The Colorado judiciary is on the verge of a low point of black judges sitting on more than one level of the bench. Judge William Robbins of the Denver District Court will retire in December, leaving a lack of black judges on any district bench in the state. And Court of Appeals Judge Karen Ashby will retire in 2019, meaning there will not be any black judges on Colorado’s appellate courts. The Supreme Court has one black justice in its history, Gregory Kellam Scott. According to 2017 data provided by the judiciary’s public information office, just 1.2 percent of judges in the state self-identified as black or African American, though the data does not include county court judges.
Those numbers paint a picture that doesn’t look much better than when Denver County Court Judge Gary Jackson joined the Denver District Attorney’s Office in the early 1970s. At the time, Colorado had two black judges.
In an effort to address the representation gap, the Sam Cary Bar Association hosted a CLE Wednesday night to encourage members to apply for judicial positions. A panel of current and retired black state judges spoke about why they decided to join the judiciary,and offered advice to attendees about the application and nomination process.