Fernandez-Ely chosen as new county judge | AspenTimes.com

Fernandez-Ely chosen as new county judge

Erin Fernandez-Ely will become one of the first female judges in Pitkin County’s history when she takes the bench in January.

Fernandez-Ely was appointed by Gov. Bill Owens Tuesday as county judge in Pitkin County. The governor also considered Aspen attorneys Jim True and Jim Boyd for the post.

The governor cited Fernandez-Ely’s experience with domestic relations and land-use matters as top reasons for her appointment, according to a press release issued by his office.

She apparently isn’t the first female judge in Pitkin County’s history. Longtime local residents recall Mary Johnson served as a county judge, possibly in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That couldn’t be verified Tuesday with the Pitkin County Combined Courts office.

Fernandez-Ely, 46, said she was “honored” to be selected from the well-qualified field. She said she believes her diversity of background and experiences probably earned her the job.

She has practiced law for 20 years in Aspen. She has been a civil practitioner with the Aspen law firm of Kaufman and Peterson since 1993. Prior to that she was a partner in the local law firm of Taddune, Hazen, Esary and Guest, as well as a sole practitioner.

She was one of the plaintiff’s attorneys in the 1982 case of Pennobscot Inc. (et al.) vs. Pitkin County, considered one of the most important land-use cases in the state. The decision limited the county’s powers in regulating development on property of 35 acres or more.

Before coming to Aspen, Fernandez-Ely was a prosecutor in South Florida, specializing in white-collar crimes and felonies.

She is fluent in Spanish and has provided pro bono legal assistance through the Basalt Education Foundation for Latino residents of the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

She received her degree in philosophy from Wellesley College and graduated from the University of Florida law school.

Fernandez-Ely is taking over for County Judge Fitzhugh “Tam” Scott, who is retiring at the end of the year.

“I have some pretty big shoes to fill,” she said.

The judgeship is a part-time, 60 percent, position. The annual salary is $48,954.

Fernandez-Ely is married to John Ely, attorney for the Pitkin County government. They have two children.

The three candidates for the position had been recommended by the 9th Judicial District Nominating Commission. They were interviewed Monday by the governor, who was statutorily required to make an appointment by Tuesday.

“I’m personally disappointed, but I’m happy for Erin,” said True, a longtime friend of Fernandez-Ely’s who came to Aspen the same year. “She’ll make a fine judge.”

Also on Tuesday, Gov. Owens appointed John Daniel Dailey of Arvada and Henry Nieto of Lakewood to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

“All three individuals will bring tremendous expertise to the bench,” said Owens in a prepared statement. “John and Henry’s expertise in criminal law, and Erin’s experience with domestic relations and land-use matters, will serve the citizens of Colorado well in their new positions on the bench.”

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