Antonito native Judge Carlos Lucero retires

Carlos F. Lucero

DENVER — President Joe Biden will have his first vacancy to fill on the federal appeals court based in Denver since Antonito native Judge Carlos F. Lucero retired Monday after more than 25 years on the bench.

A nominee of President Bill Clinton, the U.S. Senate confirmed Lucero in June 1995. Based in Denver, he is the first Hispanic member and the second longest-serving judge currently on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, with his confirmation coming one month after Judge Mary Beck Briscoe’s. 

Lucero took senior status effective, Feb. 1. Senior judges, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, handle about 15 percent of the federal judiciary’s workload. Even if a senior judge opts to take a full caseload, they still create a vacancy among active judges to be filled.

The 80-year-old Lucero is a graduate of Adams State College and the George Washington University School of Law. He entered private practice in 1966 and was also an adjunct professor at Adams State until his confirmation.

From 1977 to 1978, Lucero was president of the Colorado Bar Association. He ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1984 and 1990. In the latter campaign, Lucero lost to Boulder County Commissioner Josie Heath in the primary.

Winner of the Billy Adams Award during the Adams State Homecoming in 2019, Lucero said, “I’ve been privileged to have a good life. It all started with education for me,” said Lucero, who grew up in Antonito with his parents, Margaret and Antonio Lucero, and five siblings. “We had a very, very solid education background in Antonito,” he said, “and probably that was the biggest blessing because it laid the foundation to receive a scholarship to any school in Colorado I wanted to attend.”

He chose Adams State, graduated in 1961, then received a Jurist Doctorate from George Washington University Law School in 1964. In his early career, he was a law clerk for The Hon. William E. Doyle, U.S. District Court, District of Colorado, from 1964 until 1965; he had a private law practice in Alamosa from 1966 until 1995 when he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. He was an adjunct professor of legal studies at Adams State from 1966 until 1989.

The 10th Circuit handles cases from Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. There are 12 active judges, the newest of whom, Joel M. Carson III, took his seat in 2018.

In all phases of his life, Lucero has placed great importance on education. He and his wife, Dorothy, established the Lucero Project through the Adams State Foundation in 1994 to provide students with work-study positions to mentor at-risk children in the San Luis Valley public schools.

Discussing his presentation for the Billy Adams Award, he said, “Adams State College began with an improbable dream. A small town in southern Colorado even then was not the most likely place to start a liberal arts school,” Lucero said of Adams State’s founding in 1921. “It started as a teaching school and morphed into a liberal arts school, but it began with a dream and what I hope to say in my brief remarks is that planning always begins with a dream.”

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