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TCL > March 2000 Issue > Governor Owens' View of the Judicial Selection Process

March 2000       Vol. 29, No. 3       Page  19
CBA President's Message to Members

Governor Owens' View of the Judicial Selection Process
by Bart Mendenhall, Troy A. Eid


On the occasion of the swearing-in ceremony for new Court of Appeals Judges Henry Nieto and John David Daily, remarks were made by Troy A. Eid, Chief Counsel to Governor Bill Owens. Eid was filling in for Governor Owens, who was unable to attend. At his invitation, I am publishing these remarks as part of my column, to help illustrate the Governor's view of the judicial selection process, as well as his thoughts on these two new Judges. I believe, regardless of your political orientation, you will be pleased with the remarks.

Hopefully, in a few months, we will have an essay on the Governor's judicial philosophy, after more appointments have been made.

Without trying to second guess Mr. Eid, or the Governor, the comments concerning the merit selection process, and the importance of the judiciary, are particularly encouraging.

Bart Mendenhall

Remarks of Troy Eid,

Chief Counsel to Governor Bill Owens,

At the Swearing-In Ceremony for Judges

John Daniel Dailey and Henry Nieto,

Colorado Court of Appeals,

January 7, 2000

Thank you, Chief Judge Hume. I just returned from Colorado Springs, where Governor Owens is presiding over a long-scheduled cabinet meeting and addressing the Chamber of Commerce. The Governor would have liked to have been here personally and sends his best wishes. In honor of this, the Governor's first appointments to the Colorado Court of Appeals, I appreciate the Chief Judge's gracious invitation to say a few words on the Governor's behalf.

First, let me thank the volunteer members of the Statewide Judicial Nominating Commission. Fifty-three candidates applied for these two vacancies on the court. The Commissioners winnowed this list to six outstanding finalists. They had a big job to do, and did it exceedingly well.

Let me also thank Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey for her service as the ex officio chairperson of the nominating commission. As with everything she does, the Chief brought grace and dignity to her duties. I'm sometimes asked what is the most difficult part of being Governor Owens' chief counsel. For a while I thought it was the trip to Northeastern Colorado last summer where the Governor's Chevy Suburban made three separate stops at McDonald's in less than eight hours: McDonald's breakfast; McDonald's lunch; plus an afternoon McFlurry break. I tried ordering a Coke instead of a McFlurry and boy, will I never make that mistake again. Actually, an even greater challenge of being the Governor's attorney is trying to live up to the high standards that Mary Mullarkey set when she was chief counsel to Governor Lamm. Thanks, Chief.

Looking around the room, it is striking how many of you have played a role in the judicial selection process — not only in this case, but with one or more of the other 12 judges whom Governor Owens has appointed since taking office. One thing I've learned this past year is that participating in the merit-selection process for judges is one of the most important civic duties that any of us can perform as citizens of this State. The Governor will be the first to tell you that he will leave no more important legacy to the people of Colorado than the men and women he appoints to the bench.

For the Colorado Court of Appeals, the legacy starts with Judges Henry Nieto and John Daniel Dailey. Like most lawyers, I am rarely at a loss for words. Yet my powers of speech can scarcely do justice to these men.

We all know Chief Judge Nieto as one of Colorado's most respected judges. Those of us who live in Jefferson County also claim him as one of our leading public citizens. His contributions to the administration of justice and quality of life in our community for more than three decades are legendary.

Then there is John Dailey. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that "abstract propositions cannot decide concrete cases." John only looks like he was chiseled out of concrete. Actually, he is a man of steel with a heart of gold. I daresay that everyone who has ever worked with John — no matter for how long or in what capacity — has come to exactly the same conclusion: Here is one of the greatest human beings that any of us will ever be privileged to meet.

By the grace of God, and with the love and support of their families and friends, John and Henry have enriched our lives and enhanced the public's respect for the rule of law. As we celebrate their achievements, let us likewise reflect on the solemn duty they now undertake — and what it means to society.

There is perhaps no more challenging or important job in Colorado, or anywhere else for that matter, than to serve as a judge who brings fairness, integrity, and common-sense wisdom to the bench. No other position — no other branch of government — is more vital to securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and for future generations. What Colorado has asked Judges Dailey and Nieto and all their colleagues to do — and what they have sworn to do on our behalf — is an awesome task. Theirs can be a lonely path, but they need and deserve our steadfast support.

Rudyard Kipling wrote of the "thin red line," the English redcoats who once stood between the British Empire and the rest of the world. As they don their robes, Judges Nieto and Dailey now take their positions on the point of the thin black line. They join their colleagues on the bench in ensuring that all of us can enjoy the blessings of liberty. The line is so thin it is sometimes invisible, especially to those who might be tempted to take its presence for granted. Yet there can be no higher calling in public life than to be part of that thin black line.


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