Gov. John Hickenlooper names Melissa Hart as the state’s next Supreme Court justice.

(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday chose Melissa Hart, a law professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, as the state’s next Supreme Court justice.

Hart will fill the seat vacated when former Justice Allison Eid was confirmed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in November. Eid replaced Neil Gorsuch, who is now a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

“There were three great candidates. I don’t remember seeing three more different, more talented candidates. In the end, Melissa talked about things that I care about and I think the state cares about,” the governor told Colorado Matters in an interview Thursday afternoon shortly before making his choice public.

“Her reputation was as a kind of liberal academic and the bottom line is that I thought she spoke in a more pro-business sense than either of the two other candidates,” he said, while also praising her approach to managing the accessibility and workload of the court.

“How to use tech to lower the cost of our judicial system. How to make sure that more people have access to justice and legal representation, again without increasing cost,” Hickenlooper said. “The ways in which the court could deliver their opinions, and the clarity of the opinions, how it could actually reduce litigation.”

"I'm very honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to serve Colorado in this capacity," Hart said. "I will be devoted to the rule of law and to treating all parties fairly, in every case. I will do my best to make sure our court system is efficient and fair, and that the work it does is clear and transparent."

A 1995 graduate of Harvard Law School, Hart clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens on the United States Supreme Court and was a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Hart has taught at CU Boulder since 2000. She is the director of CU’s Byron R. White Center, which has a mission to educate and inform the public about constitutional law.

“Melissa Hart will serve the people of Colorado as she has served the students of Colorado Law: fairly, capably, and with deep compassion,” said Colorado Law Dean S. James Anaya.

Hickenlooper has now chosen more than half of the Colorado Supreme Court’s seven current justices. Brian Boatright was seated in 2011, William Hood in 2014, and Richard Gabriel in 2015. She will be one of three female justices on the current court, the others being Chief Justice Nancy Rice and Justice Monica Márquez.

Other candidates Hickenlooper considered were Marcy Glenn, an attorney at the Denver law firm Holland & Hart, and Pattie Swift, a judge in Alamosa.

Glenn joined Holland & Hart in 1983. The firm’s website says she is recognized as a leading appellate lawyer in Colorado and has represented clients in the U.S. Supreme Court. Before that, she clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch.

Swift has been a District Court judge in Alamosa since 2003. Prior to that, she was a County Court judge in nearby Costilla County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1989.