The Supreme Court Nominating Commission has named three finalists to fill a coming vacancy on the state’s highest court.
The commission came out of a two-day meeting in Denver with a shortlist that includes Boulder’s Maria Berkenkotte, Denver’s Karen L. Brody and Lone Tree’s Carlos A. Samour Jr.
Gov. John Hickenlooper has 15 days from May 16 to appoint one of the nominees. This will be his fifth justice pick, giving him an outsized impact on the state’s highest court. The Court has seven justices who each serve 10-year terms.
Samour has been an Arapahoe County District Court judge since 2007. He has presided over high-profile cases, including the murder trial of the Aurora theater shooter, and last year ordered the release of Rene Lima-Marin, who was freed from prison early, but reincarcerated when a clerical error was discovered years later. As a kid, Samour’s family moved to America to escape El Salvador as it dissolved into civil war.
Berkenkotter retired as the Boulder district chief judge in October. She spent four years as the 20th Judicial District’s top judge and a total of 11 years as a judge in Boulder. She oversaw a 2016 case in which a woman cut a baby from a stranger’s womb.
Brody was appointed by Hickenlooper as a district court judge for the 2nd Judicial District in 2014. She previously worked as an attorney focused on commercial litigation, specializing in real estate and eminent-domain law.
Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice announced her retirement in early March. She was appointed to the court in 1998 and became chief justice in 2013. She will step down July 1. Justice Nathan B. Coats was named to replace her has chief justice of the court.