As Chief Justice, what do you view as the most important part of your job? I think it’s really important that the Colorado Supreme Court and the entire Judicial Branch be well regarded and well respected. I also feel that people need to understand what it is we do and how hard everybody works to try to be fair. I spend every day working on those exact issues, to try to make us as transparent, as professional, as hard working as we can be and to educate people about us. Is being fair a fundamental goal for you? Definitely, this is my focus. Somebody is always going to win, somebody is going to lose, that’s just the nature of our business. But it’s really important that we be open minded, good listeners, be thoughtful and above politics. That’s the umbrella that I’m talking about when I say we need to be fair. Are you protected to the point of being isolated? Well, it’s really part of my job not to be isolated. I talk with people whenever I get the opportunity and I enjoy that. Whenever I can be friendly and outgoing, I’m out there. I talk with the legislators, students, and anybody pretty much who wants me to come talk to them. I give a couple of presentations a week all over the state. Is this job more time consuming, difficult, or stressful that you originally thought it would be? This is a huge job, no question about it. As a Justice, we hear around 120 cases a year with oral arguments. Then we decide another 20-30 cases without oral arguments. That’s a lot because every case is so important and it takes so long to decide. I’m also the administrative head for the entire judicial branch all over Colorado and I also teach at the University of Colorado Law School. So there are more demands on my time and work gets shifted to the evenings and the weekends. It’s taken a little while for me to get the hang of it. How do the Justices relate to each other? Are you social friends or just professional colleagues? We’re a very collegial court and really very friendly. It’s quite important that we listen to and respect each other. On Thursdays we have conference when we make all of our decisions and after that everyone goes out to lunch together. Doing this reinforces that we’re a court and decisions are not personal. And we also have a lot of fun. We laugh, tell jokes, and it’s almost like a family feeling because we know each other so well. Have you had the chance to meet the 49 other state Chief Justices? I know most of the other Chief Justices because once a year we all get together as a group. It’s very useful because we really get to talk about what it’s like to be in our position and how everyone manages things. Every single one of the Chief Justices is extremely committed and works very hard. Tell me about the “Sherlock” system that’s been instituted within the judicial branch? Many folks either don’t want an attorney or can’t afford one and they want to do things for themselves. So under our Access to Justice program we’ve hired “Sherlock’s,” as in Sherlock Holmes, in all 22 of our judicial districts who answer questions about our legal system or direct people to what they need. In 2014 we had over 100,000 people come into the courthouses asking for help. We never anticipated this kind of need and it’s become a big expenditure on the part of the judicial branch. Do you have any heroes outside of the legal system? Annika Sorenstam is pretty cool, as well as Marin Alsop. I admire Marin a lot as a conductor, as well as for her charismatic personality and her tremendous accomplishments musically. Tell me about your own musical interests. My mother and aunt were both professional musicians. I started the cello at a very young age and still play today in a judges string quartet that’s kind of fun. We don’t play nearly enough. And your golf? Are you a tough competitor? I used to play pretty often but I don’t have the time since I became Chief. I would like to get back to being a decent golfer and also a decent musician but for now this job is pretty time consuming. The toughness I bring to my work I do not bring to golf. What would you like your legacy to be when you leave the bench? I like that people think I’m friendly and have a good sense of humor, that I’m a good teacher and am thoughtful. I’m sort of quintessentially out of the West and not a big self-promoter. I’m straight forward and what I say is what I mean. What you see is what you get.
Bio: Carol Abrams is a corporate art consultant, a writer and an educator.
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