|Colver had best of both worlds as judge, attorney|
|Written by Darci Tomky|
The years have passed quickly, according to the Honorable David Colver, as he looked back on more than three decades in the position of Phillips County judge.
March 4, Colver announced his resignation, effective May 30. Although he is retiring from county judge, Colver has not retired from his law office—Colver, Killin & Sprague, LLP.
Colver began practicing law in Holyoke when he joined Carl Absmeier in June of 1976. Absmeier, who was the Phillips County judge at that time, left the position to serve as the district judge for the 13th Judicial District.
Colver applied and was appointed Phillips County judge, assuming the responsibilities of that office Jan. 1, 1980.
He had been interviewed by a committee involving one person from each of the seven counties in the 13th Judicial District, with several names sent to then-Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, who appointed Colver.
His first term in office was a provisional term of two years. After that, he ran for retention every four years. Colver explained that a committee of attorneys and laymen evaluated and interviewed him so they could make a recommendation to voters based on their review.
Colver said he had a few years in Holyoke to watch his partner Absmeier in the county judge position. “I just thought it might be a good fit,” he said.
“I had the best of both worlds,” said Colver, pleased that he could spend his career working both in his private office and as a county judge in the court. “I liked what I did.”
It also helped that he liked being in Phillips County and the Holyoke community. Colver is a 1967 graduate of Holyoke High School and grew up in Holyoke with his parents Bud and Nadene Colver.
He received his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Colorado in Boulder and his Master of Science degree in judicial administration from the University of Denver.
Colver got a taste of the court system while serving as law clerk for District Judge Marcus Shivers in Arapahoe County while attending law school at night at Denver University. He graduated from DU School of Law in 1975, took the Bar exam in early 1976 and was notified he had passed in May of that year.
From an early age, it was Colver’s plan to go to law school. Although he also considered a career in architecture, law was a bit more mobile and could provide a job in a rural setting. “I preferred the country,” said Colver, but he wasn’t sure if he could make a living here in his hometown.
He took a chance and wrote Absmeier a letter, which was the start of a wonderful beginning to his career.
Since his appointment to county judge in 1980, Colver has been serving in county court every Tuesday morning, as well as trials set throughout the month as the need arose.
As county judge, he dealt with cases for traffic matters and civil matters up to $15,000. Additionally, small-claims court, which started during his time as judge, gives people a place to tell their story in court and settle disputes without having to hire an attorney.
Although he thought seriously about applying when opportunities arose for the district judge position, he liked where he was and the ability to be a judge part time and still have his private office.
“You have a better chance of making a difference” when people have to appear in county court early in their criminal career, said Colver.
He also liked the interaction with youth in traffic cases. “We can motivate them to good behavior,” he said, noting the court can “educate young people to live within the rules we set.”
The goal for things like domestic violence or alcohol situations was to try to decrease repeat offenses and make available avenues for treatment and education.
“In real court, everyone is treated with respect,” said the judge, noting it’s not like the courts portrayed on TV.
Colver commended the district attorneys, defense counsels, law enforcement officers and probation officers whom he has worked with over the years. “When everybody’s there and doing their job, it benefits the community,” he said.
He was also complimentary of the court clerks in Phillips County the last 34 years, beginning with Ann Bird, Ruth Duke, Paula Gracey, Susan Haskell and currently Joy Strack.
In addition to regular court times, the county judge was on call all the time when law enforcement needed to ask him for warrants, day or night.
Colver said he would trade duties with nearby county judges when they couldn’t be there or when their private practice partners were involved in a trial.
After Absmeier left, he ran the David O. Colver Law Office by himself from 1980 until Kim Killin joined him in 1995 and more recently Russell Sprague in 2012.
Colver’s office was located at 131 W. Emerson St. in Holyoke until his recent move a block away to 216 S. Interocean Ave.
One of the most dramatic experiences Colver had in the last 34 years was when a disgruntled man appeared at his office with a gun, resulting in a big standoff.
Otherwise, most of his time as county judge has been fairly routine. Not much has changed in three decades except the introduction of computers to the court system and putting more and more things online. Colver said it was a high learning curve but once they got used to it they could see the value of it.
Colver, who will be 65 later this month, is excited to redirect more time and energy to his office, where he’ll be about four days a week, as well as more time with family—wife Adria, daughter Aly and her husband Ross Brinkema and their sons Ridley, age 3 1/2, and Alex, age 1 1/2.
“It’ll be good for the town to have a new county judge,” said Colver. Three finalists were recently selected for Phillips County, with the governor making the final appointment this month.
Holyoke Enterprise May 15, 2014