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Former Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Quinn, 90, dies

Colorado Supreme Court
Posted at 3:42 PM, May 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-25 17:42:56-04

DENVER — Former Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph R. Quinn died on Thursday surrounded by his loved ones. He was 90 years old.

According to a press release from the Colorado Judicial Branch, a funeral mass for Justice Quinn is scheduled for June 9 at 1 p.m. at the Gardens at St. Elizabeth, located at 2835 W. 32nd Avenue in Denver.

He was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court in 1980 and named chief justice in 1985. He served in that position until 1993. However, he continued to work as a senior judge into his 80s.

Justice Carlos A. Samour Jr., who was a deputy district attorney, remembered meeting Justice Quinn when he was a senior trial court judge.

“He expected nothing less from the attorneys appearing in front of him than he did of himself. He prepared extensively for every case, whether it was a county court DUI case or a district court felony murder trial,” Justice Samour recalled. “Those of us who appeared in front of him learned tremendously from his thoughtful preparation, deliberation, and dedication to the rule of law. In my opinion, those of us who had the opportunity to learn from him and strive to achieve his standard of professionalism are better attorneys and judicial officers for it. For that we should all truly be thankful. He was a great jurist and a wonderful human being. May he rest in peace.”

According to the release from the Colorado Judicial Branch, Justice Quinn began his adult life by enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps and fighting in the Korean War. He became a sergeant and earned an honorable discharge. Afterward, he went to school and earned his B.A. at St. Peter’s College, where he graduated with honors in 1957. He then graduated from Rutgers Law School in 1961 with a Bachelor of Laws degree.

That same year, Justice Quinn moved west and made a home in Denver, where he started working as a legal aid for Chief Justice Leonard V.B. Sutton. In 1966, he was named one of the first appointees to the Office of the Denver Public Defender, and three years later, he was named to the Office of the Colorado Public Defender, as reported by the Colorado Judicial Branch.

He served as a district court judge in Denver beginning in 1973 and worked as an instructor at the University of Denver College of Law from 1976 to 1982.

According to a Denver Law Review of Justice Quinn written in 1985, he was called a "tireless" man who ran 20 miles a week, raised five children with his wife, and read philosophy books in his leisure time.

"Often consumed by his work, Chief Justice Quinn is not an easy man to get to know," the document reads. "However, those fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the man behind the impressive work product have seen, at the least, a very likable, decent person. It is axiomatic that Joseph Quinn has been and will continue to be an important jurist."