North Dakota Law

Updates from the University of North Dakota School of Law.

Timothy Schutz ’87 delivers pro-equity message in formal swearing-in to Colorado Court of Appeals

The Gazette

Michael Karlik

Aug 22, 2022

Sitting inside the state’s judicial center in downtown Denver, Timothy J. Schutz recalled the story of a young man imprisoned on federal charges and who was facing additional time on a prosecution in El Paso County. The man vowed to turn his life around, which convinced a state judge to show leniency.

Upon walking out of incarceration at the conclusion of his sentence, a prison guard told him, “I will hold your number for you,” a reference to the man’s inmate number. The man responded he would not be returning to prison any more.

“Then,” said the guard dryly, “we’ll save it for your son.”

That interaction was a reminder, Schutz explained, for judges to not lose sight of the humanity underlying each court case when exercising the authority the law has provided them.

“There was a time, of course, when these privileges were beyond my wildest comprehension,” Schutz said. “I think it’s important to remind us frequently that most of the people who pay our salaries and whose work we deal with do still live in those spaces.”

On Friday, Schutz was formally sworn in to the state’s Court of Appeals as the first judge from El Paso County to serve on the 22-member appellate court in 50 years. Although Gov. Jared Polis appointed Schutz in November and he has been handling cases since then, the Court of Appeals held ceremonial swearings-in this summer for the judges who joined during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the ceremony, Schutz, of Monument, strongly endorsed a judicial philosophy that inserts equity as a factor in legal decision-making.

“Tradition and precedent are cornerstone, necessary and ongoing virtues of the rule of law,” he said. “But they can also sometimes perpetuate systemic inequities and biases and serve as a shortcut to avoid the risk and the burdens of analysis grounded in furtherance of the highest ideals of our country’s founding.”

Read the full story from The Gazette