Moorhead the new district judge |

Moorhead the new district judge

Matt Zalaznick and Jane Stebbins

But Eagle County Attorney Tom Moorhead says he’s long aspired to sit on the bench –as long as it’s at the front of an Eagle County courtroom, that is.

Gov. Bill Owens Friday appointed Moorhead judge for a new spot in the District Court for the Fifth Judicial District, which includes Eagle and Summit counties.

“It’s really a pinnacle,” said Moorhead, who was Vail’s town attorney before he became the county’s legal counselor in May 2001. “When you’ve been in the courtroom as much as I have, you have a great respect for the position.”

Moorhead, 53, was chosen over Eagle County District Attorney Mike Goodbee and lawyer Jaydee McPhetres, a former public defender who lives in Idaho Springs.

“I know Tom, and respect him, and know he’ll do a fine and professional job in this role,” said Goodbee, who has been reelected twice since being appointed district attorney in 1997. “I was privileged to be one of the three who got to meet the governor, get it out of committee. But I’m glad it’s a weekend.”

Moorhead, Goodbee and McPhetres were selected by a special nominating commission from a field of six candidates to be interviewed by Gov. Bill Owens, who interviewed each of the three and made the final decision Friday.

The Fifth Judicial District also includes Lake and Clear Creek counties. Moorhead said local district courts are the cornerstone of the American judicial system because “they deal with all issues and human affairs.”

“The courts of general jurisdiction have the most important role in our judicial system,” he added. “Every case goes through a court of general jurisdiction, and those initial decisions are very, very important.”

The District Court position is not be confused with the impending vacancy on the Eagle County Court due to the planned resignation of Judge Teri Diem in January 2003.

The District Court handles more serious felonies, more complex civil suits and juvenile cases. County Court handles lesser crimes, traffic issues and small claims cases.

Applications are now being accepted, meanwhile, for the open spot on the county bench.

When exactly Moorhead will take his seat on the District Court is still be determined by the Fifth Judicial District.

“Based on the breadth of my experience, I’ve had the opportunity to deal with a lot these issues,” said Moorhead, a former prosecutor for the state of Ohio. “I look forward to assisting people when they come to the courts and being fair and impartial. I’ll do the very best I can.”

Moorhead said he couldn’t have gotten to the bench, however, without some help.

“This is a pretty big milestone,” he said. “And the thing that has really been gratifying is the wonderful support I’ve gotten from so many people. Both Commissioner Tom Stone and Michael Gallagher offered tremendous support and I’m very grateful to them.”

And in the courtroom, he says, he’ll work more closely with lawyers than he has working for Eagle County.

“I have a great deal of respect for lawyers, and on a daily basis I will be working more closely with attorneys,” he said. “I love the practice of law.”

Matt Zalaznick covers public safety, Eagle County Courts and Avon/ Beaver Creek. He can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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