OURAY COUNTY – The Ouray Board of County Commissioners on Monday, July 18, reluctantly accepted County Attorney Mary Deganhart’s resignation, effective August 5. Deganhart announced last week that she was appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper to be a judge in the 7th Judicial District. Deganhart, who has been county attorney for the last five and a half years, will have her chambers in Montrose, and hear “part of the docket in Montrose,” but will travel as necessary to courts in Ouray and San Miguel counties as well. She plans to retain her Ridgway residence.
“We’re sad to lose you,” BOCC Chair Heidi Albritton said. “But we’re very proud of you, too. Good for you. I know you wanted this.”
The commissioners must now decide whether to seek a replacement to fill Deganhart’s full-time staff position or contract with local attorneys for services.
Deganhart told The Watch that the new judgeship was created by the Colorado legislature during the last legislative session. The district, which includes the counties of Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel, now has one more judge, bringing the total to five. “It’ll be nice to have someone at this end of the district,” she said.
Deganhart interviewed with the district nominating commission on June 28. Then, as one of three finalists, she met with the governor on July 8. He made his choice and announcement July 13.
Deganhart said that from the beginning of her law career in 1985 she thought about becoming a judge. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” she said. “Not all attorneys have the temperament to be judges. But it’s what made me want to be an attorney in the first place – putting all the pieces of the law together – and a judgeship is the purest means of doing that.”
At the Monday BOCC meeting, Deganhart mentioned two upcoming cases on the county’s docket and gave suggestions on handling them after her departure. One case is before the Board of Assessment Appeals, and Deganhart suggested that that could be handled by contract attorneys, perhaps the Masters Law Firm in Ouray, which has done contract work before.
The second case is the Verizon tower lawsuit. Deganhart – seconded by all three commissioners – strongly suggested that, due to the mountains of paperwork involved, an attorney experienced with the case would be extremely beneficial. Deganhart reported that Scott Miller, who has represented Dallas Creek Water Company from the beginning of the Verizon case, had “offered to help. He’s up to speed on that case anyway,” Deganhart said. All agreed to pursue that path, at least until the county decides what to do about filling her position.
In the meantime, Deganhart said, she was happy to report that her swearing in would take place August 15 “here, at the Ouray County Courthouse, with [7th District Chief Judge] J. Steven Patrick.”