Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday that local public defender Anne Woods will take the place of outgoing La Plata County Judge Dondi Osborne.
It was announced in March that Osborne intended to resign. She was appointed to the position by former Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2017 after the retirement of Judge Martha Minot.
The 6th Judicial District Nominating Commission announced in August three finalists: local defense attorney Graham Smith, Deputy District Attorney Reid Stewart and Woods.
Polis’ office did respond to a request seeking comment.
Woods, 33, is a senior deputy public defender for the state of Colorado, a position she has held since 2015. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in 2009 and her law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 2015.
In an interview with The Durango Herald, Woods said her time working as a public defender in Durango has been the length of her career.
“That’s why I was absolutely shocked and floored when I was appointed by the governor,” she said. “But I think my courtroom experience has put me in a unique position where I have those skills.”
Woods said she applied to be a county judge because she wants to serve La Plata County.
“I loved being a public defender,” she said. “I just wanted to see if I can do my part to make our community just a little bit better.”
Woods said she wants to bring a heavier focus on rehabilitation and restorative justice practices, especially at a time when there’s a demand to keep jail population numbers down amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As far as envisioning how she will conduct a courtroom, Woods said the main emphasis is on empathy.
“You have to understand the loads people are carrying on their own shoulders when they show up for court,” she said. “You want an environment where people feel like they’re being heard and treated fairly and with respect.”
Woods said about 80% to 90% of county court cases are criminal, which lends itself to her experience as a public defender.
“That’s my entire career, which may be seen as a short period of time, but when you do it every day, you start to learn it pretty quickly,” she said.
Woods is engaged to local public defender Jonathan Jourdane. She said the nominating commission and Polis were aware of the situation.
“We are putting mechanisms in place to ensure that won’t be an issue,” she said. “We take our ethical duties extremely seriously.”
The two other nominees are older and have more years practicing law.
Smith, 46, received his law degree from the University of Colorado Boulder and has been licensed to practice for the past 18 years. Before moving to Durango 10 years ago, he was an assistant attorney general in Wyoming.
After moving to Durango, he took a job at the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. He has been in private practice for the past six years, litigating civil cases in county court and undertaking a “modest amount” of criminal cases.
He also served as the interim prosecutor for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe from August 2018 to November 2019.
Stewart, 48, received his law degree from the Texas Wesleyan School of Law (now University of Texas A&M School of Law).
He started his career in prosecution for Coffman County in Texas and went on to work as an assistant district attorney. He then worked in insurance litigation before transitioning to civil practice.
Stewart moved to Durango in 2009 after the election of former District Attorney Todd Risberg. Though Risberg has since been replaced by Christian Champagne, Stewart is now a deputy district attorney.
Woods’ appointment is effective Oct. 1.