Colorado Supreme Court
2012 Retention Survey Report
2011 Interim Survey Report
2009 Interim Survey Report
Honorable Nathan B. CoatsRetention year: 2012
The State Commission on Judicial Performance recommends by a vote of 10-0 that Justice Nathan B. Coats BE RETAINED.
Justice Coats was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court in 2000. He received a B.A. in Economics from the University of Colorado in 1971 and his law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law in 1977. Justice Coats was in private law practice from 1977 to 1978, served in the Appellate Section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office from 1978 to1986, and was the Chief Appellate District Attorney for the Second Judicial District from 1986 to 2000. Before his appointment, Justice Coats served on many Supreme Court committees, including those addressing criminal, civil, appellate, and evidentiary rules. While Justice Coats limits his involvement in civic and community activities, he has oversight responsibilities for many Supreme Court committees, including Criminal Jury Instructions, Rules of Evidence, Rules of Professional Responsibility, and Attorney Regulation, as well as the Board of Law Examiners.
Attorneys who responded to survey questions indicate that Justice Coats’ performance was strong in the area of being courteous towards attorneys. The attorneys indicated that his performance was somewhat weak in the areas of making reasoned decisions based on the law and the facts and being fair and impartial toward each side of the case. A number of attorneys in their comments expressed the view that Justice Coats is biased in favor of the prosecution in criminal cases. Several attorneys described Justice Coats as highly intelligent, while others commented that his opinions on occasion can be obscure. Some attorneys also expressed concern that his dissenting opinions are disrespectful to the justices writing majority opinions. The judges surveyed indicate that Justice Coats is strong in all areas, including writing opinions that are clear and that adequately explain the basis of the court’s decision. A number of judges commented that Justice Coats is bright and writes clear and thoughtful opinions. Some judges, however, expressed concern in their comments about the harsh tone of some dissenting opinions, and the Commission concurs in that concern. The Commission observed that Justice Coats has a respectful demeanor during oral arguments. The Commission reviewed a number of opinions written by Justice Coats and found that, on occasion, his opinions are so highly analytical that they can be somewhat difficult to follow. Overall, however, his opinions are generally well reasoned and reflect a high intelligence.
Of all attorneys surveyed about retention, 70% recommended to retain, 24% not to retain, and 6% were undecided or didn’t have enough information to make a recommendation. Of those expressing an opinion to retain or not to retain, 75% recommended to retain and 25% not to retain. Of all judges surveyed, 94% recommended to retain, 1% not to retain, and 5% were undecided or didn’t have enough information to make a recommendation. Of those expressing an opinion to retain or not to retain, 99% recommended to retain and 1% not to retain.