Three vie for county judge seat |

Three vie for county judge seat

Ryan Graff
Special to the Post Independent

RIFLE ” A former medical student, a substitute teacher and a Rifle native are all in the running to fill a vacant judge’s seat in the associate county court in Rifle.

The Ninth Judicial District’s Nominating Commission named Patrick Burwell of Rifle, Joe Fennessy of Meeker and Jason Jovanovich of New Castle as candidates to fill the empty Garfield County court judge seat, left vacant by Judge Steve Carter.

On March 4, the nominees will interview with the governor’s staff, which will recommend which nominee for Gov. Bill Owens to appoint.

Patrick Burwell

Burwell, 38, graduated from Rifle High School in 1984. Burwell received a degree in political science from the University of Northern Colorado in 1988, and his law degree from Arizona State University in 1992.

After graduating from ASU, Burwell worked on civil cases in private practice in Arizona.

He returned to Rifle in 2002 with his wife, Barbara, and their two daughters. Burwell works as an attorney and title examiner at Commonwealth Title Company of Garfield County.

He said it is an honor to be nominated for the judgeship.

Joe Fennessy

Fennessy, 53, was born in Connecticut and received a marketing degree from Central Connecticut State University in 1973. He received his law degree in 1978 from the University of Tulsa, and a masters in tax law from the University of Denver in 1981.

In 1981, Fennessy moved to Colorado to work for Milt Blakey, who was then the district attorney in the 9th Judicial District. Fennessy worked as Blakey’s deputy district attorney until 1986, when he went to work for a year as a deputy district attorney in the 4th Judicial District. From 1987 to 1991 he took premedical classes at Yale University and then worked as a defense lawyer for Aetna, a major insurance provider. Fennessy then went back to work for district attorney Blakey until 1997, when Mac Myers was elected.

Currently, Fennessy runs a private law practice in Meeker.

“It’s really a big honor to have the governor consider you,” he said. “To get to this point (in the selection process), I’m flattered.”

Fennessy said he’s excited by the position because the associate county court in Rifle is a very important court and handles all kinds of cases.

Jason Jovanovich

Jovanovich is currently a deputy district attorney in the 9th Judicial District.

Jovanovich moved from place to place when he was young, and received a degree in history from Brigham Young University in 1995. He then received a law degree from the University of Tulsa in 1998, and worked as public defender in Oklahoma for about a year.

In 1999 he moved to Douglas County with his wife, Rebecca, who is a Colorado native, and worked as a substitute teacher and supervised John McCain’s presidential campaign in Colorado.

Like the other nominees, Jovanovich is excited at the possibility of serving the people of Garfield County.

“I realize that a judge is a person who makes a big difference,” said Jovanovich. “I’d like to be the type of judge that I always wanted to practice in front of,” he said, noting that he believes the best judges are fair and apply the law well.

Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 534

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