Salazar v. Davidson, 79 P.3d 1221 (Colo. 2003)

Question: Does the Colorado Constitution allow a judge to draw up congressional districts?

What the Constitution Says: The Constitution states that: “[t]he General Assembly shall divide the state into as many congressional districts as there are representatives in congress apportioned to this state.”  Colo. Const. art. V, § 44.

The Mullarkey Justices Disagree with the General Assembly and with the Constitution: Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, Justice Michael Bender, Justice Alex Martinez, and Justice Nancy Rice decided that the term “General Assembly” is no longer the legislature but the courts for purposes of redistricting (pp. 1236 and 1243). 

Two Justices Criticize the Mullarkey Justices: The dissent by two Justices pointed out that the Colorado Constitution clearly defines the General Assembly as “the senate and house of representatives, both to be elected by the people” (p. 1245).  Moreover, they protested that the Constitution forbids the judiciary from undertaking a function assigned (like redistricting) to another branch of government (p. 1246).

What Does the Mullarkey-Bender-Martinez-Rice Decision Mean for You? The protesting Justices observed that “redistricting is an inherently political activity, and rests with the democratically elected branch of government for good reason” (p. 1252).  So it looks like Justices Mullarkey, Bender, Martinez, and Rice made a policy decision or a political decision to allow the judiciary to engage in unconstitutional redistricting. 

The protesting Justices posted a warning of what the Mullarkey-Bender-Martinez-Rice encroachment meant for Colorado.  By commandeering the redistricting process from the General Assembly, the dissent apprehended that the Mullarkey Justices “significantly alters our form of government” (Id.). 

Additional Information and References

Read the entire published opinion: Salazar vs. Davidson


Supremes use semantic gymnastics ("Just 60 words in Colorado's Constitution concern congressional redistricting: they can be found in Article V, Section 44. Their meaning and intent are evident to any citizen with even a modest understanding of the English language or a modicum of common sense. But leave those two simple and straightforward sentences for several months in the hands of the Colorado Supreme Court, with the distribution of political power in the state hinging on their interpretation, and they'll be spun, twisted and contorted into a legal and logical pretzel.")