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Hickenlooper names Samour Jr. as new Supreme Court Justice

May 30, 2018 Updated: May 31, 2018 at 6:06 am
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Gov. John Hickenlooper named Carlos A. Samour Jr. to the Colorado Supreme Court in an announcement Wednesday afternoon at the state Capitol.

"I can promise you that as a justice on the Supreme Court, an associate justice, I will sacrifice, suffer and struggle every day in the pursuit of justice," Samour said at the news conference, where he stood before the six other high court justices.

"I will seek justice every day with tireless exertion and passionate concern, and I will do everything in my power to make Colorado proud," he said

Samour said the perception of justice is as important as justice itself. "If people don't trust the justice system, our democracy fails," he said.

Samour will fill the vacancy left when Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice retires July 1 after 31 years.

"It is a great honor to be appointed to the Supreme Court, the greatest honor of my career, obviously," he said. "But it's also an honor to join these jurists on the Colorado Supreme Court."

Samour is an immigrant whose family fled political upheaval and threats of violence against them in El Salvador. His father was a judge who would not bend justice to accommodate pressure of political forces there. The family of 12 children spoke no English and had no access to their savings in their home country when they arrived in Denver to live with relatives when Samour was 13.

His father took a job driving a school bus and in the summers earned extra money sanding down buses that were to be repainted because he couldn't work in the U.S. legal system. Samour attended Columbine High School, the University of Colorado Denver and received a law degree from the University of Denver.

His father would get up at 4:30 in the morning to drive his bus route and endured freezing temperatures. The hard work and dedication left an impression on his son.

"Here was a man who had been a judge in his homeland, and he was doing whatever it took to make sure his family survived and ensure his family could succeed, to make sure we would have an opportunity to be successful," Samour said. "I owe it all to my parents."

Samour presided over the Aurora Theater shooting trial in 2013 and last year ordered the release of Cuban immigrant Rene Lima-Marin, who was rejailed for armed robbery after he was released by mistake in 2008. Lima-Marin was pardoned by Hickenlooper.

Samour was selected from among three finalists put forth by a Supreme Court Nominating Commission two weeks ago. The other nominees were Maria Berkenkotter of Boulder and Karen L. Brody of Denver.

Samour becomes Hickenlooper's fifth appointment to the seven-member high court since he took office in 2011. In December, he picked University of Colorado law professor Melissa Hart to replace Justice Allison Eid, who was elevated to the federal bench by the Trump administration to fill the appellate court seat left vacant when Neil Gorsuch became a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

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