The supreme court, the highest court in Colorado, consists of seven justices elected on a nonpartisan ballot. The number of justices may be increased to nine upon request of the court and concurrence of two-thirds of the members of the General Assembly. The justices select a chief justice, who also serves as the supervisor of all Colorado courts. The next highest court, the court of appeals, consists of 16 judges, and is confined to civil matters. The 22 district courts have original jurisdiction in civil, criminal, juvenile, mental health, domestic relations, and probate cases, except in Denver, where probate and mental health matters are heard by the probate court and all juvenile matters by the juvenile court.
All judges in state courts are appointed to two-year terms by the governor from a list of names recommended by a judicial nominating commission. The appointees must then be elected by the voters: supreme court justices for 10-year terms, appeals court judges for eight years, and district court judges for six.
County courts hear minor civil disputes and misdemeanors. Appeals from the Denver county courts are heard in Denver's superior court. Municipal courts throughout the state handle violations of municipal ordinances. Colorado's FBI Crime Index crime rate in 2001 was 4,218.9 per 100,000 people, including a total of 15,492 violent crimes and 170,887 property crimes in that year.
As of June 2001, there were 17,122 prisoners held in state and federal facilities, an increase of 4.9% over the previous year. The state's incarceration rate stood at 338 per 100,000 inhabitants. Colorado has a death penalty and has executed 48 persons since 1930, only one of whom was put to death between 1977 and 2003. There were no prisoners under sentence of death as of 2003.