COVID pandemic cannot derail Colorado’s
commitment to fair and impartial courts
The COVID-19 Pandemic has hammered Colorado’s courts as hard as it has pummeled business and social affairs in the state. But the 2020 version of the Colorado Judicial Institute’s 18th annual Judicial Excellence for Colorado awards was proof that not even a deadly virus could weaken Colorado citizens’ commitment to fair and impartial courts.
This year, CJI honored Pueblo District Judge Larry C. Schwartz, Denver County Judge Theresa Spahn, and Fourth Judicial District Magistrate Jami Vigil of Colorado Springs. CJI also saluted retired Judge Robert Hawthorne of the Colorado Court of Appeals and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Nathan B. Coats. Finally, CJI also recognized the extraordinary efforts of Colorado’s court system in coping with the COVID crisis with a special award to the Chief Judges Council, which has been leading the response. Chief Judge James Hartmann, 19th Judicial District, and Chief Judge Michael Martinez, 2nd Judicial District, accepted the award on behalf of the Chief Judges Council.
Chief Justice Coats accepted his award while thanking CJI and the legal community for helping cope with the twin quagmires of the pandemic itself and an accompanying fiscal crisis caused by the severe recession. State and local courts have had to cut more than 200 positions as tax revenues plummeted, the Chief Justice said.
Judge Hawthorne, honored for 47 years of outstanding service in the state legal system, has long been an active leader and board member at CJI himself. He remains active as a senior judge as well as an arbitrator and mediator.
The trial court honorees were introduced by a video narrated by Judge Terry Fox of the Court of Appeals, Shannon Stevenson, and Sam Walker.
Judge Schwartz was “raised by a hard-working single mom” who inspired his passion for excellence. “His door is always open, and if he doesn’t have an answer to your problem, he’ll stop what he’s doing and find one,” a colleague noted.
Judge Spahn was the founding executive director of the Colorado Office of the Child’s Representative, a nationally recognized state agency that provides guardian ad litem representation in state courts. The agency represents more than 19,000 children annually who were the subject of dependency and neglect, domestic relations and delinquency, and other cases.
Magistrate Vigil was hailed as “the hardest working judicial officer in the 4th Judicial District. In addition to presiding over a juvenile docket, she supervises three treatment courts: a family drug treatment court, a baby wellness treatment court, and is in the process of instituting a juvenile wellness treatment court on top of presiding over our DUI court.”