Aspen/Glenwood judge dead of heart attack |

Aspen/Glenwood judge dead of heart attack

Bobby Magill
Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent District Attorney Martin Beeson and Judge Peter Craven, who died of a heart attack Tuesday.

ASPEN – They called him Pete outside the courtroom.”He could have been a Supreme Court judge in Colorado – he would have had that opportunity, but he loved Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Valley and he loved working as a judge here, and he felt he could make more of an impact in his home community.”That’s how Deputy Public Defender Jim Conway remembered Chief 9th Judicial District Judge Thomas Peter Craven, who died Tuesday evening in Aspen. He was 65. After hearing opening arguments in a Pitkin County civil trial on Tuesday, Craven rode his bicycle along an Aspen bike trail at about 5:45 p.m., when he reportedly suffered a heart attack. He was later pronounced dead at Aspen Valley Hospital. Inside the courtroom, Craven was addressed as “your honor.” He was a well-respected litigator, the founder of the Garfield County drug court, the first public defender in the 9th Judicial District (which includes Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties) and a man whose friends and colleagues say had a keen intellect and an unassailable reputation as one of the best judges in Colorado.

After serving as the municipal attorney for Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, Craven practiced law in the Roaring Fork Valley for years before being appointed to the district court bench in 1991. He ascended to the chief judge’s chair in 2004 and also served as water judge for Water Division 5. Craven studied Spanish and traveled to Mexico to learn more about the legal system there to help make Garfield County’s courts more accessible to Spanish speakers. In 2002, he received the Colorado Judicial Institute’s Judicial Excellence Award. Craven rode in several statewide bicycle tours and ran the Boston and New York marathons, said Glenwood attorney Walt Brown. Craven’s loss will be felt from Courtroom B in the Garfield County Courthouse to the halls of the Colorado Supreme Court and beyond. “I’ve known him for 36 years,” said Colorado Supreme Court Justice Mike Bender. “He was by far one of the most outstanding trial judges in the state.”Bender said Craven was a great role model for other judges statewide, calling him a “major player” in the state judiciary.

“He was a very talented, bright, energetic, free-thinking attorney,” Bender said. “As a person, he was very interested in the outdoors, definitely dedicated to his family. (He) had a great eye for photography. … I just can’t think of someone I respected more.”Hearing that Craven had a heart attack on a bike, Bender said, “He was at least doing something that he loved.”Former district judge Tom Ossola said Craven was extraordinarily intelligent and possessed a “wonderful sense of humor.” “As a person, he was warm, funny, didn’t take himself too seriously and didn’t let his friends take themselves too seriously,” Ossola said. And they still called him Pete. Ossola, who long ago served as a deputy district attorney, argued a case against Craven who was representing a defendant in trial.

“We had just completed the third day of a jury trial, and it was in the days when we all wore three-piece suits, and we had finished for the day and we walked out of the courtroom,” Ossola said. “He said, ‘Tom, we’ve got to finish this case tomorrow because I’ve only got one more three-piece suit.'”District Attorney Martin Beeson said men and women throughout the courthouse shed their share of tears Wednesday. “I’ve been in this business for 24 years,” said Beeson, who served as a deputy DA in Craven’s court. “I can say this without hesitation, and that is he is one of the finest judges that I have ever had the privilege to appear before. He had a command of the law, a command of the facts.”Beeson said Craven practiced “tough love” with defendants, and showed that through his stern, business-like operation of the drug court. “He also had a large measure of compassion for people,” Beeson said. Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User