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Appellate court judge named to state high court


DENVER – Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Richard Lance Gabriel will be the newest justice on the state’s high court, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Tuesday.

Gabriel is replacing Justice Gregory J. Hobbs Jr., who is retiring after serving on the state Supreme Court since 1996. His vacancy is effective Sept. 1.

Hickenlooper said Gabriel is the first appeals court judge to be chosen for the state’s high court in decades.

“I think in that sense we’ll take a bright star on the Court of Appeals and allow it to shine even more brightly on our Supreme Court,” the Democratic governor said.

Gabriel is the state’s 104th selection to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Gabriel, a Democrat and New York native, has been a judge since 2008 and was in private practice prior to that, specializing in business torts, intellectual property, and probate litigation.

Hickenlooper noted that Gabriel has been a member of the Colorado Wind Ensemble.

“How often does the governor get to appoint a really good trumpet player?” Hickenlooper said.

Gabriel was chosen from three finalists. The others were El Paso County District Judge David S. Prince and University of Colorado law professor Melissa Hart.

Gabriel earned his undergraduate degree at Yale University and his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He thanked his parents after the announcement at the state Capitol, where his wife and one of his daughters were in attendance.

“I very much feel the presence of my late mother and father here today,” Gabriel said. “As the governor pointed out, they were working-class people. They worked very hard and they gave their all so that their children’s lives would be better than their own. Mom and dad? Wow.”

This is the second selection Hickenlooper has made to the Colorado Supreme Court. His previous pick in 2011 was Justice Brian Boatright, a Republican who also replaced a retiring justice. In that case, Justice Alex Martinez left the court to be Denver’s manager of safety.

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