Metzger hopes robes a good fit as new County Court judge
Judging by his enthusiasm, Paul Metzger should be ready when he takes the oath as Garfield County Court judge in March.
Metzger was selected Aug. 20 by Colorado Gov. Bill Owens to replace Judge Victor Zerbi, who earlier this year opted to not seek retention at the end of his current term as county judge.
“I’m really looking forward to it and I’m excited about the challenge,” Metzger said.
Metzger originally was scheduled to take his place at the bench on Jan. 14, but because of statewide budgetary problems, he was given a 1 1/2-month reprieve and will start March 3. Zerbi will cover the duties until then.
“In some ways it’s really good. It gives me additional time to close down my practice and prepare,” he said.
Metzger, 46, has served as a part-time municipal judge in New Castle for the past 2 1/2 years. A Colorado native, he moved from Littleton to Glenwood Springs in 1990. In addition to his judging duties, Metzger has also been running his own law practice in downtown Glenwood Springs. He mostly has dealt with criminal defense, family law, and civil matters.
Now it’s time to tell his clients that he’s moving on.
“Most of my clients have been real happy for me and understand I want to make this change at this time,” he said. “I’m going to try to refer them to other lawyers in this office or other appropriate lawyers.”
Metzger feels his experience as a courtroom attorney should help him as he prepares to take over the county bench.
“I’ve worked as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. I have experience as a municipal court judge and I’ve spent a lot of time in this judicial district,” he said.
Metzger and his wife, Cindy, have two kids – Drew, 8, and Elise, 6 – who all like to partake in the very Colorado-esque activities of fishing, camping and bicycling.
“We have a pop-up tent trailer,” he said.
He also plays guitar and enjoys watching sports and movies and listening to all kinds of music.
Metzger said he hopes the job won’t change his life too much. “But I do have some nervous feelings about the challenge,” he said.
Zerbi has already begun helping Metzger learn the ropes of being a county judge to ensure a smooth transition in March.
“He’s been calling me and telling me about cases I might be interested in,” Metzger said.
This way Metzger knows when to sit in on pertinent cases to see how a veteran judge handles them.
He also has been assigned a mentor judge – Mesa County Judge Tom Deister.
“I’ll be going to Mesa County Court for two to three days and learning from him,” he said.
“I expect it to be an ongoing relationship.”
Soon after becoming a part-time New Castle municipal judge, Metzger said, he began thinking about applying for a higher judgeship.
“I definitely had the idea I wanted to be a judge before. The experience in New Castle certainly confirmed that for me,” he said.
“I enjoy working with people in situations when many times we can resolve problems and hopefully make a difference in people’s lives.”
The majority of the caseload in county court is drunken driving offenses, domestic violence cases and civil disputes up to $15,000.
“I think that as I’ve already been going into Judge Zerbi’s courtroom, it’s becoming more clear to me there are numerous decisions and issues to be dealt with,” Metzger said.
Time management is another challenging aspect of running any county court, he has learned.
“To Judge Zerbi’s credit, he runs the courtroom very efficiently,” he said. “I’d say he’s very conscientious, but he has a very good way of moving cases along.”
Unlike other positions a person can be elected or appointed to, Metzger won’t be able to bring in a new staff. But he says that’s fine with him.
“I’m familiar with the staff there and I’m extremely pleased with the people I’ll be working with,” he said. “I’ve gotten to know the people over there over the years and I really respect them.”
Metzger said any time a new county judge takes the bench, there’s bound to be some variation of the routine.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty smooth transition, but there will definitely be some changes, also. I’m sure the new judges will bring new ideas and their own personality to the bench,” he said.
At the same time, James Boyd, will take over the bench for retiring 9th District Judge J.E. DeVilbiss.
So until March 3, Metzger will absorb all he can, then put his experience toward running county court.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.