VALLEY — The 12th Judicial District Nominating Commission has nominated three candidates for a district court judgeship created by the passing of District Judge Patrick Hayes, Jr. Nominees Amanda Hopkins and Jason Kelley, both of Alamosa, and Barbara Zollars of Monte Vista were selected in a meeting on June 22 at the Alamosa County Courthouse.
Under the Colorado Constitution, the governor has 15 days from Monday, June 25, to appoint one of the nominees as district court judge for the 12th Judicial District.
Judge Zollars is currently the Rio Grande County judge, having succeeded Judge Hayes on the bench. She also serves as the municipal judge for Monte Vista and town attorney for San Luis.
She held a law practice for a long time and headed the regional public defender’s office for several years after previously serving in public defender’s offices in other locations in Colorado. She also has served as the department of human services attorney in Saguache. She has experience in a wide range of the law including civil and criminal law.
Zollars earned her undergraduate degree from Seattle University and her Juris Doctor from the Seattle University School of Law.
Having served three years on the county court bench, Zollars said she could easily make the transition to the district court bench if appointed. She added that Judge Hayes was a good friend, a decent human being and good judge. “I am honored at the possibility of following him into district court.”
In Alamosa nearly 11 years, Hopkins is the managing deputy for the regional public defender’s office, a position she has held since December 2011. She previously served as deputy public defender in the office. Originally from Colorado Springs, she earned her undergraduate degree in international political economy with a minor in Latin American studies from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, followed by her Juris Doctor from Seattle University. She was placed in the Alamosa public defender’s office because there were no Spanish-speaking attorneys in the office at the time, and she is fluent in Spanish.
Hopkins was only scheduled to stay in Alamosa for 18 months, but she said she wanted to make this her home, especially after the community embraced her with love and compassion during difficult times occurring in the first six months of her time here, including the death of her brother.
Applying to serve on the district court bench would be one way of giving back to the community, she said. She added she would also like to be part of the solution to the heroin crisis in the community, help repair the disconnect between the courts and the community and honor Judge Hayes’ legacy. “I was privileged enough to have been able to be mentored by him for the last 10 years,” she said. “As an attorney he taught me more about the honor and duty of being a lawyer than any other lawyer I have ever known.”
Kelly currently serves as the attorney for Alamosa County, a position he has held full time since 2011. He performed contract legal work for the county for three years prior. Living in Alamosa nearly all his life, he grew up here and went to school here before serving a mission in Brazil after high school. He went to school at Adams State for a year and to BYU-Idaho briefly before completing an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. After working a couple of years in the information technology field for Valley Wide Health Systems, he went to law school in Little Rock. He remained in Little Rock after graduation to work for a couple of years in the legal firm where he had clerked during law school.
Kelly moved back to Colorado in 2006 and opened a private practice where he gained experience in various areas of the law including family, juvenile, general and probate. He said he would like to contribute to the community he calls home and to the broader San Luis Valley. He added his experiences have prepared him to communicate and work with the public in the courtroom, which can be a stressful place for people. At the county level he has worked with frustrated and angry people to calm them down and help them understand they have a voice and will be heard, something he would hope to continue on the district court bench.
Comments regarding the nominees may be sent via e-mail to the governor at [email protected]