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TCL > November 2008 Issue > Colorado Judicial Branch Recognizes Exceptional Service

November 2008       Vol. 37, No. 11       Page  13
In and Around the Bar
The SideBar

Colorado Judicial Branch Recognizes Exceptional Service
by Rob McCallum

The SideBar, formerly known as “Bar News Highlight,” may comprise reports of recent activities and special events around the Bar; stories that deal with lawyer activities in the past and outside the practice of law; or short profiles of estimable individuals. The SideBar may be a photo collage of a noteworthy event; may highlight extraordinary experiences; or may describe notable milestones by individuals, local bars, specialty bars, or legal organizations. Send The SideBar queries or material to

About the Author

Rob McCallum is Public Information Officer for the Colorado State Court Administrator’s Office—

The Colorado Judicial Branch (CJB) recently recognized the exemplary service of several employees and employee teams from among the state’s twenty-two judicial districts. The CJB presented the following awards:

  • Outstanding Trial Court Employee—Jessie Kuhns
  • Outstanding Team—Twenty-first Judicial District Dependency and Neglect Case Processing Team
  • Outstanding Probation Office Employee—Vaunette Stull
  • Outstanding Judicial Officer—Mary Joan Berenato
  • Innovation Award—Steven Rael
  • Outstanding Supervisor Employee of the Year and Outstanding Administrative Employee—Sheila Colclasure-Griffin and Joanna Foreman
  • Diversity Leadership and Community Service—Larry Davis and Rob Reilly.

The CJB includes the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, as well as district and county trial courts. According to information tracked by the State Court Administrator’s Office (SCAO), in fiscal year 2007, 1,534 cases were filed in the Colorado Supreme Court; 2,548 cases were filed in the court of appeals; 189,235 cases were filed at the district court level; and 551,197 cases were filed statewide at the county court level. There also were 1,220 cases filed in the water courts. The CJB employs approximately 3,600 persons, including 304 justices, judges, and magistrates.

The CJB also is home to the Department of Probation Services (DPS), which employs more than 1,100 people, including 800 probation officers. DPS officers are responsible for supervising approximately 7,600 juvenile offenders and 61,000 adult offenders.

2008 Award Recipients

> The Outstanding Trial Court Employee in the CJB is Jessie Kuhns of the Eighteenth Judicial District (18th J.D.). The 18th J.D. comprises Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln Counties.

Chief Judge William B. Sylvester nominated Kuhns for the award. When he took the reins as Chief Judge of the 18th J.D. in October 2006, Sylvester selected Kuhns to be his division clerk. Chief Judge Sylvester said he relies on her to be the "go-to" person for his court and the 18th J.D. staff. In his nomination, Chief Judge Sylvester recognized Kuhns’ able coordination of staff coverage, as well as her efforts in helping pro se litigants and attorneys gain access to the courts. Chief Judge Sylvester emphasized her pleasant demeanor, sense of humor, and enthusiasm.

> The Outstanding Team in the CJB is the Twenty-first Judicial District’s (21st J.D.) Dependency and Neglect Case Processing Team (D&N Team). The 21st J.D. comprises Mesa County. Members of the D&N Team are Magistrate Jane Westbrook, Division Clerk Dee Green, Assistant Division Clerk Tina Hoffman, Assistant Division Clerk Betty Richer, and Family Court Facilitator Diane Lucero.

Among its accomplishments, the D&N Team: developed and implemented a new case processing system specific to the needs of the court; piloted a training program designed to bring together court and human services staff members; held a stakeholder gathering for all parties involved in the court; took on review and management responsibilities for the open case reports; and transitioned the courtrooms from tape recorders to digital recorders.

> The Outstanding Probation Office Employee in the CJB is Vaunette Stull, an administrative secretary in the Twentieth Judicial District, comprising Boulder County. Seven of Stull’s coworkers in the probation department nominated her for the award. Their nomination emphasized Stull’s positive attitude, years of experience, and professionalism.

Stull has been with the probation department for more than twenty years and has various responsibilities. She organizes pre-sentence investigation reports and reports for the Community Corrections Board. She also trains new probation officers about the office’s administrative workings, works the front desk, and manages the department’s phones. Stull also is a member of the Judicial Support Staff Association and the probation department’s activities committee.

> The CJB’s Outstanding Judicial Officer is Magistrate Mary Joan Berenato of the Eighth Judicial District (8th J.D.), which comprises Jackson and Larimer Counties. Magistrate Berenato works a juvenile court docket. She was nominated for the award by Miriam Villegas-Negron, the managing court interpreter in the 8th J.D.

Magistrate Berenato was recognized for starting a level-one drug court program designed to help petty offenders who are trying to overcome their substance abuse problems focus on school attendance and employment opportunities. She also was recognized for her work off the Bench in enhancing a general understanding of the role of the judiciary. Magistrate Berenato regularly meets with leaders of the legal community and the general public. She also frequently meets with members of various agencies of government. Her efforts work toward strengthening collaborative relationships among all of these groups.

> The CJB’s Innovation Award has been given to Steven Rael, a probation officer for Denver Adult Probation in the Second Judicial District (2nd J.D.), which comprises Denver County. Rael was nominated for the award by Peter Bryan, a fellow probation officer in the 2nd J.D.

Rael was commended by his colleague for developing the probation "Tracker Program," which was designed to foster communication among law enforcement agencies and promote cooperative efforts among enforcement agencies and probationers. According to Bryan, Rael continues to look for new ways to improve the program, "with the goal of reducing probation absconders."

> The Fourth Judicial District (4th J.D.), comprising El Paso and Teller Counties, recognized two employees for their exemplary service. Sheila Colclasure-Griffin, supervisor of the public service team, received the CJB’s Outstanding Supervisor Employee of the Year award. Joanna Foreman, supervisor of the records management team, was named Outstanding Administrative Employee of the 4th J.D.

Colclasure-Griffin supervises the 4th J.D.’s twenty-two-member public service team, who staff the front counter, information booth, first-appearance center, and phone center. She also oversees the district’s phone system and is responsible for managing and updating the district’s Web pages. Colclasure-Griffin was lauded for her "respectful, efficient, and accurate service."


Foreman has been with the CJB for more than eighteen years. During the past eight years, she has led a team of twenty-two 4th J.D. employees and supervisors responsible for the successful operation of the records management team. Foreman’s nomination stresses her "understanding of the organization’s policies, procedures, and standards," as well as her creativity and negotiation and problem-solving skills that focus on team approach.


> Two CJB employees from the SCAO have been recognized for exemplary work contributing to the high quality of service provided throughout the state’s twenty-two judicial districts. The SCAO provides administrative support and services to Colorado’s trial and appellate courts, which in turn provide Colorado citizens meaningful, speedy, and economical forums to resolve disputes. The SCAO also supports the management of probation services to enhance public protection and offender rehabilitation.

Larry Davis, a trainer and education specialist for the DPS, was named recipient of the CJB’s Diversity Leadership award. Davis has been with the CJB for seventeen years, working in the Human Resources Division and in the DPS. He has been instrumental in developing and launching customer service and diversity awareness training for courts across the state. Through his work with the National Multi-Cultural Institute in Washington, DC, Davis developed a cultural competency curriculum for the CJB, which has since been adopted by the state of California. His nomination acknowledged his commitment to "ensuring that all employees of the criminal justice system are treated fairly and with respect."

Rob Reilly, SCAO purchasing manager, was recognized with the Community Service award. Reilly retired from the CJB in August 2008, after more than ten years of working in the Financial Services Division as an auditor and as the purchasing manager. His coworkers recognized him for careful and enthusiastic organization of charitable giving opportunities at the SCAO, and for motivating employees to participate in those opportunities.

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