the following logic:  All judges up for retention in November must announce in August whether they will stand for retention.  Here’s a question.  If the Chief can wait until November 30, why not hang on a little over a month more and allow the new Governor to make the appointment?

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7 responses to “Controversial Colo. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey to Step Down: Retirement May Be Prompted by Clear the Bench Movement

  1. As you point out, celebration would be premature. Now we only get to throw 3 of the buggers out; we’ll have to wait until we can get whoever Ritter appoints.

    • Al,

      I’d take it further, and see what we can do now with this obvious ploy to give the Rittercritter another appointment. After two years they have the power of incumbency and of course another “retain” recommendation from judicial performance. That should be Plan B.

      Perhaps Obama has persuaded me of the wisdom of Saul Alinsky, but I think we need to act now, and use some friendly persuasion to help the Chief Justice undertand the equities of hanging on a mere month longer so that new Gov can make the appointment. Heck, even if Hick is the new Gov it has to be an improvement.

  2. There is a very formal nominating process, with room for public input. All of us need to get that out to as many people as possible as early as possible.

    Ironically, I was just emailing the head of the Comm. on Judicial performance for an interview about my judicial branch concerns, then returned to my inbox to see the press release on the CJ’s resignation.

    That’s the kind of quick action from government I like to see!

  3. Chief Justice Mullarkey’s insight that “now was the right time to step down and pursue other interests,” is unquestionably related to the “tough fight” she was facing to retain her office in the face of the growing impact and momentum of the Clear The Bench Colorado movement to restore accountability to the judiciary.

    http://www.clearthebenchcolorado.org/2010/06/03/colorado-supreme-court-chief-justice-mary-mullarkey-announces-impending-retirement/

    The timing of the effective date of her retirement (Nov. 30th) is indeed curious – there’s more here than meets the eye.

    In addition to maintaining the opportunity to rule on pending cases – including many which may affect what’s on the ballot this November – she also retains her power to appoint members to many commissions.

    Most importantly, Mullarkey’s retirement must not distract us from the fact that three of her colleagues – equally anti-constitutional in their rulings – remain subject to a vote in the upcoming elections.

    • All good points. I think we all need to figure out a way to get her to hold off a month longer on this retirement. Moreover, it’s not just three more that need to be “cleared.” The two legal losers from Larimer need to go, and likely will.

      I certainly don’t wish to dilute the efforts of Clear the Bench, but I think there’s momentum going right now that we all need to take advantage of. The root of the problem is the same for the entire Colorado Judiciary – the Colorado Supreme Court’s virtually unchecked power.

  4. Excellent post, Laura.

    No one in the GOP should rejoice. Clear the Bench will eventually realize this is a case of, “Be careful what you ask for; you just may get it!”

    Ritter will nominate someone who is indistinguishable politically and doctrinally from Mullarkey. Her replacement will be even more legally nihilistic and concerned with serving the interests of the City of Denver and the Democratic machine at the expense of the truth and the law than she, and will be on the bench for 20+ years.

    Please note that, whereas the Masters prosecutors received a mere “public censure” for knowingly sending an innocent kid to prison, I have been virtually disbarred by Mullarkey’s corrupt Court (as a favor to the City of Denver and former or current City Attorneys Cole Finegan and David Fine) in reprisal for winning a $1.22 million ADEA jury verdict, and subsequent $850,000 settlement, from the City.

    Mullarkey and Finegan sought to interfere with prosecution of former District Judge and new Denver City Attorney Larry Manzanares for his indisputable theft of a laptop from the Denver District Court.

    Great offenses to the law and the truth by those with friends in high places are hardly worthy of punishment, in the view of these apparatchiks, whereas those who fight successfully for the little guy, and have no friends in high places, merit defamation and destruction of their career. Sovietic.

  5. I gotta love the use of the word “apparatchik” as I, too, have been reminded of Soviet terms and methods of late.

    We do get a chance to vote out Malarkey’s replacement after 2 yrs AFAIK so if we can keep the pressure on, it may not be quite so bleak.

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