The Colorado Legislative Women’s Caucus, a bicameral and bipartisan group of women currently serving in the Colorado General Assembly, aims to build collegiality among its members and to honor the history of women in Colorado.
It did both on Jan. 9 when members hosted a reception to kick off the legislative session. Held in the ornate atrium of the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in the afternoon of the second day of session, the Colorado Legislative Women’s Caucus welcomed back a large number of the 100 legislators, members of the executive branch and the seven Colorado Supreme Court Justices.
There are currently 41 women (13 senators and 28 representatives) serving in the Colorado General Assembly, keeping Colorado as the state with the highest percentage of women serving at the state level.
Suzanne Williams, a former state senator from Aurora who serves as executive director of the group, coordinated the reception, which attracted about 150 guests, among them former Colorado First Ladies Dottie Lamm and Jeannie Ritter.
Earlier, former women senators and representatives joined staff from the Governor’s Office and the Supreme Court Justices for a tour of the newly opened justice center.
Lt. Governor Joe Garcia and his wife Claire, along with the Secretary of Indian Affairs Ernest House, Jr. represented the executive branch. Secretary of State Scott Gessler, Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Attorney General John Suthers were also in attendance.
Justice Greg Hobbs, who is also a superb poet, honored guests with his moving poem about women who have served, noting that Colorado followed the territory of Wyoming in first granting women the right to vote.
Hobbs then introduced new Chief Justice Nancy Rice, the 45th member of the Colorado Supreme Court to serve in that distinguished capacity.
In a letter to the Colorado Bar Association earlier this month, Rice said her leadership philosophy has been shaped by serving Colorado for 30 years.
Rice was a deputy public defender, an assistant U.S. Attorney, a Denver District Court judge, and a Supreme Court justice appointed by Gov. Roy Romer. That experience, she said, “has fortified my deeply held belief in the importance of public service and has taught me the necessity of ongoing education. Now, as Chief, I look forward to developing strategies for achieving the branch’s mission that incorporate these core beliefs,” she said.
Rice said she is also grateful for the opportunity to build on the “robust legacy” left by retired Chief Justice Michael Bender whom she described as “an enthusiastic leader with an unwavering commitment to the judiciary and legal profession.
“Understanding the importance of collaboration in implementing meaningful change, he worked tirelessly to incorporate diverse perspectives as he developed and implemented solutions to the most pressing challenges facing the legal community to date,” Rice wrote. “I look forward to continuing many of Chief Justice Bender’s important initiatives as they relate to promoting education, public service, access to justice, fairness, and efficiency.”
See the Jan. 17 print edition for pull photo coverage.