The Colorado Supreme Court’s term 2010-2011 recently concluded. The Court does not hear oral argument during the months of July and August and it generally refrains from issuing opinions during this time, although it does continue to rule on cert petitions and C.A.R. 21 petitions.
The most recent term was one of significant change to the Court. After twelve years, the Court elected a new chief justice when Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey retired and Justice Michael Bender was elevated to the position. On December 10th, Justice Monica Marquez was sworn in as a new associate justice.
The Court issued 86 opinions during this most recent term. Looking at the composition of the Court’s docket: 52 (60%) of the opinions were appeals of judgments entered by Colo. Court of Appeals; 8 (9%) of the opinions were appeals from the water courts; 10 (11.5%) were appeals pursuant to C.A.R. 21; 13 (15%) were interlocutory appeals from the district court; 1 was an interlocutory appeal from a county court; and 2 opinions involved the Court’s oversight of the legal profession.
49 (57%) of the Court’s opinions were unanimous. Historically, the Court has manifested an ideological split between four liberal justices — Mullarkey, Hobbs, Bender, and Martinez — and three conservative justices — Rice, Eid, and Coats. Earlier this term, my co-blogger Peter Krumholz speculated as to how the retirement of Chief Justice Mullarkey, and the addition of Justice Marquez, might affect the Court’s ideological breakdown.
For this most recent term at least, the traditional pattern has held. The Court issued fourteen opinions in which three justices dissented from at least part of the majority’s decision. Of those fourteen opinions, Justices Rice, Eid, and Coats were together in dissent nine times.
Turning to individual voting patterns of certain justices, this year’s majoritarian award goes to my old boss, Justice Hobbs. He voted with the majority in 85 of the 86 opinions issued (98.8%). In a single case, he joined a concurring opinion written by Justice Martinez.
Former Chief Justice Mullarkey participated in 27 of the Court’s opinions this year (through the December 13, 2010 announcements). She voted in the majority in 26 of those opinions and joined one dissent.
On the other end of the spectrum, Justice Eid voted in the majority in only 61 (71%) cases. She wrote, or joined, 21 dissenting opinions and six concurring opinions.
Justice Marquez voted in 52 cases during this term. She recused herself from seven cases that were decided after she joined the Court. She voted in the majority in 47 cases (90%) and dissented in 5 cases.