Recommended nominees for Colorado judidical appointments

From left, Regina M. Rodriguez, Kristin Bronson and Kirk Taylor are among the seven Coloradans that the state’s U.S. senators have recommended the Biden administration consider for three high-profile justice posts. Rodriguez’s photo is courtesy of WilmerHale.

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have recommended the White House nominate Regina M. Rodriguez to be a federal  District judge in Colorado, and have presented six candidates for the positions of U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal, including the city attorney of Denver and two county sheriffs.

“These positions are vital to ensuring we have a fair criminal justice and judicial system that protects public safety, promotes equity, and upholds the rule of law,” Hickenlooper and Bennet wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday. “We believe that this diverse group of attorneys and law enforcement officials represent some of the most thoughtful, dynamic, and hard-working leaders in our state. We’re confident that they’ll serve the people of Colorado with humility and integrity.”

In the final year of the Obama administration, Rodriguez was also the president’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for Colorado. Both Bennet and the state’s Republican senator, Cory Gardner, had supported her nomination.

“She is immensely qualified to serve on the federal bench, and I'm certain that her broad experience will allow her to better serve Coloradans in a new capacity as a judge,” Gardner said at the time.

The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, however, failed to act on her nomination before the end of the 114th Congress. President Donald Trump, instead, chose Daniel D. Domenico for the vacancy.

If selected again and confirmed, Rodriguez would fill the seat of Marcia S. Krieger, an appointee of President George W. Bush who stepped down as an active judge in March 2019. Her open seat left six trial court judges on the bench in Colorado, three of whom were nominees of Democratic presidents and three by Republicans.

A graduate of the University of Colorado School of Law, Rodriguez works in private practice at the international law firm WilmerHale, and has experience working with companies on their regulatory compliance. Previously she was employed in the U.S. Attorney’s Office as the chief of the civil division. In addition to her legal work, she serves on the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Law Enforcement Reform and Racial Justice Committee and as a Democratic member from the 6th Congressional District on the commission that recommends judicial candidates for the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

In an interview with Colorado Law, Rodriguez said that her mother’s family was Japanese American and lived in a World War II internment camp in Wyoming, while her father’s family immigrated from Mexico.

"Gina Rodriguez embodies the best in the legal profession and will bring extraordinary experience, judgment and skill to bear," said John Walsh, a partner at WilmerHale and former U.S. Attorney for Colorado. "We will miss her deeply at WilmerHale’s Denver office, as a colleague, friend and mentor to so many, but our loss will be Colorado’s — and the nation’s — gain. 

Colorado’s senators also recommended three candidates each for the position of U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal. There are approximately 2,000 civilian and 65,000 military nominations that the Senate considers each Congress, and the tradition of senatorial courtesy allows senators of the president’s party to weigh in on certain nominations from their home states.

U.S. Attorney

Among the names forwarded to the White House to be the state’s top prosecutor of federal crimes is Kristin Bronson, Denver’s city attorney since 2016. Bronson is also a graduate of Colorado Law who now manages more than 220 staff and provides legal and policy advice to the mayor, city council and other municipal entities.

Prior to her appointment, Bronson was in private practice for 20 years, focused on complex business litigation, banking and real estate. As city attorney, Bronson defended the city in a lawsuit that sought to invalidate Denver’s urban camping ban after a judge declared it unconstitutional in December 2019.

Cole Finegan is a former Denver city attorney and the chief of staff to Hickenlooper when he was mayor. He was also a high-ranking staff member to a former Democratic congressman from Oklahoma and worked with former Gov. Roy Romer as chief legal officer and director of policy and initiatives. He graduated from Georgetown University Law Center and is now the Denver office managing partner for the international law firm Hogan Lovells. The finance chair for Bennet's 2016 reelection, CBS4 also reported last year that the city paid Finegan $900 per hour to investigate the beleaguered Great Hall project at Denver International Airport.

Also recommended is Hetal Doshi, an assistant U.S. attorney who served on the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force under the Obama administration. She led investigations stemming from the 2008 financial crisis. A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, she has been president of the South Asian Bar Association of Colorado and is president-elect of the Faculty of Federal Advocates. Doshi volunteered for President Barack Obama’s reelection legal team, and spent time as an advisor to the Kenyan Parliament while her husband was assigned to a 14-month project in Africa.

U.S. Marshal

Bennet and Hickenlooper selected three long-serving law enforcement professionals to head the U.S. Marshals Service district office. The service is the oldest federal law enforcement agency, whose duties include guarding judicial officials and transporting prisoners.

The candidates include Kirk Taylor, who has been Pueblo County sheriff since 2007. He helped open an emergency operations center and his office has been part of the COVID-19 vaccination effort in Pueblo. Taylor was previously an investigator with the district attorney’s office, a police officer in Alamosa and is a Navy veteran.

Sean Smith, La Plata County sheriff, has helped coordinate local responses to the Gold King Mine wastewater spill and multiple forest fires. The Colorado Department of Public Safety also appointed him to the Pre-Trial Services Task Force of the Colorado Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission. His prior work experience included an Army deployment to Iraq and employment with other law enforcement agencies across the country.

Cassidee Carlson is the internal affairs deputy commander of the Aurora Police Department, where she has worked since 2003. The U.S. Department of Justice selected her as a consultant for the Office of Victims of Crime in 2020. Carlson has received multiple awards, including for an investigation into a missing child case, a hostage rescue and for her volunteer work on behalf of the Special Olympics. As the public information officer for the department during the 2012 Century 16 theater mass murder, Carlson has since authored a module about crisis communications.

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