A recent decision by Gov. Bill Owens to pass over a female judge candidate without even an interview -- while meeting with two other male nominees for a judgeship in El Paso County -- has outraged a statewide association of female lawyers.
Owens announced on May 30 that he had appointed Daniel Wilson, a deputy district attorney in the 4th Judicial District, to replace retiring El Paso County Court Judge Caroline Benham, effective July 1.
The governor chose Wilson from a pool of three finalists recommended by a local nominating commission. The other two finalists were Christopher Acker, a private-practice attorney; and Barbara Hughes, a magistrate with the County Court.
Owens interviewed only Acker and Wilson for the position. That has raised the ire of the Colorado Women's Bar Association, which complains that there aren't enough women judges in the state.
"We think it's disturbing that he would interview the two guys and not interview the woman," said Doris Truhlar, the organization's president. "I mean, how could he rule the woman out without ever having a face-to-face meeting with [her]?"
Hughes declined to comment for this story. But a spokeswoman for Owens, Amy Sampson, said gender had nothing to do with the governor's decision.
"He appoints the most qualified person to the bench whether or not they're a woman or a man," Sampson said.
Wilson has worked in the District Attorney's Office since 1994 and was previously in private practice. Hughes has been a magistrate with the County Court for two years and previously worked for Colorado Legal Services.
Hughes is a Democrat; Wilson and Acker, like the governor, are Republicans.
According to the Women's Bar Association, only 28 percent of the state's county court judges, and a mere 16 percent of its district court judges, are female. Given the under-representation of women, Owens, at the very least, should have shown the courtesy of interviewing Hughes, Truhlar said. The fact that he didn't is "discourteous and it's disappointing, and I'd have to say our organization is really disturbed," Truhlar said.
Sampson said Owens' legal staff reviewed the three finalists' qualifications and forwarded only two names to the governor for consideration, and these are whom Owens interviewed. She defended the governor's record on gender, saying he's appointed more than a dozen women to the bench.