DeVilbiss to step down in January
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Judge J.E. DeVilbiss, a 25-year veteran of the 9th Judicial District, will retire from his post in January.
A bulletin posted in the Pitkin County Courthouse on Friday announced that DeVilbiss, who has presided over the Roaring Fork Valley’s criminal cases since the early 1970s, will step down. Officials in the 9th Judicial District – an area composed of Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Meeker – have begun the search to fill his shoes.
DeVilbiss started his career in his native Texas as a prosecutor in Austin. But he’s been a familiar face in local courts since moving to Colorado in 1969. DeVilbiss left his private law practice to become a Garfield County judge in 1972, then moved to district court work in 1976 after his appointment by the 9th Judicial District.
The judge’s career is marked by a number of high-profile cases, including a few rulings handed down in the past five years. Last month, DeVilbiss sentenced Marcos Garcia-Flores, convicted of raping and beating an Aspen woman behind a local restaurant, to 40 years to life in prison. He also presided over the cases connected to the 1999 crime spree by 12 local teenagers who robbed a number of local business owners at gunpoint.
DeVilbiss is also known for his staunch support of defendants’ rights. The judge will halt legal proceedings for those he feels need the aid of a courtroom interpreter, and won’t hesitate to chastise police officers over questionable – or occasionally absent – arrest warrants.
He is almost as recognized for his views on courtroom conduct. The judge has ordered sheriff’s deputies to confiscate cell phones and pagers that interrupt legal proceedings. A defendant’s girlfriend recently saw her phone nabbed when she attempted to walk out of court instead of honoring DeVilbiss’ request to turn it off. He has also taken courtroom visitors to task for wearing ball caps or other inappropriate clothing in his presence.
Assistant District Attorney Katie Sullivan, who has presented cases before DeVilbiss for two years, said she is just one of many local attorneys and law enforcement officers who regret the judge’s retirement.
“It was an honor and a privilege to practice in front of him,” Sullivan said. “The standard of excellence that he demanded in all areas certainly helped all of us. … I know, for myself, it made me a better lawyer. We all learned something from him.”
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