Udall opposes local federal court closure

Durango location is convenient for Ute tribes

It makes no sense to close a federal courtroom in Durango when the number of people who are served by the facility is growing, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in a letter to the chairman of a committee overseeing U.S. Courts.

“Closure would impact a growing number of constituents,” said Udall, citing particularly the Southern Ute Native American and the Ute Mountain Ute tribes, which rely on the federal court system.

Udall’s letter is addressed to Judge Michael Ponsor, chairman of the Committee on Space and Facilities for the U.S. Courts.

The Associated Press in March reported that the federal government has its eye on 60 court facilities to eliminate. Many are in remote areas.

A federal courthouse in Grand Junction also is on the list of 60.

Durango is No. 57 on the list, with No. 1 being the likeliest to be axed. A federal courtroom and related services are housed in a federal building in Bodo Industrial Park.

La Plata County has been trying for more than a year to get expanded federal court services in Durango. In support, La Plata County commissioners have proposed leasing 12,000 square feet in its courthouse on East Second Avenue for federal court services.

“We have a proposal out, but at this point we haven’t received a contract,” Joanne Spina, interim county manager said Monday. “We’re waiting to hear from the General Services Administration.”

The county has bought property along East Second Avenue to make room to accommodate anticipated growth.

In his letter, Udall says the federal court in Durango is geographically important.

“I am particularly concerned about closing the court because the only two Native American tribes in Colorado reside in this region,” Udall said. “The unique relationship that these important communities have with the federal government makes continued access to the federal court system paramount.”

Driving to the federal court in Denver takes a day and is a particularly taxing experience in winter, Udall said.

Judge Ponsor’s committee is expected to announce in September which federal courthouses will be closed.

daler@durangoherald.com

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