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CU Law's Melissa Hart newest member of Colorado Supreme Court

December 14, 2017 Updated: December 14, 2017 at 10:44 pm
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Hickenlooper names Boulder law professor Melissa Hart to Colorado Supreme Court (colorado.edu)

Gov. John Hickenlooper Thursday named CU law professor Melissa Hart as his next appointment to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Hart, 48, will replace Justice Allison Eid, who was named by President Donald Trump to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Eid was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for the post on Nov. 2. She replaced Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump named to the U.S. Supreme Court last January.

During a Thursday press conference attended by the other six members of the Colorado Supreme Court, Hickenlooper said he is encouraged by Hart's "ideas on how to make the judicial system more effective, efficient and less expensive."

"She is without question a brilliant legal mind. I have dozens of recommendations from lawyers and judges from all over the state, attesting to her intellectual capacity," Hickenlooper said in making the announcement.

Hickenlooper also noted Hart's volunteer experience on family and adoption cases, and her representation of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students seeking legal status.

Hart is a tenured full professor at the CU law school and director of the University of Colorado Byron R. White Center for Constitutional Law. She has been a law professor at CU since 2000, with a focus on employment discrimination, due process, access to justice and constitutional law.

A graduate of Harvard-Radcliffe and with a law degree from Harvard, Hart clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the Second Circuit, and for Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. She also worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Hart told Colorado Politics her years in academia have been spent digesting and writing about tough legal questions.

"That's exactly what I will have to do to hit the ground running on the court," she said.

Justice Eid had also been on the faculty at CU law school when she was appointed to the state's highest court. Hart will continue to teach at the law school, according to the university.

CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano, in a statement issued Thursday, lauded Hart as "part of a growing legacy at CU Boulder of state and federal supreme court appointments. We are proud of Professor Hart, and we are pleased she will continue to share her expertise on constitutional law issues with our students."

Colorado Law Dean S. James Anaya said Hart's "legal acumen, coupled with her commitment to public service, make her an ideal selection to the Colorado Supreme Court."

Hart was a finalist for the Supreme Court once before, in 2015, but Hickenlooper instead appointed Richard Gabriel.

She was one of three nominees for Eid's replacement, along with Holland & Hart attorney Marcy Glenn of Denver and Judge Pattie P. Swift of the 12th Judicial District Court in Alamosa. 

Hart is a registered Democrat who ran for the at-large University of Colorado regent seat in 2010. Her biggest contributions came from teacher and labor unions as well as county and state Democratic party coffers. She lost that race, gaining 40 percent of the vote to 46 percent to incumbent Steve Bosley of Boulder.

Hart's appointment is effective immediately. She will stand for voter retention in 2020 and if approved for retention, will be voted on every ten years thereafter.

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