Ritter picks Marquez for state Supreme Court

By Marianne Goodland

Gov. Bill Ritter Wednesday named Monica Marie Marquez, a deputy attorney general, to the Colorado Supreme Court, effective Nov. 30.

Marquez, 41, will fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey.

Marquez will become the first Hispanic justice as well as the first gay justice to serve on the seven-member Colorado court.

Deputy AG Monica Marquez was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court this week by Gov. Bill Ritter, making her the first Latina to serve on the Court.
Photo by Jamie Cotten/The Colorado Statesman
Andrew Hudson and wife Christine, Monica Marquez, Sheila Barthel, and Cherry and husband Jose Marquez pose after Monica Marquez was appointed to the Supreme Court.
Photo by Jamie Cotten/The Colorado Statesman
Deputy Attorney General Monica Marquez hugs Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher after Gov. Bill Ritter announced his appointment of Marquez to the state Supreme Court on Sep. 8 at the Capitol.
Photo by Jamie Cotten/The Colorado Statesman

Marquez has been a deputy attorney general since 2002, when she represented the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general. In 2009, she was named head of the State Services section, which represents nine of the state’s 16 executive branch agencies. She specializes in appellate litigation and has represented the state in cases on fiscal policy, healthcare, elections, redistricting and campaign finance.

“Today I am pleased to select Deputy Attorney General Monica Marquez to serve on Colorado’s highest court,” Ritter said in announcing her appointment. “Monica has a deep reverence for the role our legal system plays in the everyday lives of Coloradans, and in the inter-relationship between our courts and public policy. She respects the rule of law, is conscientious and will bring an unbiased and just perspective to the court and all the cases that it hears.”

Marquez is a 1987 graduate of Grand Junction High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1991 from Stanford, and the juris doctorate from Yale in 1997, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

“I am both humbled and deeply honored to be appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court,” Marquez said Wednesday. “I look forward to serving the State of Colorado in this new capacity, and I promise to bring an exceptional work ethic, a collaborative spirit, an open mind, and a reverence for the rule of law.”

Marquez received the 2009 Richard Marden Davis Award, a prestigious distinction given by the Denver Bar Association and Davis, Graham and Stubbs to an attorney under the age of 40 who has excelled in the legal profession and achievements in civic, cultural, educational and charitable distinction. 

Prior to attending law school, Marquez taught and worked with inner-city youth in Camden, N.J., and Philadelphia with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and St. Carthage Catholic School. She also currently serves on the boards of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and the Colorado GLBT Bar Association. She also has served as president of the Colorado GLBT Bar Association, and on the Mayor’s GLBT Commission and the Latina Initiative.

In her letter to the nominating commission, Kathleen Nalty, executive director of the Colorado Campaign for Inclusive Excellence, said “As lawyers, we are trained to debate and measure success by our ability to prevail against opposing views. I believe that Monica places equal, if not greater value on the importance of dialogue, recognizing that individuals (and litigants) with different views bring value to the discussion that should be heard and respected. I cannot imagine a personal trait that better exemplifies the notion of judicial temperament.”

Marquez’ current boss, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, praised her selection, saying in a Wednesday statement that Ritter was faced with “a difficult decision between three highly qualified candidates for the state’s highest court. In selecting Deputy Attorney General Marquez, the governor has made an excellent appointment to the Colorado Supreme Court. Monica is one of the brightest attorneys I have worked with in my long career in public service. Her clear, concise writing and sharp legal mind will make her an outstanding addition to the Colorado Supreme Court.”

Marquez’ selection also was praised by Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, whose office currently has 11 lawsuits pending that are being handled by Marquez and her staff. “She has a perfect judicial temperament,” Buescher told The Colorado Statesman. “She believes in the importance of following the law and the constitution, and I have been extremely impressed by the quality of advice [she has] given this office.”

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, and Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, also praised her selection. Shaffer said she would be a fitting choice, given her legal background and experience in the Attorney General’s office. “I’m confident that she will preside over her duties with honor, fairness, and integrity,” Shaffer said. Morse, calling Marquez an outstanding choice, said, “she has a record of fine service on behalf of the people of Colorado. Her qualifications are excellent, and I am confident she will continue to serve the public well in her new role.”

But Matt Arnold of Clear the Bench Colorado said Marquez was “clearly the least qualified of the three nominees” and that her selection was in response to special interest groups rather than judging the nominees on the basis of their qualifications. Arnold said the Hispanic Bar Association had lobbied heavily on her behalf. “It’s unfortunate that they’re pushing identity politics rather than judges on their merits.”

In a press release issued later Wednesday, Arnold added, “Unfortunately, Governor Ritter’s selection of Ms. Marquez will only serve to further erode public confidence in a Colorado Supreme Court already damaged by a decade of highly-politicized, anti-constitutional rulings, since she lacks any judicial experience and seems to have built her entire career on policy and political activism.”

Many of the positions taken by Marquez on constitutional issues raise concerns about how she might rule from the Colorado Supreme Court bench, Arnold said.

“Marquez advocated in favor of the 2003 judicial takeover of legislative redistricting authority in the Salazar v. Davidson redistricting case, argued that “fees” are not taxes in the Barber v. Ritter case (which led to the 2009 Colorado Car Tax — er, vehicle registration “fee” — increases), and has sought to restrict the 1st Amendment rights of citizens seeking to speak out on ballot issues in recent and ongoing cases. She is also the lead attorney in yet another attempt to impose an unconstitutional tax increase on Colorado citizens,” Arnold said.

Marquez was one of three finalists selected from a pool of 31 candidates for the Supreme Court vacancy; the other finalists were El Paso District Judge David Prince and Colorado Appeals Court Judge Robert Russel.

The recommendations for the vacancy came from the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission, which is made up of ten members, including the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, one citizen not admitted to practicing law and representing each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, one citizen who is admitted to practice law, and one additional citizen not admitted to practice law in Colorado.

Marquez will serve a two-year provisional term and will stand for retention for a ten-year term in 2012.