Judge finalists all have Aspen ties

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times

Aspen will lose one of its top legal minds when Gov. Bill Ritter appoints the new 9th Judicial District judge in the coming weeks.

Deputy District Attorney Gail Nichols, Pitkin County assistant attorney Chris Seldin and city of Aspen assistant attorney Jim True were all named finalists Tuesday for the new judgeship covering Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties.

A nominating committee whittled some half-dozen applicants down to three, and Gov. Ritter has 15 days ” until May 21 ” to appoint the new judge.

Judge James Boyd is the chief judge in the district and covers felonies, civil cases and other matters mostly in Pitkin County. Alongside him, Judges Daniel B. Petre and Denise Lynch preside over criminal and civil cases mostly in Garfield County out of the Garfield County Courthouse in Glenwood Springs. All three judges share duties in court in Meeker, which is in Rio Blanco County.

The 9th Judicial District judges cover everything from felony criminal cases to juvenile matters, domestic relations, divorce and custody, water court and civil claims above the small claims level, according to the state website.

The new judge likely will work out of Glenwood Springs office. Officials from the Garfield County Courthouse welcomed the appointment.

James Bradford, clerk of the combined courts for Garfield County, said he was “certainly welcoming the new position” because of increasing caseloads in the district.

The starting salary for the job is $118,972 and the position would begin July 1 with a provisional term of two years. If voters retain the judge, the position will be for a six-year term.

The three candidates are all from the upper end of the valley and hold important positions in the city of Aspen, the court system and in Pitkin County.

It’s not the first time that True, 54, has made the final rounds for a judgeship.

An engineering graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology, True holds a law degree from the University of South Carolina and has had a general law practice in the valley for 27 years.

True has a long history of public service, including a stint as Pitkin County commissioner from 1989 to 1997, as well as work as the county land-use public hearing officer. A recent bid to return to the county board failed in 2006. He recently was hired as assistant county attorney in Aspen.

“It is an area of the law I enjoy the most,” True said of the courts and the process of evaluating facts and interpreting law.

Nichols, 57, and a native of Massachusetts, graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned a law degree from the Vermont Law School. She clerked for an appeals judge in a Philadelphia circuit court, worked for a New York law firm, then became a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, where, after work as a defense attorney for a time, she became head of criminal prosecutors in New Jersey.

Nichols moved to Aspen in 2003 and has been deputy district attorney since 2003 (with a short break from April 2005 to January 2006).

Seldin, the youngest of the finalists at age 36, is a native of Durango. He graduated from Dartmouth College and earned a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

Seldin worked for a San Francisco law firm before returning to the Western Slope to become assistant county attorney six years ago. He has been a Basalt town councilman for two years.

A short one-year stint as a clerk for a Colorado Supreme Court judge was where Seldin first learned to appreciate the job of gathering information, impartially interpreting law and coming to decisions.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to provide an important service to the community,” Seldin said of the judgeship.

The new judge will take the bench July 1.

Glenwood Post Independent reporter Phillip Yates contributed to this article.