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Colorado Court of Appeals

The Colorado Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals in Colorado plays a crucial intermediary role within the Colorado judicial system, evaluating appeals from lower courts. Our guide addresses the court’s jurisdiction, procedural nuances, and the significance of its rulings.

Key Facts

  • The Colorado Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court with a broad mandate that includes reviewing final judgments from District Courts and decisions by state administrative agencies. However, certain cases, like death penalty appeals, go directly to the Colorado Supreme Court.
  • Composed of twenty-two judges who rotate every four months in three-judge panels, the Court of Appeals ensures diverse opinions and collaborative decision-making in its interpretation of the law.
  • Despite an increasing caseload, the Colorado Court of Appeals remains committed to timely justice. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, it resolved 2,405 cases through multiple methods, including written opinions and dismissals.

The Role and Jurisdiction of the Colorado Court of Appeals

Court-of-Appeals-ColoradoThe Colorado Court of Appeals, often referred to as the state’s intermediate appellate court, is pivotal in the state’s judicial process. Its jurisdiction extends over final judgments from Colorado District Courts and decisions made by state administrative agencies. This broad mandate allows the intermediate appellate courts to review and rectify errors that may have occurred in earlier proceedings, ensuring the delivery of justice remains fair and accurate.

However, it’s essential to note that the court’s specific appellate jurisdiction harbors exceptions. Certain cases, such as death penalty appeals and those involving constitutional questions, are handled directly by the Colorado Supreme Court to ensure that cases of profound public importance receive the highest judicial scrutiny.

Decisions made by the Colorado Court of Appeals, also known as appeals decisions, are final but can be reviewed by the Colorado Supreme Court if chosen for further examination.

Initial Jurisdiction

The Colorado Court of Appeals has initial jurisdiction over appeals from the Colorado District Courts, Denver Probate Court, and Denver Juvenile Court, meaning it is the first court to hear appeals from these lower courts. This initial jurisdiction means that the court serves as the first port of call for parties seeking to contest decisions made by these courts. Thus, the court plays a pivotal role in ensuring that any errors made at the trial court level are corrected.

However, the path of appeal can sometimes be complicated. Appeals from county court decisions can reach the Colorado Court of Appeals after being appealed to and through the district courts. Moreover, in some instances, decisions from the district courts may be directly appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals entirely.

This complex web of jurisdiction underscores the intricacies of Colorado’s appellate system and the pivotal role the Colorado Court of Appeals plays within it.

Composition and Structure of the Court

Colorado-Court-of-AppealsThe Colorado Court of Appeals comprises twenty-two judges, including the position of Chief Judge. This large number of judges underscores the court’s importance and workload within the Colorado judicial system. Furthermore, the large number of judges ensures a diversity of opinion, enriching the court’s decision-making process.

The court operates on a panel system, with judges serving in three-member divisions. These divisions are assigned randomly and rotate every four months to maintain a balance and diversity of opinion within the court’s decisions. As the court sits, the Chief Judge, with the approval of the Chief Justice, assigns judges to divisions and serves on special divisions handling specific types of cases. This system underscores the collaborative nature of the court’s operations.

The Panel System

The panel system is the cornerstone of the Colorado Court of Appeals’ operations. Under this system:

  • Judges sit in divisions of three to hear cases and make decisions.
  • This structure allows for a diversity of opinions.
  • It promotes collaboration among judges, enhancing the quality of the court’s decisions.

Judges on these panels rotate, allowing collaboration with various colleagues. Cases come before the three-judge division only after the court verifies its jurisdiction and receives all necessary briefs. This rigorous process ensures every case receives the attention it deserves, underscoring the court’s commitment to justice.

The Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center

Ralph-Carr-Judicial-Center-Court-of-Appeals-ColoradoThe Colorado Court of Appeals is housed in the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in Denver, Colorado. Named after Colorado’s 29th governor, the center serves not only as the court’s headquarters but also as an accessible and educational meeting place for Colorado citizens. This commitment to public accessibility reflects the court’s dedication to transparency and education.

The Judicial Center is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., excluding weekends and holidays. This accessibility allows law students, aspiring attorneys, and members of the public to observe the appellate process.

This open-door policy helps demystify the court’s operations and promotes a better understanding of the judicial process among the public.

The Judges of the Colorado Court of Appeals

Colorado-Court-of-Appeals-JudgesTo be eligible to serve on the Colorado Court of Appeals, a person must be a qualified elector within Colorado and have practiced law in the state for a minimum of five years. This requirement ensures that only seasoned legal professionals, well-versed in Colorado law and the state’s legal landscape, make it to the bench.

The Colorado Court of Appeals judges are also obligated to retire at 72, ensuring the bench remains vibrant and abreast of evolving legal concepts.

Appointment Process

Appointing judges to the Colorado Court of Appeals is a rigorous and meticulous process. The process involves the following steps:

  1. The Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission puts together a list of qualified candidates for the position of judge at the Colorado Court of Appeals.
  2. The list of candidates is then presented to the governor.
  3. The governor selects a nominee from the list to fill a judgeship at the Colorado Court of Appeals.

This rigorous selection process ensures that only the most qualified and deserving candidates make it to the bench.

Terms and Retention

Colorado Court of Appeals judges first serve a minimum of two years. This initial term provides an opportunity for judges to acquaint themselves with the court’s workings and their role within it. Following this initial two-year term, judges must stand for retention in a yes-no election and serve a full term of eight years if retained.

This retention process ensures that judges who have proven their competence and impartiality can continue to serve on the bench.

Caseload and Timely Resolutions

Court-of-Appeals-Colorado-CasesOver the past two decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the volume of cases handled by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

This surge reflects the state’s growing complexity and diversity of legal disputes. Despite this increase in workload, each judge handles a substantial workload encompassing:

  • Authored opinions
  • Case reviews
  • Research
  • Participation in adjudication

The court is committed to delivering clear, impartial, and timely resolutions. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, the court resolved 2,405 cases through various methods, including written opinions, dismissals, and other resolutions such as case closures, consolidations, or transfers. This efficient resolution of cases is a testament to the court’s commitment to upholding justice and ensuring timely outcomes for all parties involved.

Interaction with Other Colorado Courts

The Colorado Court of Appeals does not operate in isolation. Instead, it interacts closely with other courts within the Colorado judicial system. Reviews of the decisions made by the Colorado Court of Appeals are directed to the Colorado Supreme Court, highlighting the system’s checks and balances.

When divisions of the Court of Appeals have differing opinions, such discrepancies can influence the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to grant certiorari. The Colorado Court of Appeals typically acts as the first appellate court for decisions from the district courts, the Denver Probate Court, and the Denver Juvenile Court.

The Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center is the shared location for the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Court of Appeals, and other legal agencies. These interactions underscore the interconnectedness of Colorado’s judicial system.

Industrial Claim Appeals Office

The Industrial Claim Appeals Office (ICAO) is a division within the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that reviews unemployment insurance decisions from hearing officers and workers’ compensation decisions from administrative law judges.

This specialized office is critical in ensuring that workers’ rights are protected and that unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation decisions are fair and accurate. Decisions made by the Industrial Claim Appeals Panel within the ICAO are considered the final action of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The Panel, comprised of five Administrative Law Judges, reviews appeals using the evidence presented during the original hearing. It has the authority to:

  • affirm
  • correct
  • reverse
  • set aside the original decision
  • remand the case for a new hearing or decision

This review process underscores the essential checks and balances within the Colorado judicial system.

Oral Arguments and Appellate Decisions

Oral arguments provide a crucial opportunity for parties to clarify their positions and answer questions from judges, potentially influencing the court’s decision.

These arguments allow judges to probe deeper into the issues at hand and provide parties with a platform to highlight the critical points of their case. In cases presenting new legal issues or of great public importance, oral arguments can substantially impact the court in resolving complex questions and considering broader implications.

Preparation for oral arguments can be rigorous and costly, involving thorough review and practice to handle the pressured environment of appellate advocacy effectively. The court has discretion over whether to hold oral arguments, which are typically granted but can be denied.

Oral arguments are made accessible through live streaming and remote participation policies. This transparency underscores the court’s commitment to public accessibility and justice.

Resources and External Links

Numerous resources and external links are available for those interested in delving deeper into the workings of the Colorado Court of Appeals and the broader Colorado judicial system. Here are some options:

  • The Colorado Court of Appeals official website offers comprehensive information and resources.
  • The Colorado Judicial Learning Center offers interactive exhibits and educational resources about the state’s judicial system.
  • The Colorado Supreme Court Library also offers legal research and reference assistance to the public, bench, and bar.

For a broader perspective, the following resources can provide more information on courts and appellate procedures:

  • The National Center for State Courts offers materials and information on state courts.
  • The National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks details appellate court clerks’ functions.
  • The Colorado Court of Appeals provides an external link to the United States Supreme Court.

These resources can help you better understand the court system, appellate procedures, and the inherent powers granted to the judiciary.


The Colorado Court of Appeals plays a pivotal role in the intricate puzzle of Colorado’s judicial system. Its broad jurisdiction, panel system, and commitment to delivering clear, impartial, and timely resolutions make it a cornerstone of justice in the state.

From its establishment under the Colorado Constitution to its current operations at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, the court ensures that justice is served fairly and precisely.

The judges at the court, selected through a rigorous appointment process and serving terms governed by strict guidelines, apply their legal expertise to a wide range of cases. With the support of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office and in interaction with other Colorado courts, the Colorado Court of Appeals continues to shape the state’s legal landscape.

As we navigate the complex world of law and justice, the Colorado Court of Appeals stands as a beacon of fairness, impartiality, and dedication to the rule of law.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the rule 8 in the Colorado Court of Appeals?

In the Colorado Court of Appeals, Rule 8 states that a party must typically make the initial motion in the district court for specific relief during an appeal, including a stay of the judgment or order, approval of a supersedeas bond, and injunction-related orders.

What is the rule 3 in the Colorado Court of Appeals?

Rule 3 in the Colorado Court of Appeals allows an appeal of an order denying a petition filed by a minor or someone acting on their behalf by promptly filing a “notice of appeal.”

What does the Colorado Court of Appeals do?

The Colorado Court of Appeals, per the law, provides transparent, impartial, and timely resolutions of appealed orders and judgments. It is responsible for assigning judges to divisions and rotating their assignments to fulfill its mission.

What is the role of the Colorado Court of Appeals?

The Colorado Court of Appeals reviews final judgments from district courts and decisions made by state administrative agencies. It serves as the first appellate court for decisions from various Colorado courts.

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