Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (left) and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (left) and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have announced an 11-member committee to advise them on filling an upcoming vacancy on Colorado's seven-member federal trial court.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson, a nominee of President Barack Obama, declared he would step down as an active judge effective Sept. 30. Senators traditionally wield influence over federal judge selections in their home states.

“We look forward to the expert advice and counsel of this advisory panel as we evaluate potential nominees for the federal bench,” said Bennet and Hickenlooper in a statement. “We are confident our advisory committee will help identify an outstanding pool of qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds to recommend to the Biden administration.” 

Applications from interested parties are due by April 16, and are available on both senators' websites. The process, with the exception of the finalists' names, is confidential. Bennet and Hickenlooper's offices will notify candidates by May 8 whether they will receive an interview with the committee, and virtual interviews will take place the week of May 11.

Committee members are:

  • April Jones (co-chair): family law attorney and president of the Sam Cary Bar Association, a professional organization for Black lawyers in Colorado
  • Michelle Lucero (co-chair): general counsel for Children’s Hospital Colorado and past president of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association 
  • Michael Burg: founding shareholder of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine
  • Maranda Compton: Native American law practitioner at Van Ness Feldman LLP 
  • Catherine Chan: immigration attorney at Chan Law Firm 
  • Charles Garcia: former Colorado public defender and Colorado Bar Association president, and a current member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission 
  • Karl Hanlon: municipal, land use and water law attorney at Karp Neu Hanlon 
  • Frances Koncilja: former Colorado Bar Association president and state Public Utilities Commission member, currently with Koncilja Public Utility Law
  • Rick Kornfeld: former Assistant U.S. Attorney and current white collar criminal defense attorney at Recht Kornfeld, P.C.
  • Toni-Anne Nuñez: family law attorney and Metro Volunteer Lawyers director
  • Lori Potter: managing attorney of Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell and former managing attorney of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now Earthjustice)

Colorado's senators already recommended one candidate to the White House to fill an existing vacancy on the trial court. Progressives questioned the choice of Regina M. Rodriguez, a former prosecutor and current corporate attorney, pointing to a December 2020 letter from the incoming administration asking senators to recommend public defenders and civil rights attorneys — legal backgrounds that are underrepresented on the bench.

The administration has not yet announced any nominations for the dozens of existing judicial vacancies across the country.

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