Justice Nathan Coats to Serve as Supreme Court Chief

by Tony Flesor

The Colorado Supreme Court announced today that Justice Nathan Coats will be the court’s next chief justice. The court’s associate justices selected Coats to head the court effective June 30, upon the retirement of Chief Justice Nancy Rice.

Rice announced her retirement in March 2018. She has served a 31-year career as a judge, including nearly 20 years on the state’s highest court and four-and-a-half-years as Chief Justice.

“I am pleased and honored my colleagues have entrusted me with this very important role serving the judiciary and Colorado,” Justice Coats said. “I look forward to continuing to support the initiatives and programs Chief Justice Rice has successfully implemented and to bring forth new projects that will keep Colorado’s judiciary responsive to the state’s needs.”

Coats was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court on April 24, 2000. Prior to his appointment to the bench, he was the chief appellate deputy district attorney for the 2nd Judicial District (Denver County) from 1986 to 2000. He also served in the appellate section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office in the 1970s and ’80s. Coats has served on numerous Colorado Supreme Court committees.

Justice Coats received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Colorado in 1971, and his law degree from the University of Colorado Law School in 1977. Justice Coats is the 46th member of the court to be named chief justice since Colorado’s statehood in 1876.

The chief justice serves as the executive head of the Colorado judicial branch and is the ex-officio chair of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The chief justice appoints the chief judge of the Court of Appeals and the chief judge of each of the state’s 22 judicial districts. Additionally, the chief justice is responsible for maintaining the judicial branch’s relationships with the executive and legislative branches and administering the budget for the judicial branch.

The Colorado judicial branch is the state’s largest unified criminal justice agency and includes the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals as well as the state’s district and county trial courts. The branch is also home to the Department of Probation Services, which employs more than 1,100 people including approximately 900 probation supervisors and officers. The department’s officers are responsible for supervising more than 80,000 adult and juvenile offenders.

With probation, the judicial branch employs approximately 4,200 employees, including 417 justices, judges and magistrates. Last fiscal year, 777,000 cases of all types were heard in the state court system.