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Judicial Excellence Awards

2021 Judicial Excellence Awards Recipients—Magistrate Sarah Zane, County Judge Mark Randall and District Judge Paul Dunkelman

Colorado Courts Overcame COVID-19 to Sustain their Tradition of Excellence

By Bob Ewegen, CJI Emeritus Board Member and Journalist in Residence

Colorado courts went into overdrive in 2021 to successfully retain their traditions of excellence and fairness in the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic. More than 270 supporters gathered at the Hyatt Regency in Denver to celebrate their success as the Colorado Judicial Institute honored three outstanding jurists at CJI’s 19th annual Judicial Excellence Awards.

Magistrate Zane was the first female judicial officer in her southeast Colorado district. She helped bring the district's first child and family investigators as well as parenting classes. She also helped employers hire offenders who pay their arrears and child support.

"I want to help families reach their full potential. Families enter the courtroom with little hope as they are experiencing one of the worst moments of their lives. They need resources, our time, and mindset shifts that can help them heal and propel themselves forward.  It is incumbent on us as judicial officers not to just check a box and call our next case – but instead to actually show each and every family compassion; offer them a real, acceptable solution to the problems facing their family and always leave them with some grace," Magistrate Zane said.

Fellow Jefferson County Judge Corinne Magid hailed Judge Randall for "rising to super-hero status" during the pandemic as he ought to keep the courts open and available to the people.

"We were checking if he was sleeping at all," Judge Magid said. "We were getting messages at two in the morning, then again at six in the morning.

Judge Randall told the CJI audience, "We have to keep the building open for people who don't have the technology, the smartphones and computers for virtual hearings. County Court is the people's court and people have a right to have their cases heard."

Randall was also honored for working with the Donor Alliance to develop a protocol that allows organ donations in criminal cases where they were once barred – a program that has made hundreds of organs available. He also works with an animal rescue group that has saved 1,003 cats and dogs since the pandemic began.

Judge Dunkelman's nomination hailed his tireless record in the Fifth Judicial District and his strong record of community involvement, including the Domestic Relations Institute and volunteering as a Mock Trial Judge for the Mock Trial Western Slope Regional Tournament.

"I want to thank CJI for what they do and what they stand for," he said. "Your mission has never been more important than it is right now. The judicial system faces challenges and pressures like never before. There is more attention on the legal system, less confidence in the legal system in some ways. That's not necessarily a negative – it's a challenge. With challenges come opportunities. It means judges need to do our jobs the right way, we need to do our job tomorrow better than we do it today and the next day to do it even better. It's on us to assure the public has confidence in the judicial system, not the other way around."


Judicial Excellence Awards Nominations Now Open!

Nominations for the CJI Judicial Excellence Awards are open!  Click here to submit a nomination.

If you would like to read more about the awards, please visit the Judicial Excellence Awards page.

If you cannot use our online form, download a PDF of the form below.