DA looks to fill big shoes | AspenTimes.com

DA looks to fill big shoes

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Gov. Bill Ritter’s appointment of Deputy District Attorney Gail Nichols to a new judgeship earned a mixed reaction from her boss on Tuesday.

“This is a great day for the 9th Judicial District,” said District Attorney Martin Beeson, but he called Nichols’ appointment a “bittersweet moment.”

“She brings with her to the bench the perfect combination of character and integrity,” Beeson said, adding that Nichols has more than just the requisite legal knowledge.

And while Nichols will fill an important role handling the rapidly growing caseload in the valley, Beeson said her move is a major loss to the upvalley prosecutor’s office.

“She leaves some very big shoes to be filled,” Beeson said.

Chris Seldin, one of three finalists for the appointment, congratulated Nichols on Tuesday and said, “I’m sure she’ll do an outstanding job”

“It’s an honor and a privilege to get this appointment,” Nichols said after the governor’s office released the news of her appointment. “Most important, it’s a heavy responsibility.”

Nichols said she looks forward to the challenges of the new job.

She’ll continue as deputy district attorney in Aspen until June 13, then prosecute one last trial before her last day on June 20.

Her first day as judge is Tuesday, July 1.

Chief Judge Boyd, who on Tuesday was out of town on vacation, will make all of the decisions about where Nichols will preside and how to avoid any issues over her ruling in cases where she’d been a prosecutor, Nichols said.

Regardless of where she works, Nichols will continue to live with her husband, Billy LaCouter, at their home in Aspen. The pair met as ski bums in the early 1970s and will celebrate six years of marriage in September, she said.

Nichols joked that her celebration of the new job was short-lived, as her focus has shifted to organizing her office for a replacement.

Beeson said Nichols’ appointment to the new judgeship in the 9th Judicial District, which covers Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, will alleviate some stress on overworked judges.

“Criminal activity is on the rise in the district,” Beeson said. “Our judges are completely overwhelmed with the shear volume of cases they have to handle.”

The increase in crime mostly springs from a rapidly growing population, Beeson said.

Beeson said he is looking for candidates to fill Nichols job as deputy district attorney prosecuting felony cases in the upper valley.

Beeson might send someone from his Glenwood Springs office to cover Aspen in the short term, and said that the high cost of living in the upper valley is a deterrent to potential candidates for the job.

And there’s just no replacing Nichols, he added.

“There is no other Gail Nichols,” Beeson said.