Three finalists have been selected for a new judgeship in the 9th Judicial District that will be created this summer.
Glenwood Springs residents John Neiley, a local civil attorney, and Scott Turner, a deputy district attorney in the 9th; and defense attorney Colleen Scissors of Basalt were selected on Monday by the Ninth Judicial District Nominating Commission.
The seven-member commission for the district, which encompasses Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, interviewed 11 candidates on Friday.
Aspen City Attorney Jim True was one of those candidates who did not make the cut.
“I’m disappointed, but I have mixed feelings because I am happy where I am,” True said Monday.
The three finalists have been forwarded to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who will make the call on who will become the district’s fifth sitting judge. Under the Colorado Constitution, Hickenlooper has 15 days from May 20 to appoint one of the nominees.
True has applied for judicial vacancies five times before in his legal career here; in four of those instances, his name has gone to the governor for appointment. Three of those applications were for a district court position, the other was for an appointment as a county judge. The last time his name was forwarded to the governor was in 2008, when Gail Nichols was appointed to the bench.
Neiley said he was stunned to make the finalist list, especially considering he was competing against people like True, who has been a criminal defense attorney, a civil lawyer, a mediation hearing officer, a municipal prosecutor and a two-term Pitkin County commissioner.
“I was really surprised,” Neiley said. “There are some really well-qualified candidates.”
Neiley, 54, moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2006 after having his own private practice in Summit County for about 14 years. He specializes in real estate, zoning, land use, development, construction defects, common interest communities, commercial and residential leasing, small business formation, and planning, according to his resume.
He is currently a partner at Neiley & Adler. Neiley represented the plaintiffs that sued Pitkin County over snowmobile parking in Lenado, a case that has now reached the federal court system and involves the U.S. Forest Service.
Neiley also has worked in the Federal Trade Commission’s Denver office, investigating and prosecuting antitrust and consumer fraud cases, as well as at a civil litigation practice focused on insurance and medical malpractice defense.
He is scheduled to be interviewed by Hickenlooper on May 29.
Scissors, 50, is in the process of moving full time to Basalt from Grand Junction, where she has had a criminal defense practice for the past 15 years. She has sold that practice and is leaving it on May 31.
She said she feels as though the judgeship opportunity is the perfect next step in her career, especially since she wasn’t sure what she was going to do next and was entertaining going back to teaching.
“Then this job landed in my lap as a possibility,” Scissors said.
She has handled 20 or 30 cases in the 9th Judicial District. Notably, she represented Marlin Brown, a plumbing and heating subcontractor who was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of the Lofgren family of Denver. The family of four died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2008 in a home they were staying at near Aspen. The home’s snowmelt system malfunctioned, causing the poison gas to infiltrate the bedrooms where the Lofgrens were sleeping. The cases against Brown and two former county building inspectors were dismissed on a statute-of-limitations technicality.
She’s also taught as a professor at UC-Berkeley and worked at a law firm in San Francisco handling personal injury civil cases early in her career. Scissors also worked in Portland, Ore., representing criminal federal defendants.
Scissors is scheduled to interview with Hickenlooper on Wednesday.
Turner, 47, ran unsuccessfully this past fall for district attorney in the Fifth Judicial District, where he was assistant district attorney for about five or six years. He also has worked in private practice in criminal defense and civil cases in Kansas City, Mo. He moved to Colorado in 2005. He currently works in Glenwood Springs as a deputy district attorney for the 9th Judicial District.
He is scheduled to be interviewed by the governor May 29.
“I’m honored to be selected by the committee,” he said Monday.
State legislators approved a bill during the current session that adds a new judge to the 9th Judicial District effective July 1. Currently, the district has the second-lowest district court judge staffing level out of Colorado’s 22 judicial districts — meaning the judges here have heavier caseloads then almost anywhere else in the state.
The judge, who will earn an annual salary of $128,598, will be based in Glenwood Springs.
While the names of initial applicants for the judicial vacancy are officially confidential, the Daily News has confirmed that 9th Judicial District prosecutor and former Aspen City Councilman Tony Hershey and Carbondale defense attorney Kathy Goudy had applied. Joe Fennessy, an attorney in Meeker, also was on the list.