Guest Columns

BENDER: MONUMENTS TO JUSTICE

Colorado celebrates law day and opening of Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center

GUEST COLUMNIST

Last week, people across the United States observed Law Day. It is a time each year to celebrate the rule of law and the role the courts and legal system play in helping people peacefully resolve disputes in modern society. Here in Colorado, we were privileged and honored to have U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor help us mark the occasion.

On May 2, Justice Sotomayor joined me and Governor John Hickenlooper to formally dedicate the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center. The courthouse was named after Colorado’s 29th governor, widely respected for opposing the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. Some of Governor Carr’s relatives will be in attendance, as will some of the Japanese-Americans who were interned despite Governor Carr’s efforts. Is there a more fitting tribute than to name our state’s only appellate courthouse after an individual who sacrificed his promising political career to advance the ideals of a just and equal society?

The Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center is home not only to the Colorado Supreme Court and the Colorado Court of Appeals, but also to the state law library, the Office of the State Court Administrator and other law-related agencies serving Colorado, such as the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Public Defender. However, the building is much more than an office building and modern courthouse. It also is a monument to justice for all and a museum in which we all can learn.

I invite all of Colorado to visit the courthouse. It is open to the public Monday through Friday, and I encourage you to come and see the numerous public art installations, to attend oral arguments, to review the building’s architectural connections to the State Capitol building, and best of all, to try out our new interactive learning center.

A team of justices, judges and staff spent more than a year designing interactive exhibits that engage young and old alike. The learning center, which will be unveiled during the dedication, features a short movie and several exhibits that ask visitors to consider what life would be like if there were no rules and nothing to guarantee our freedoms. The learning center’s other exhibits show visitors what it’s like to be a judge by allowing them to hear evidence and decide the outcomes of cases and to hear from current and former justices and judges who share their real-life experiences from the bench. Visitors can also see a timeline of Colorado’s judicial milestones and learn about the history of our court system. And, of course, what courthouse learning center experience would be complete without visitors having an opportunity to serve as an attorney or juror in a case?

We have dedicated our state’s newest courthouse and marked the role of the courts in Colorado and beyond. I hope each of you will consider taking a moment to reflect on the stability the rule of law provides in our daily life and how our judicial system is designed to ensure that stability and to protect our freedoms.

As the Martin Luther King Jr. quotation engraved into a wall of the courthouse reads: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As justices and judges of the State of Colorado, we are so proud to serve you and to do our best to uphold the rule of law.

Michael L. Bender is the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.