Late last week it was announced that Jusitce Nathan Coats will be the court’s next Chief Justice of the
Colorado Supreme Court. His post will begin June 30 when current Chief Justice, Nancy Rice retires.
Chief Justice Rice has worked as a member of the body of the Colorado Supreme Court for nearly 20
years. She is retiring after less than five years as the Chief Justice and is the second justice to leave the
Colorado Supreme Court in recent months.
Christopher Jackson, an appellate lawyer who is a close follower of the Colorado’s Supreme Court told
The Denver Post that Chief Justice Rice’s resignation was “a little unexpected”, however, Rice told the
Denver Post that it has been the “greatest honor” or her life to have served Colorado as a judge and
that, while ready to move on, she is “extremely proud of our system of justice in Colorado, which serves
as a model for the nation in just and efficient outcomes”.
Justice Rice’s successor, Justice Coats, has been working in law for over 40 years and has served on
numerous Colorado Supreme Court committees. He was first appointed to the supreme court in 2000
and has worked there ever since.
Taking on the lead role in state’s most powerful court will be no easy feat for Justice Coats. Appellate
lawyer, Jackson stated that he thinks the transition could have a "pretty significant” effect, and that
“there are a lot of committees and organizations that the Chief Justice was involved in that [will be]
Certainly, Justice Coats’ role will be no easy feat. As Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, Coats
will soon be responsible for appointing the chief judge in the Court of Appeals as well as the chief judge
for each of the state’s 22 judicial districts, and will be taking on responsibility for the state’s largest
unified criminal justice agency. The agency includes the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the state’s
district and country courts, and the Department of Probation Services.
In an interview with Law Week Colorado, Justice Coats calmly stated that he is “pleased and honored” to
be taking on the role of Chief Justice. To have been selected as Rice’s replacement, Coats had to
undergo an interview process with the Supreme Court Nominating Commission, be selected as one of
three candidates by Gov. John Hickenlooper to become a Justice and then wait for the Members of the
Court to select their new Chief Justice.
Coats told The Denver Post he will be “continuing to support the initiatives and programs Chief Justice
Rice has successfully implemented” while also displaying an eagerness to creating new projects himself
in a bid to “keep Colorado’s judiciary responsive to the state’s needs.”