A Grand County court judge was appointed to a bench seat in the 14th Judicial District on Thursday.
Gov. Bill Ritter announced that he appointed Mary Clarkson Hoak of Fraser to fill the newly created position. Hoak will join Chief Judge Michael O'Hara and District Judge Shelley Hill, who serve Routt, Moffat and Grand counties.
"I am very honored an excited about the appointment," Hoak said Friday. "It's been an honor to serve the people of Grand County, and I'm really looking forward to serving all the people in the district."
Hoak was sworn in Thursday.
Evan Dreyer, Ritter's spokesman, said Ritter appointed Hoak after taking into consideration her qualifications and what she could contribute to the district.
Ritter "felt she has a commanding understanding of the use of law because of her place on the bench already," Dreyer said Friday. "She has a good sense of the district and a good sense of the issues. He felt she would provide a balanced and just administration of the law."
O'Hara said Hoak will help ease the district's growing caseload.
"We've been limping along in trying to do everything we can," he said. "I am very grateful we were early on the list to receive another judge."
The third judge position was created with the passage of House Bill 1054, which will place more than 40 new judges across Colorado during the next few years.
Steamboat Springs attorney Tammy Jenson also was nominated for the position.
Jenson said she thinks Hoak will serve the district well.
"I understand the decision, and I think it's a good choice," she said. "It was a win-win situation."
Hoak said she will continue to handle the county and district caseload in Grand County until the county judge opening is filled. When the new Routt County Justice Center is completed this fall, Hoak likely will begin spending several days a week in Steamboat Springs. Because caseload is heavier in Routt and Grand counties, Hoak won't spent any time in Moffat County, she said.
"She knows the ropes and has been handling Grand County's caseload well," O'Hara said. "It won't be a difficult transition for her."
Hoak has worked as a Grand County judge since 2003. She served as a deputy district attorney in 2002 and 2003. She also worked as a private attorney at Otten, Johnson, Robinson, Neff and Ragonetti in Denver from 1992 to 1993, and as a sole practitioner from 1994 to 2003. Hoak earned her bachelor's degree from Vassar College in 1987 and her law degree in 1992 from the Law School at University of Chicago.
Hoak's initial term is for a provisional two years. If retained by voters, she will serve another six years.