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Judicial Excellence Awards

2012 Judicial Excellence Award Recipients— Chief Judge Robert S. Hyatt, Judge Susanna Meissner-Cutler and Magistrate Bonnie McLean

District Court Chief Judge Robert S. Hyatt of the 2nd Judicial District Court

District Court Chief Judge Robert S. Hyatt was born in St. Louis and received his law degree from the University of Missouri.  He moved to Colorado in 1979, when his wife, Sheila, was offered a position at the University of Denver Law School.  Hyatt was appointed as a Denver County Judge in 1984 by Denver Mayor Federico Peña.  In 1987, Gov. Roy Romer named him to the Denver District Court, where he has served since.

Hyatt was saluted for “presiding over high-profile criminal cases, high stakes civil litigation and gut-wrenching domestic cases.”  But CJI judges also noted Judge Hyatt “has presided with equal attention to over the countless unheralded cases that make up a trial judge’s docket, year in and year out.”

County Court Judge Susanna Meissner-Cutler of Douglas COunty in the the 18th Judicial District

County Judge Susanna Meissner-Cutler came to the law after receiving a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.  Born in New Mexico and raised in the Denver suburbs, she met her husband-to-be while practicing rural health care at a small community hospital in Durango.  Specializing in obstetrics she delivered her share of babies when doctors did not arrive in time.

Meissner-Cutler returned to Denver where she received a law degree from the University of Denver while continuing to practice nursing.  She was appointed to the new County Court Judge position in Douglas County in 1995 by Gov. Roy Romer.  Besides maintaining her high standards on the bench, Judge Meissner-Cutler has served on many committees, including the Planning and Analysis Standing Committee and the “Our Courts” program, which is a joint effort of CJI and the Colorado Bar Association.

Magistrate Bonnie McLean of the 18th Judicial District

Magistrate McLean was born and raised in the Denver suburbs, and graduated from the University of Colorado in just three years before attending the University of Denver Law School.   Initially disillusioned by the arcane legal theory and cutthroat attitude of many students, her interested in the law flared anew after taking Judge Dana Wakefield’s juvenile law class where, she reports, “the law actually became alive.”  Graduating in 2,000, the newly married attorney became a Deputy District Attorney in the 18th Judicial District, where she soon rose to Senior

Deputy DA in charge of the Juvenile Unit in Arapahoe County, which she describes as “a dream come true.”

McLean was appointed a magistrate in 2006 and in 2010 moved to the Juvenile Delinquency Division.  In 2011 she helped develop the 18th District first drug court and later took over the District’s mental health courts.

Together, this year’s trio of honorees exemplify the standards of excellence, fairness and public service that Colorado voters endorsed when they abandoned the former partisan judicial elections in favor of the current merit selection system in 1966.