GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The 9th Judicial District is likely to have a fifth judge appointed to the local bench some time in early June, as part of a nominating process involving a panel of local attorneys and others.
The district’s nominating commission on May 17 nominated three area attorneys — John Neiley and Scott Turner of Glenwood Springs and Colleen Scissors of Basalt — to fill a judgeship created during the recently concluded session of the Colorado General Assembly.
The names of the nominees have been sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has 15 days from the May 20 announcement of the nominations to name a new judge, according to the state constitution.
The 9th Judicial District encompasses Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties.
Currently, the district is served by Chief Judge James Boyd and District Judges Denise Lynch, Gail Nichols and Daniel Petre.
Nichols is the newest judge in the 9th District. A former deputy district attorney working out of the Aspen office of the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, she was appointed to the bench in 2008 when the state Legislature at that time created a new judgeship to deal with an increased case load in the 9th District.
Both Boyd and Petre were appointed to the bench in 2002, and Boyd became chief judge in 2006.
The judgeship created in the 2013 legislative session also was viewed as needed in order to come to grips with the district’s rising number of cases, both criminal and civil. Whomever is appointed is scheduled to take over his or her new duties starting on July 1.
John Neiley, 54, practices mostly civil law from a Glenwood Springs office he shares with his brother, Rick Neiley, and another attorney, Eugene Alder.
Neiley told the Post Independent on Tuesday that he came to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2006, after practicing law in Summit County for 14 years.
He said 90 percent of his practice deals with civil law, such as real estate law, land use issues, transactional matters and setting up homeowners associations, among other topics.
“I think the judge’s position is such that you have to be able to do it all,” he remarked, acknowledging that he will need to brush up on his criminal statutes if he gets the nod from the governor.
Neiley is married with two teenage kids attending school in Glenwood Springs.
Neiley is due to be interviewed by the governor on May 29 in Denver.
Colleen Scissors, who has been practicing in Grand Junction for the past 15 years, said on Tuesday that she has predominantly practiced criminal defense since moving to Colorado in 1998, and “not very much” civil law. Prior to moving to Colorado, she lived in San Francisco, where she handled some personal-injury cases on the plaintiff’s side.
But she expressed no concern about her lack of experience in civil law, explaining, “There’s nothing harder about civil law than there is about criminal work. You have to look up the cases and do the work.”
She is in the process of closing down her Grand Junction practice and moving into a home she already owns in Basalt, noting that she has been splitting her time between Grand Junction and Basalt.
“I’ve been burning up the pavement for the past three years,” she said, noting that she is looking forward to settling in the Roaring Fork Valley whether she gets the judgeship or not.
Scissors, 60, is single with two children, one of whom is her biological son and the other is adopted.
Scott Turner, chief deputy DA for the 9th District, recently moved to Glenwood Springs after being hired by new DA Sherry Caloia from his former job as assistant DA in the 5th Judicial District.
While he has been a prosecutor since 2005, starting in Colorado Springs, he said that in his early days as an attorney he did primarily civil work, while working and living in Kansas City, Mo., from 1993 to 2005.
He said he was surprised to learn of his nomination for the judgeship.
“I was,” he said, “and I was very honored that they sent my name to the governor.”
He has been at his current job for only a few months, and he conceded that he has some qualms about moving on so soon, should he be appointed to the judgeship.
“I think it’s a natural progression,” he said of going from prosecution to the bench. “Being a judge is something I’ve always considered doing in my career.”
But, he added, “I enjoy prosecuting, and this is a great office to work for. I’ve enjoyed working with the people here.”
Comments are invited from the public about the nominees, and can be sent via email to email@example.com.