Organization of the Judicial Branch
The Colorado Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort. Requests to review decisions of the Colorado Court of Appeals constitute a majority of the Supreme Court's filings.
The Colorado Court of Appeals is the state's intermediate appellate court. The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction, with exceptions, over appeals from the Colorado District Courts.
There are 22 Judicial Districts within the state of Colorado as established by the state Legislature in 1963. The last major revision was November 2001 with the consolidation of Broomfield in the 17th Judicial District. Changes in district boundaries require a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature.
District Court is a court of general jurisdiction, handling criminal, civil, domestic relations, juvenile, probate, and mental health cases.
County Court is a court of limited jurisdiction, handling misdemeanors, criminal traffic violations, civil traffic infractions, small claims, felony complaints (which may be sent to District Court), and civil cases of under $15,000.
There are seven water courts, one in each of the major river basins (South Platte, Arkansas, Rio Grande, Gunnison, Colorado, White, and San Juan rivers). They are divisions of the district court in that basin.
Probation is also the responsibility of the Colorado Judicial Branch. Managed by the chief probation officer in each judicial district, probation employees prepare assessments and pre-sentence information for the courts, supervise the offenders sentenced to community programs, give notification and support services to victims, and provide special program services. As of July 1, 2016, there were 60,157 adults and juveniles on probation. In addition, 19,454 adults were on private probation or DUI monitoring.
The head of the Colorado Judicial Branch is the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who is elected to the position by the justices of the Court. The justices select a state court administrator to oversee the daily administration of the branch.
As of July 1, 2016, the Colorado Judicial Branch had 324 authorized positions for justices and judges: seven Supreme Court justices, 22 Court of Appeals judges, 181 District Court judges, and 114 County Court judgeships. This excludes Denver County Court judges (17), who are appointed by the mayor of Denver. The Branch also had 74 full- and part-time magistrates.
As of July 1, 2015, justices and judges are paid: chief justice of the Supreme Court, $176,799; associate Supreme Court justices, $173,024; chief judge of the Court of Appeals, $169,977; Court of Appeals judges, $166,170; District Court judges, $159,320; County Court judges, $152,466; Magistrates $136,320.
Forty-two senior judges, who are retired from the bench, each hear cases approximately 60 days per year in districts where there are vacancies, a backlog of cases, conflicts of interest, etc.
In Fiscal Year 2016, county court filings decreased 3.45 percent, with the greatest area of decrease in traffic filings. In the same period, district court filings increased by 2.4 percent, with the greatest area of increase in mental health filings.
In Fiscal Year 2016, there were 412,714 cases filed statewide at the County Court level (excluding Denver County Court), 217,569 cases filed in District Court, 2,204 in the Court of Appeals, and 1,494 in the Supreme Court. There were 844 cases filed in the water courts.
Courts funded by the state’s General Fund include: Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, District Courts, and County Courts. Municipal and Denver County courts are funded by their respective local governments.