The Denver Channel uncovered lavish spending in decor at the new Ralph Carr Justice Center. According to the report, each appeals judge’s chamber cost $19,000 to decorate, and each Supreme Court justice’s chambers cost an unbelievable $24,000 to decorate.  The news story also quoted commercial real estate expert, University of Denver Professor Stephen Sewalk, who called some of the purchases “showpiece furniture”:

“It’s very, very elegant.  You would find this in an investment bank, as I said, in an elite law firm, a place that has a lot of money to spend.”

Here are a few highlights from the report:

  • $1,300 wood serving carts
  • $2,375 credenzas (that’s a low dresser-like piece of furniture that goes behind the desk, for you neophytes)
  • $2,200 chairs with “scrolling knuckles and fluted legs”
  • $7,200 octagonal “tray table” – likely in a sitting room
  • $5,000 judicial desks
  • $4,800 leather sofas
  • $800 end tables
  • $1,600 side tables
  • $5,900 coffee tables (we hope they bought coasters, too)

Don’t worry, folks, buying preferences for these “showpieces” were given to items that comply with environmentally-friendly LEED Gold Certification, so they’re green(ish). To put it in perspective, a court house built just three years ago spent a fraction of what was spent at the Carr Center of furniture:

“That’s what CALL7 Investigators found at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse in Denver, which is about three years old. There, desks in judge’s chambers cost about $2,200 each. Side chairs were $335 each. Overall, the cost of furnishing a judge’s chamber in the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse was $8,000 to $10,000 — less than half as much as a judicial chamber in the Carr building.”

Of course, this Marie Antoinette-type spending isn’t new for Colorado’s “bureaucrats gone wild”.  The Colorado Observer in March reported on the over-the-top spending by the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division:

“Flipping through the 89 page audit, taxpayers get a great glimpse of how government workers behave when given blank checks to spend other people’s money.  $1,000 office chair? Check.  $1,800 for patio furniture? Why not!  33 new government vehicles for 37 employees? How else are we going to get to and from work!?”

And, then there was the Governor’s Energy Office, which somehow cannot account for $250 million in spending.  Whoops.

When the State of Colorado is struggling with high unemployment, has 18% child poverty and is proposing that approximately 70% of Denver’s grade schoolers be given a free breakfast due to hardship, it seems unconscionable to spend this lavishly on furniture.

Where is the justice in that?  We somehow think that Republican Governor Ralph Carr would not approve this message.