Updated: Mar 12
Credit: Colorado Judicial Branch
Judge Kristy Martinez passed away on February 21, 2023. Before she was appointed as a judge with the Boulder County Court in January 2019, Kristy was a faculty member at the University of Colorado Law School. And, as is probably quite obvious to anyone who ever met her, she was not your average law school professor. Kristy had a profound impact on so many of her students, and continued right on mentoring and teaching and inspiring young attorneys during her time on the bench. A few of her former students and mentees have generously and authentically shared their thoughts and remembrances of Kristy below.
We miss you Kristy, thank you for everything.
I met Kristy during orientation for law school. She was standing in the courtyard speaking to a group of young women who were about to become my classmates. This is the image that to me is the most accurate portrait I have of her. Gathering women together to support each other, connect with one another, and be confident that we belonged in the legal profession. Kristy was above all else a mentor, she was my first mentor and my biggest champion as I decided what I wanted to do with my career. Any time I was afraid to take a risk, or told myself I couldn’t do something - there was Kristy. With a plan and notecards for us to figure out together how to overcome not just the real hurdles that exist in our profession, but also the hurdles that I created for myself.
There is no doubt that Judge Martinez has left a legacy. A legacy of justice, of pride of purpose, of taking up space when you deserve it. And all of that is reflected in the women she mentored. I hope we can all take up that mantle in honoring her memory. I will miss her.
- Sydnie Teague
Kristy was a fierce advocate, not only for justice, but also for the people around her. Always quick to provide guidance and support to those in need, Kristy mentored many law students while teaching at CU, generously devoting countless hours of her personal time to help others. I was one of those lucky students, and Kristy quickly became a dear friend to me, providing as much love, care, and attention that one might expect from a close family member. In Spring of 2019, I had the privilege of working with Kristy during her first few months on the bench. I recall sitting with Kristy in chambers as she agonized over an order she was writing in a civil case. She stayed several hours into the night to make sure it was perfect. As a lawyer and judge, Kristy’s dedication, integrity, and passion for the law was second to none. One of the last texts I have from Kristy said, “I am proud of who you are!” I am a undoubtedly a better person and attorney having known Kristy and hope to live in a way that will continue to make her proud.
- Hannah Carter
I was lucky enough to practice in Judge Martinez’s courtroom exclusively for my first two years as an attorney. She was always incredibly kind and compassionate to attorneys in her courtroom as well as our clients, and it was clear how deeply she cared for her work. I could not have asked for a better judge to be in front of as a young lawyer, for even if you got something wrong, she would never make you feel that way. There was always room to learn and grow without being judged for not being right every time (not feeling judged by a judge is rare). Judge Martinez also acted to support those in the Boulder County legal community who were taking on the additional role of becoming a parent. With her family, they made baby quilts for attorneys and others expecting children, including myself just recently. I received much support, advice, and encouragement from Judge Martinez, and will forever cherish the quilt she made for my daughter.
- Carly Bovey
I met Kristy on my very first day of law school, where I was wholly unsure of my life’s direction until I walked into a room and heard Kristy speaking. I remember listening in awe as she passionately discussed life, liberty, and humanity, and I knew right away that if I learned from her, my path would become clear. Kristy was a force—passionate, brilliant, absolutely relentless, and brimming with the capacity to change the world. She would spend hours on the floor of her office analyzing each piece of an issue brought to her, illuminating novel avenues of the question along the way. And just when you thought a solution was identified, she would always have us question the effects of that solution on society, our community, and our legal practice generally. In this way, she taught her students to be more than just good lawyers—she taught us the necessity of being thoughtful and just leaders. Every student who left Kristy’s company walked taller, brimmed with purpose, and carried a sprinkle of her magic with them into the world. Today that magic is carried forward by each person fortunate to have been inspired by Kristy, and her legacy will continue to make the world a better place.
- Isuri Lawson
All it took was one encounter with Judge Kristy Martinez for her to become forever embedded in my life. She had a knack for finding those who needed her the most, including her students. From the moment Judge Martinez arrived at CU Law, she took me (and many others) under her wing. She quickly became my safe place. It never mattered how busy she was - she never turned me away when I came to her office to cry or vent. She comforted me in some of my hardest times, and pushed me when I needed tough love. Just being around her recharged me and gave me the strength to keep going when it felt impossible. She would give and give, and never seek anything in return. Judge Martinez had a pure heart, full of love, and a presence that would inspire people from the moment she opened her mouth. She was truly one of the good ones. To know her, was to love her, and what an honor it was to know her. She will be forever missed.
- April Connally
Kristy was a mentor to everyone who met her. You couldn’t have a conversation with her without leaving challenged, informed, and questioning; but also feeling heard, valued, and the recipient of undeserved generosity. As I volunteered with the Korey Wise Innocence Project, she taught me how to think like a lawyer, but more than that, she was honest. Honest about grades not defining you, about what true justice looks like, about the strain working for a better world will put on a person, about how she was feeling at any given moment and honest with her time. I’m eternally grateful that she came into my life and I treasure the lessons she taught me, the thoughtful arguments we’d have, and the countless coffees she bought this poor law student. The world needs Kristy Martinez and it is a less just and sadder place without her fervency.
- Jeremiah Jones
Kristy Martinez truly believed that she had the power to make the world a better place. Part of what made her such an inspiring mentor was that she saw the same power in everyone she worked with. She wanted us all to dream audaciously and build a better world. Through her work as an attorney, a teacher, and a judge, she left an inspiring legacy for her students to follow. But it is not her legacy I will miss. I will miss her stories. I will miss sharing a bag of gummy bears at 9OM while we try to get something filed before midnight. I will miss her daily inspiring pep talks and her snarky observations. I will miss her ethical guidance as I navigate my career. I will miss her seemingly endless energy and optimism. I will miss our shared love of ice cream. Kristy shone so brightly that her light will be in the world long after she is gone.
- Rebecca Torres
Judge Martinez was awarded the Honorary Order of the Coif for her contribution to CU and gave a speech at the University of Colorado Law School Class of 2019 graduation ceremony, which can be watched here:
Introduction at 18:45
Speech at 21:45
Additional information regarding Judge Martinez’s career and professional accolades, including her invaluable work with the Korey Wise Innocence Project before her appointment to the bench, can be found here:
Pictured: Kory Wise with his attorney Jane Fisher-Byrialsen, Clinical Professor Ann England and Kristy Martinez.
Marty Whalen Brown is a Staff Adjudicator at the Office of Appeals in the Colorado Department of Human Services. She holds a J.D. degree from the University of Colorado Law School and clerked at the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge under the Colorado Supreme Court after graduating.