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Two candidates nominated to fill judge vacancy for 22nd Judicial District

Gov. Polis will choose a District Judge for the 22nd Judicial District to replace Chief Judge Doug Walker, who is retiring. (Journal file)
Gov. Polis will decide between former District Attorney William Furse and current Montezuma County Judge JenniLynn Lawrence

The 22nd Judicial District Nominating Commission has nominated two candidates for a district court judgeship created by the retirement of the Honorable Douglas S. Walker, effective Jan. 10, 2023.

Nominees William Furse of Dolores and JenniLynn Lawrence of Mancos were selected by the commission on Aug. 15 at the Montezuma County Courthouse.

Under the Colorado Constitution, Polis has 15 days from Aug. 15, within which to appoint one of the nominees as district court judge for the 22nd Judicial District (Dolores and Montezuma counties).

Comments regarding the nominees may be sent via email to the governor at gov_judicialappointments@state.co.us

The Journal obtained candidate applications, which are public record.

William Furse

Furse was elected to served as 22nd Judicial District Attorney for two terms from 2012 to 2020. After being term-limited, he was hired in 2021 as assistant district attorney and resigned in 2022 to go into private practice.

William Furse

Before serving in the District Attorney’s Office, Furse was a deputy state public defender in the 22nd and 6th judicial districts, worked in private practice and served as a public defender for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

He is a contracted attorney for the Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel, Alternate Defense Counsel, the Four Corners Child Advocacy Center and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

Regarding his time as district attorney, Furse said he handled a full felony caseload, supervised and trained a roster of deputy district attorneys and legal staff members while providing counsel to other county officials.

His job entailed review of evidence for the purpose of issuing or declining criminal charges consistent with ethical and legal standards. He also advised law enforcement and reviewed arrest and search warrants to ensure compliance with constitutional and statutory law.

As district attorney, he convened and presented evidence to grand juries, helped navigate available services for victims affected by criminal cases and fashioned individualized plea offers and case dispositions purposed behind curbing recidivism.

He implemented innovative programs such as diversion, restorative justice and “problematic sexual behavior” education.

Furse created and built programs that continue to serve as alternatives to traditional prosecution including adult and juvenile diversion. To mitigate racial and cultural biases, he mandated specific law enforcement protocol for police responses.

As both a defense attorney and former prosecutor, Furse said he specialized in the administration of juvenile law and placed great importance on how juveniles are treated within the legal system.

Regarding his time as a defense attorney, Furse said he represented people facing all levels of felony, misdemeanor, traffic and juvenile charges in both the 22nd and 6th judicial districts. He performed this work as privately retained counsel as well as a court-appointed attorney for indigent people.

Furse also handles civil cases.

According to his application, he serves as court-appointed counsel for indigent parents in child welfare proceedings as well as a contract attorney promoting the rights of parents and children who seek civil protection from their alleged offenders. He also works for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in various legal capacities and is working with tribal stakeholders to research, develop and completely rewrite the tribal code.

Furse earned a law degree in 2005 from John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

JenniLynn Lawrence

JenniLynn Everett Lawrence graduated from University of Wisconsin Law School in 1997 and was in private practice for 13 years before being appointed to serve as Montezuma County Court judge.

She is admitted to practice in Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Florida. As a practicing attorney, she earned the AV Preeminent rating from Martindale Hubbell. Lawrence is a native of Montezuma County and a graduate of Mancos High School and Fort Lewis College.

JenniLynn Lawrence

Before becoming an attorney, Lawrence taught English at the Cortez Middle School and Montezuma-Cortez High School.

Lawrence was appointed to the Montezuma County Court in November 2010. She currently hears traffic, misdemeanor and civil cases up to $15,000. She also hears felony preliminary hearings.

According to application, Lawrence said the majority of her docket is devoted to criminal cases, at all levels, including felony cases through the preliminary hearing stage.

She also hears civil cases, including protection order requests, evictions, small claims, replevins, Agister’s liens, breach of contract and collection matters.

When in private practice, she represented clients in complex commercial disputes as well as employment disputes before administrative agencies and in state and federal courts.

The commercial matters included contested trust and estate matters for individuals and companies, high value property casualty insurance coverage disputes, construction defect litigation, mortgage transactions and foreclosures, securities litigation, corporate derivative litigation, commercial contract matters and fraud cases.

According to a 2022 Judge Retention report by the Commission on Judicial Performance, Lawrence met performance standards by a vote of 7-0.

The commission said it found “Judge Lawrence’s commitment to administering a busy court docket and her efforts to learn and grow as a judge as evidence of her integrity.”

During her tenure on the bench, she was named a Colorado Bar Foundation Fellow, she has served as the president of both the Colorado County Court Judges Association, and the Four Corners Bar Association, and has served on many committees, including Judicial Education, Access to Justice and Judicial Well-being.

She presides over a certified DUI Problem Solving Court and has taught courses to fellow judges, including a statewide seminar on the evidentiary challenges presented by social media, bench basics video presentations on the judicial role in a DUI case and how to conduct a criminal jury trial, as well as a webinar for the National Judicial College.

She is the current author of the sentencing chapter for the DUI bench book and is working with a committee to create a county court civil trial bench book.