Commission unanimous in support of chief judge
Michael O'Hara up for retention in November election
August 10, 2012
“Judge O’Hara is an extremely knowledgeable, hardworking individual. I feel we’re fortunate to have him in the 14th Judicial District.”
— Sharon Timmerman, co-public information liaison for the 14th Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance, about Michael O’Hara, chief judge of the 14th Judicial District encompassing Moffat, Routt and Grand counties
The 14th Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance, a group of 10 people in Moffat, Routt and Grand counties, has unanimously recommended voters retain the district’s chief judge in November.
The commission, which includes four attorneys and six non-attorneys, reviewed Chief Judge Michael O’Hara, a Steamboat Springs resident and Southern California native.
O’Hara was appointed to the 14th Judicial District in 2003 by then-Gov. Bill Owens.
“Judge O’Hara is an extremely knowledgeable, hardworking individual,” said Sharon Timmerman, a Steamboat Springs resident and co-public information liaison for the commission on judicial performance. “I feel we’re fortunate to have him in the 14th Judicial District.”
In forming its recommendation, the commission reviewed a self-evaluation completed by O’Hara, written opinions and orders, conducted an interview with the judge, observed him in court, and also considered evaluations from attorneys, court staff, litigants, jurors, witnesses, law enforcement personnel and others.
“The people surveyed gave Judge O’Hara high marks in all areas: demeanor, fairness, communications, diligence and application of law,” according to the commission’s evaluation.
As chief judge, O’Hara “effectively manages court staff in three counties,” the commission wrote.
“The commission recognizes the judge issues wise, well-reasoned decisions, and explains his verbal and written rulings clearly and thoroughly. The commission discussed limited concerns from survey results with Judge O’Hara regarding timeliness of written orders, and is satisfied with the steps that he has taken to address these concerns.
“The commission commends his ongoing commitment and dedication to the well-being of the 14th Judicial District and the state of Colorado.”
According to a biography of O’Hara published as part of the evaluation, he received his undergraduate degree from St. Mary’s Seminary in Perryville, Mo., and his law degree in 1984 from the University of San Diego School of Law.
Following law school, he joined a small litigation firm in San Diego, where he practiced for about seven years.
In 1991, he and his family moved to Steamboat Springs, where he worked as managing partner of a law firm, emphasizing family law, personal injury and criminal defense.
He was awarded the Northwest Colorado Bar Association Professionalism Award in 1999.
In Moffat County, O’Hara was one of the architects of the Moffat County Drug Court, a voluntary program that began in 2008. The program combines the judiciary, prosecution, law enforcement, probation and treatment communities for defendants with dependency issues.
Of attorneys surveyed about O’Hara, 80 percent recommended he be retained; 15 percent to not retain; and 6 percent were undecided.
Of non-attorneys — court staff, litigants, jurors, witnesses, law enforcement personnel and others — surveyed, 88 percent recommended the judge be retained; 6 percent to not retain; and 5 percent were undecided.
O’Hara said he could not comment on the evaluation or about being up for retention in November. The Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct limits judges on campaigning, save for instances in which there is active and organized opposition.
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