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?