Breckenridge judge, who presided over Kobe Bryant case, named to lead Colorado Bar Association
Retirement hasn’t held much relaxation for Breckenridge senior judge Terry Ruckriegle, since he stepped away from his full-time duties on the bench in 2010.
The former assistant district attorney and 16-year veteran of the 5th Judicial District courts still travels the state, helping out and filling in when dockets in other jurisdictions become overloaded. He also acts as a special master, mediator and arbitrator.
Now Ruckriegle has taken on another title: president of the Colorado Bar Association.
He stepped into his new role July 1 and became the first acting judge to lead the organization.
“I’m honored and excited,” Ruckriegle said of the appointment. “I didn’t see this coming.”
His term lasts one year, but Ruckriegle says he isn’t going into his new role with a list of things to accomplish, a mistake he has seen made in other organizations that have frequent turnovers in leadership. He instead wants to use the next 12 months to support and strengthen the programs the bar association already has in place.
“My approach is not to have a particular theme or agenda or initiative, except to try to carry on those that have been established by other bar presidents,” he said. “I think we have some outstanding programs going on right now that we need to continue working on.”
William Terry Ruckriegle was brought up in rural Indiana, where he earned both his bachelor’s in business in 1969 and his law degree from Indiana University Law School in 1973.
He spent time teaching economics and political science in the Middle East and working with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission before he relocated to Colorado in 1974. He spent his early years as a lawyer in private practice, but soon found his way into the mountains.
He signed on with the 5th Judicial District, the jurisdiction where he would spend the remainder of his career, in 1975 as a deputy district attorney.
Nine years later, he made a run for the office of the district attorney, but was offered a place on the bench first and bowed out of the race. In 1994 Ruckriegle became the chief judge in the 5th Judicial District. During his years in the High Country, he presided over numerous high-profile cases, including the Kobe Bryant proceedings in Eagle County several years ago.
In 2010, he retired and became a senior judge, a role he said he was unwilling to give up when he was first approached about taking the helm of the CBA.
“That was one of the first things I asked the chief justice, was if he thought it would affect my ability to be a senior judge,” Ruckriegle said. “He thought it was a great idea, and that it would even boost the communication and the effort that we have been (forming) between the bar association and the judiciary to improve the legal culture overall.”
In addition to fostering communication within the legal community, Ruckriegle said he also hopes his new position will afford him opportunities to work with and support its newest members. He said he is concerned by the cost of law school, rising interest rates for student loans and the challenges they are now facing in finding employment when they graduate.
“Young lawyers are going to be our legacy, our now and future attorneys,” he said. “And they start off incurring large amounts of debt and they’re no longer guaranteed jobs.”
He said he wants to build on the mentoring programs the two past presidents of the CBA have initiatied, which would match up experienced attorneys with those new to the field.
Ruckriegle is also looking forward to reaching out to lawyers across the state who are members of the bar. He will serve as president through summer 2014.
Sara Crocker of the Colorado Bar Assocation contributed to the reporting of this story.
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