DENVER – Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice announced she will retire effective June 30 after 31 years as a judge, including nearly 20 years as a member of Colorado’s highest court and four-and-a-half years as chief justice.
“It’s the greatest honor of my life to have served Colorado as a judge for most of my career,” Chief Justice Rice said. “I’m extremely proud of our system of justice in Colorado, which serves as a model for the nation in just and efficient outcomes. This wouldn’t be possible without our thousands of dedicated judicial officers and employees. I will sincerely miss being a part of this great system.”
Chief Justice Rice, 67, was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court in 1998, and was selected by the members of the Court to serve as chief justice in 2013. Before that, she served as a District Court judge in the Second Judicial District (Denver) from 1987 to 1998. Before taking the bench, Chief Justice Rice served as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1977 to 1987 and as the deputy chief of the appellate division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado from 1985 to 1987. She also served as a deputy state public defender in the appellate division from 1975 to 1976. Chief Justice Rice received her undergraduate degree from Tufts University in 1972 and her law degree from the University of Utah College of Law in 1975. She has served as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Colorado Law School and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
“Chief Justice Rice’s leadership has helped bring about significant progress in numerous aspects of Colorado’s judicial system,” said State Court Administrator Christopher T. Ryan. “In the many years I’ve known and worked with her, she’s been a staunch supporter of our efforts to ensure everybody has access to the justice system and has worked tirelessly to support many initiatives to improve the system.”
During Chief Justice Rice’s time as head of the Judicial Department, she has overseen completion of electronic filing systems for civil and criminal cases, and she has advocated for new funding for probation officers and programs to help implement evidence-based programs to aid the rehabilitation of probationers while protecting public safety.
Also during her tenure, the Judicial Department, with help from the General Assembly, created a program to help counties obtain funding for courthouse improvements and new construction, helping to improve security, efficiency, and comfort in many courthouses around Colorado.
Chief Justice Rice also formed commissions and task forces to address issues important to the Judicial Department and the public. For example, she recently formed a blue ribbon commission to review and analyze bail and other pretrial-release services, and in 2015 she authorized each of the state’s 22 judicial districts to create task forces to study security and safety issues surrounding juveniles in courtrooms and develop tailored plans.
Another task force created during Chief Justice Rice’s tenure analyzed truancy petitions in the courts and helped greatly reduce the number of children ordered to detention in truancy cases. In other initiatives, the Judicial Department obtained resources from the General Assembly that allowed the department to increase the number and compensation of language interpreters, to expand the number of problem-solving courts around the state and to begin accrediting problem-solving courts to ensure they remain effective.
The Supreme Court Nominating Commission soon will interview applicants for the upcoming vacancy and nominate three candidates to the governor, who will appoint a new justice. Members of the Court will select a new chief justice, who will begin serving in that capacity upon Chief Justice Rice’s departure.