Nominating commission selects candidates for 5th Judicial District Court vacancy
Gov. Polis has until Feb. 9 to appoint new district court judge
The nominating commission for the 5th Judicial District has announced two candidates have been selected for possible appointment to the district court’s judiciary vacancy: Courtney Holm of Edwards and Jonathan Shamis of Leadville.
Mark Thompson retired from the 5th Judicial District Court bench as its chief justice on Jan. 14. Thompson, based out of Summit County, served as the chief judge for the sprawling district that includes Summit, Clear Creek, Eagle and Lake counties until he was demoted and then temporarily suspended for threatening his stepson in July 2021. According to reporting from the Denver Post, Thompson resigned because of “personal circumstances,” according to resignation letters he submitted to 5th Judicial Chief Judge Paul Dunkelman and State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright.
Holm, an Eagle County native who is a trial attorney and mediato, is currently in her third round as a finalist for the 5th Judicial District Court. She served on the Colorado Bar Association as the 7th District Vice President and as president of the Continental Divide Bar Association.
Holm said she has a strong connection to Eagle County and its residents.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to go work down (in Denver) and I’ve turned them down because I care about this community and really care about the people and understand the different dynamics,” Holm said.
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Holm said she understands the varied socioeconomic levels, languages and backgrounds that make up Eagle County and the surrounding counties of Lake, Summit and Clear Creek within the 5th Judicial District jurisdiction.
She said it is important for a judge to be visible and active within their community.
“I spend a lot of time going into the high schools and the middle schools and elementary schools to teach kids about the law on their level and hopefully inspire them and help it not be a scary thing,” Holm said.
Should she be appointed to the 5th Judicial District Court, Holm said it is important for the community to know she would work hard to bring an opportunity of fairness to people.
“I haven’t specialized in representing one kind of person, I can see positions from all different sides and I think that everybody brings value,” Holm said. “I want to try to find ways for people to succeed and to keep the community safe.”
Shamis, the other finalist, is a Lake County judge who works in several ways to improve legal practices and boost local communities.
As adjunct faculty, Shamis teaches within Colorado Mountain College’s paralegal program. He chairs the Mental Health Subcommittee of the Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Education and is a co-chair on the Judicial Wellness subcommittee of the Colorado Task Force on Attorney Wellness. He sits on the Bridges Mental Health Program Statewide Steering Committee and the Colorado State Mental Health Diversion Program Funding Allocation Committee.
Shamis is a commissioner on the Colorado Suicide Prevention Commission and serves on Gov. Jared Polis’ Competency Task Force. He’s also a chairman of the board of the Cloud City Conservation Center, and a board member of the Lake County Community Fund and the Hope Center.
“All my activities since I was appointed 10 years ago, both in terms of judicial education and in terms of improvement on how the courts engage in health, I’m passionate about,” Shamis said.
Overall, Shamis said he’s spent about 25 years working in Lake County and Eagle County.
“I feel very comfortable both with the community and also the work,” Shamis said.
Shamis has been praised for his work with the pilot program, which encourages more diversity within legal representation. Specifically, the pilot program aims to attract Latino attorneys to the 5th and 9th Judicial districts.
“The demographics of the legal community don’t reflect the community population,” Shamis said.
Shamis also said he is most proud of his work with the concierge program, which provides help to those who call the courthouse in Leadville.
“(It’s important) to provide all the collateral services that both improve the administration of justice services, but also just simply help the person if they’re a member of the same community,” Shamis said.
Should he be appointed, Shamis said he will carry such values in community involvement and procedural justice along with him. He explained that it is also crucial to ensure those coming before the court understand what is happening and that they feel as though they had an opportunity to truly be heard.
“It’s important for me that the community feels that the court system is theirs, not ours,” Shamis said. “That they feel they have a role to play in how it operates and that’s how to elevate confidence in our system.”
Per the Colorado Constitution, Polis has until Feb. 9 to interview the nominees and choose one to be appointed to the district court bench.