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22nd Judicial District in Cortez seeking applicants for new judge

District Judge Douglas Walker displays his 20-year service award in this 2017 file photo. He plans to retire in January.
Chief Judge Douglas Walker to retire; Gov. Jared Polis will make appointment

The 22nd Judicial District is seeking applicants for a district judge to fill a vacancy left by Chief Judge Douglas S. Walker, who will retire in January.

The district’s nominating commission will meet at the Montezuma County Courthouse Aug. 15 to interview candidates and select nominees.

The members of the nominating commission for the 22nd Judicial District are Keenen Lovett, Tazewell Vass, and Clarissa Feuilly of Cortez; Erin Johnson of Rico; Peter Ortego and MB McAfee of Lewis; and Darwin Whiteman of Towaoc.

The selected nominees, typically two or three, are sent to Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, who decides on the judge appointment within 15 days.

The governor and/or his staff conduct additional reviews and interviews of nominees, said Jon Sarche, public information officer for the Colorado Judicial Department.

To be eligible, the applicant must be a qualified elector of the 22nd Judicial District who has been licensed to practice law in Colorado for five years. The current annual salary for this position is $183,816.

The initial term of office of a district judge is a provisional term of two years; thereafter, the incumbent district judge, if approved by the voters, has a term of six years.

Application forms are available from the office of the ex officio chair of the nominating commission, Justice Richard L. Gabriel, 2 E. 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203; and the office of the court executive, Eric Hogue, 865 North Park St., Suite 100, Cortez, CO 81321. Applications also are available on the court’s homepage at www.courts.state.co.us/Careers/Judge.cfm.

The completed application must be emailed no later than 4 p.m. on July 26 to: judicial.applicants@judicial.state.co.us

Late applications will not be considered.

Any person wishing to suggest a candidate may submit a recommendation by letter to any member of the nominating commission, with a copy to the ex officio chair, no later than 4 p.m. on July 19.

Walker was appointed to the 22nd Judicial District in July 2007, and has served as Chief District Judge for the past 10 years.

He served as district and court magistrate for the 22nd and 6th judicial districts from 1997 to 2007.

Before his judicial service, he was in private practice for 20 years, 13 of which included serving as the prosecutor in the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Court. He graduated from University of Colorado School of Law in 1979.

In 2016, voters retained him as judge for another six-year term by 61%.

Walker’s caseload includes civil, domestic, probate, criminal and juvenile cases. Prior to the pandemic disruptions of the court system, his typically caseload was about 600 per year, according to data from the Colorado judicial branch.

He brought the Dependency and Neglect System Reform program to the 22nd District, said court administrator Eric Hogue. The program supports and improves outcomes for families affected by substance abuse and mental health disorders by applying research-based principles into court, child welfare and treatment systems.

Walker also serves on the Colorado Youth Detention Continuum Advisory Board. The CYDC provides funding and support for services to prevent juvenile incarceration and commitment. It is designed to ensure that youths are supervised or incarcerated at a level that is commensurate with their risk to the community.

Walker “has a long-standing history in this district” for being very involved in juvenile welfare and juvenile-related court issues locally and statewide, Hogue said.

The 22nd Judicial District covers Montezuma and Dolores counties and includes two district judges and two county judges.

A chief judge, Walker has full administrative oversight of the district.

After the new district judge is appointed, Colorado Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright will assign either the new judge or District Judge Todd Plewe to serve as chief judge for the district.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com