Area residents in race for seat

14th Judicial District judge's spot up for grabs as Doucette is retiring

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— Two Steamboat Springs men and a Craig woman have been nominated to replace retiring 14th Judicial District Judge Richard Doucette.

The nominees include Gary Scott Engle and Michael Andrew O'Hara III, both of Steamboat Springs, and Sandra Henrietta Gardner of Craig.

The nominees were selected by the 14th Judicial District Nominating Commission. The commission interviewed candidates Wednesday in Steamboat.

The 14th Judicial District covers Grand, Moffat and Routt counties.

Doucette's retirement is effective Dec. 31.

The nominees were recommended to Gov. Bill Owens. Under the Colorado Constitution, Owens has 15 days to appoint one of the nominees as judge. But Owens may announce his decision earlier, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis said.

Gardner, who specializes in family law, holds law offices in Steamboat Springs and Craig. She could not be reached for comment Thursday.

O'Hara has worked in the law office of Oliphant, Hammond, O'Hara and Atwell LLC since moving to Steamboat in 1991.

He practiced law for several years in California after graduating from the University of San Diego Law School in 1985.

Engle has worked in the law office of Weiss and Van Scoyk LLP since moving to Steamboat in 1996.

He moved to Phoenix after graduating from Pepperdine University Law School in 1976.

During his first few years in Steamboat, he practiced law in both Phoenix and Steamboat to see through his Arizona cases.

Trial law comprises the majority of Engle's work, although he occasionally engages in some transactional and appellate work.

O'Hara likewise spends most of his time in the courtroom. Most of his career has been spent in litigation.

Engle and O'Hara both commended the quality candidates that applied for Doucette's position and said they still would have been satisfied with the commission's decision had they not been nominated.

"It was a rewarding experience to go through the entire process," Engle said.

The chance to serve as a judge has intrigued Engle since law school. Doucette's decision to retire from the bench presented him with the opportunity.

"For the first time, I felt that it was a proper time," he said.

O'Hara said he was encouraged by many people to pursue the soon-to-be vacant seat and thoughtfully considered his decision to apply for the job.

"I was humbled and flattered by the nomination," he said.

O'Hara considers the qualifications for any judge to be straightforward.

"The most important thing is the ability to listen and be unbiased," he said.

A judge must hold the law in high esteem, Engle said.

"I have an intense respect for our legal system and the Law," he said.

"I have a strong belief that it's the best system in the world and that it does work well and can work better."

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