Meet Michael L. Bender, Colorado's New Top Judge

November 11 2010, 2:00 PM

Despite campaigns from conservative and libertarian groups, voters decided to retain state Supreme Court Judge Michael L. Bender, a 68-year-old registered Democrat, in last week's election. Now, Bender, a long-time justice who has worked as a public defender and private lawyer, will become the state's 44th chief justice, replacing Mary Mullarkey, who is retiring. "It's a great honor, and frankly, I am pretty emotionally overwhelmed," Bender says, adding, "This whole system of justice I believe in with all of my heart" (via The Denver Post).

Bender, who now has the power to appoint four of the 11 members of the commission that will redraw legislative-district lines, was appointed to the court in 1997 by then-Governor Roy Romer. He has been criticized by conservative groups for moves such as upholding a Democratic-backed mill-levy tax freeze last year. Bender is also the author of some of the state Supreme Court's more recent controversial opinions, including the 4-3 Barber v. Ritter decision, which critics say circumvented the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, notes Law Week Colorado. But Bender won't have many years to serve. He will be constitutionally required to retire at the age of 72.