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Politics and Government

Colorado Supreme Court’s first female chief justice and its first Black justice die in the same week

Mary Mullarkey and Gregory Kellam Scott both were in their 70s

The Colorado Supreme Court and Colorado Court of Appeals. (Jeremy Martinez, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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The Colorado Supreme Court’s first female chief justice and its first and only Black justice both died this week.

Justice Mary Mullarkey, who was 77, died Wednesday after living for years with multiple sclerosis. She spent 23 years on the state’s highest court and 12 years as the court’s chief.

Justice Gregory Kellam Scott, who was also 72, died this week, too.

“Justice Mullarkey was an extraordinary individual with an unparalleled mind,” Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “Her impact on Colorado’s courts cannot be overstated. As the first female Supreme Court chief justice, she inspired countless future jurists. … Justice Mullarkey never allowed multiple sclerosis to slow her down, but continued to bring compassion, zeal, and wisdom to the court. She is already deeply missed.”

Mullarkey was appointed by Gov. Roy Romer to the state Supreme Court in 1987 and was elected to serve as chief justice in 1998. She was the longest-serving chief justice in state history when she retired in 2010, The Denver Post reported.

The former chief justice earned her undergraduate degree with honors from St. Norbert College and her law degree from Harvard University in 1968.

Before her appointment to the Colorado Supreme Court, Mullarkey specialized in the appellate practice and headed the appellate section in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. She later served as Colorado’s solicitor general.

Mullarkey is survived by her husband Tom Korson, their son, Dr. Andrew Korson, daughter-in-law, Emily Korson, and two granddaughters. A mass of Christian burial is scheduled at the Cure d’Ars Catholic Church in Denver.

Scott was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1992 also by Romer and left the court in 2000, moving to Indiana where he was appointed the executive director of that state’s civil rights commission in 2005. He earned his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and graduated with honors from the Indiana University Law School.

Scott was also a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

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“He felt, I think, an obligation to make sure that the experiences that he had had in life were voiced in the conversations where they would enrich the thought process,” former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis, who served as a justice with Scott, said in a written statement. “I think the court and the law in Colorado, as well as the appearance of a representative judiciary, was much better for Greg’s contributions and his presence.”

During his time on the court, Scott wrote a concurrence in the opinion striking down Colorado’s Amendment 2, a voter-passed initiative that prevented local governments
from enacting ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Scott was inducted into the Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame.

“Justice Scott was a trailblazer and a devoted public servant who was committed to helping others succeed in the legal profession and beyond,” Polis said in a written statement. “The news of Justice Scott’s passing comes just a day after Colorado’s first female Supreme Court Justice Mary Mullarkey passed away. These two individuals will have a lasting impact on our state. They both contributed a great deal to Colorado’s mission of inclusion and creating a Colorado for all.” 

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 7:56 a.m. on Monday, April 5, 2021, to correct Gregory Kellam Scott‘s age.

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