J.E. DeVilbiss’ retirement party today
If you’re wondering how longtime District Judge J.E. DeVilbiss is handling retirement, today is the day to ask.
The court clerk’s staff in Pitkin County is throwing the judge a retirement party today at 11:30 a.m. in the district courtroom. That’s on the second floor of the Pitkin County Courthouse.
DeVilbiss hasn’t really had a chance to savor the easy life yet. After 26 years on the bench, he retired Dec. 1. His retirement came a week after his 68th birthday.
DeVilbiss was appointed as a judge in the 9th Judicial District in 1976. Since then, he has handled thousands of civil and criminal court cases in Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.
He will be best remembered for his handling of criminal cases. DeVilbiss built a reputation for being stern but fair. He treated wealthy defendants dressed in suits the same as inmates appearing before him in the orange garb of Pitkin County Jail.
“The simple fact that somebody has an orange suit on doesn’t mean they should be shown any less respect,” DeVilbiss said last month in an Aspen Times feature story. “In fact, I do respect them.”
The judge ran a very well-organized and efficient court. He demanded that attorneys be prepared and that all people ? lawyers, defendants, observers ? honor the formality and seriousness of the institution. More than one person who read the newspaper, wore a hat or had a cell phone go off in the courtroom caught his wrath.
DeVilbiss paid particular attention to juvenile court matters. He said his goal was to try to prevent youthful offenders from going into a life of crime and ending up in “the big room” as he called the main courtroom.
He also attempted to get people to acknowledge when drugs or alcohol were ruining their lives ? and he would help them get treatment.
“There are many people alive today because he used the court system to intervene in their lives,” said attorney Mick Ireland, a longtime friend of DeVilbiss. “Some will admit that, others will never get it.”
DeVilbiss, a Texas native, moved to Colorado in 1970 and initially practiced with a lawyer in Glenwood Springs who was the part-time district attorney. In 1972 he became the Garfield County judge, a part-time position. He became a full-time district judge four years later.
“You know, I have enjoyed it,” he said. “I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed it.”
DeVilbiss will remain in Aspen, where he has lived for 12 years and has numerous friends.
“It’s been a real privilege to serve the people of Pitkin County,” he said.
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