Hickenlooper tabs Jefferson County judge to replace jurist local voters ousted from bench in November

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Pictured: Judge Ryan Stuart. Credit: Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation

AURORA | The 18th Judicial District will have a new judge in 2019.

Ryan Stuart, currently a judge in Jefferson County Court, was tabbed by a local nominating commission and selected by Gov. John Hickenlooper this month to become the newest judge in the district court that covers the bulk of Aurora.

Stuart was one of three finalists selected by the local nominating commission on Dec. 10, according to a press release issued by the Colorado Judicial Department.

Hickenlooper announced his decision to select Stuart on Monday, according to a release from the governor’s office.

Stuart will replace 18th Judicial District Court Judge Phillip Douglass, who voters ousted on Election Day after he earned a no-confidence flag from a state-appointed performance commission.

A majority of voters in Arapahoe, Douglas and Elbert Counties chose not to retain Douglass. Most of the some 1,600 people who voted in Lincoln County approved of Douglass, according to election results.

In a report describing their findings, the commission for judicial performance from the 18th Judicial District said Douglass “is often too familiar, at times making inappropriate comments, blurring necessary boundaries, and failing to maintain proper decorum and the appearance of neutrality.”

Douglass dismissed the criticisms as political vengeance orchestrated by attorneys with whom he had disagreements.

“A few privileged lawyers vowed to seek my removal based upon perceived slights early after my appointment,” Douglass wrote. “Comments to the commission show that these lawyers swayed opposition from the commission and others. This is unfortunate.”

Douglass, who was appointed to the bench in June 2015, was the first judge from the 18th Judicial District to be voted off the bench in recent memory.

Stuart will join nearly two dozen other district court judges in the 18th Judicial District.

Stuart has overseen a docket of mostly misdemeanor traffic and criminal cases in Jefferson County Court since he was appointed in late 2012, according to the governor’s office. He has also served as an acting district court judge in the 1st Judicial District, managing a civil, felony criminal and juvenile caseload.

Stuart, a Lakewood resident, was a district court magistrate and a deputy district attorney in the 1st Judicial District before being appointed a judge. He was an associate at a pair of Denver law firms prior to working in Jefferson County.

He holds three degrees: a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University, a Master of Education from Harvard University and a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center.

Jefferson County voters overwhelmingly elected to retain Stuart in this year’s election. About 75 percent of the participating electorate chose to keep him on the bench, according to county election results. 

In his most recent evaluation from a local performance commission, Stuart received stellar reviews. About 90 percent of surveyed attorneys and laypersons said he excelled at his job.

The commission unanimously decided he met performance standards in 2018.

Throughout the survey, the most common among the comments received were those describing Judge Stuart as fair and impartial, very knowledgeable of the law, and clear and concise oral and written rulings,” members of the 1st Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance wrote. “Additionally, he maintains an even demeanor, treats all parties in the courtroom respectfully and maintains a professional decorum.”

Stuart will assume his new role in the 18th Judicial District on Jan. 8.