A former Summit County prosecutor who ran unsuccessfully for district attorney in November is now up for a judgeship in the 5th Judicial District.
Former deputy DA Scott Turner is among three finalists for a new seat on the bench in the district, which includes Summit, Clear Creek, Eagle and Lake counties. Colleen Scissors, a criminal defense attorney with a practice in Grand Junction, and Silverthorne resident Paul Dunkelman, who has a private practice in Summit County and specializes in custody matters and construction defect disputes, are also up for the position.
Gov. John Hickenlooper will appoint the new judge by June 5.
“The governor considers a variety of factors when appointing a judge, including life experience and judicial temperament,” said Eric Brown, a spokesman for Hickenlooper’s office.
The final decision comes down from Denver, but the finalists were selected locally by a Judicial Nomination Commission made up of seven residents of the 5th Judicial District, including defense attorney JB Katz and real estate broker Turk Montepare from Summit County.
“We all come together and try to make the best decision possible,” Katz said of the commission’s work. “It’s a process that tries to put the appointment of a judge into the hands of those in the district.”
The commission picked the three finalists from a pool of 11 applicants after a day of interviews. All of the applicants have to reside within the district.
It is still unclear when the new judge will start work or where he or she will serve, although there is an office available in Eagle County.
State lawmakers awarded the 5th Judicial District a slot for a new judge by passing a law carried by Rep. Millie Hamner (D - Dillon) during the last session. The appointment is intended to help spread out an increasingly demanding docket for the current bench.
“Right now, these district judges have extremely heavy caseloads and this bill will help ensure every judge ... is able to give the proper time and attention to their cases,” Hamner said before the bill was approved. “This bill will make our judicial system more efficient and speed up the process for people going through the court system.”
District 5 currently has the lowest district judge staffing level in the state with a caseload bulging with more and more civil and domestic cases. The combination propelled the district to the top of the priority list for the Judicial Department, which looks for where additional judges are most needed in Colorado each year.