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Last updated 11:11PM ET
December 16, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Fed Judge/Courthouse In La Plata County Gaining Momentum
(2008-04-30)
U.S. Attorney Troy Eid says momentum for SW Colorado Judge and Courthouse is growing. (Courtesy: U.S. Atty Troy Eid's Website)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: A proposal to bring a Federal Judge and courthouse to Southwest Colorado is gaining momentum.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports.

VICTOR: La Plata County manager Shaun Nau presented the commissioners with a resolution unanimously adopted Tuesday supporting creation of a federal judgeship and courthouse in La Plata County.
NAU: THERE'S ACTUALLY BEEN A SIMILAR RESOLUTION PASSED BY THE UTE MOUNTAIN UTE TRIBE. I BELIEVE THERE'S A SIMILAR RESOLUTION AS WELL COMING FROM THE SOUTHERN UTE TRIBE.
County Commission chair Joelle Riddle has been a prime proponent of the idea.
RIDDLE: THE STATE OF THE COLORADO WILL BE THE LAST STATE IN THE ENTIRE NATION THAT HAS ONE FEDERAL COURTHOUSE, IN DENVER, SO IT REALLY PROVIDES, ESPECIALLY FOR US IN SOUTHWEST COLORADO, AN ISSUE OF EQUITY, OF FAIRNESS, OF A MYRIAD OF THINGS THAT ARE VERY IMPORTANT.
Riddle isn't alone with that opinion.
EID: SOUTHWEST COLORADO PAYS A BOATLOAD OF FEDERAL TAXES AND THEY NEED TO GET THAT TAX MONEY BACK TO SOUTHWEST COLORADO.
That's Colorado U.S. Attorney Troy Eid.
He, and Riddle both say a federal court is needed here to provide easy access for the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes.
EID: THEY'VE GOT TO GET TO A U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO WHERE ELSE TO GO. THE WAY THE FEDERAL LAW IS SET UP, FOR ALL THEIR FELONIES, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS THAT TRUST RESPONSIBILITY.
But Eid says the issue goes beyond tribes, affecting everyone who lives in Southwest Colorado.
The distance to Denver means many times crimes may not be fully prosecuted.
Witnesses, victims, law enforcement officers from this corner of the state, find it difficult if not impossible to make the nearly 7 hour drive to Denver, one, two or three times until a case is adjudicated.
And the distance often denies defendents the right to be tried by a jury of their peers.
EID: WE RARELY HAVE FOLKS FROM SOUTHWEST COLORADO SITTING UP IN DENVER ON JURIES. THEY'RE PART OF THE JURY POOL, BUT PRACTICALLY SPEAKING FOR THEM TO COME ALL THE WAY UP IS A REAL PROBLEM A REAL CHALLENGE SO WE WANT THEM TO BE REPRESENTED IN THAT PART OF THE PROCESS AS WELL.
Local officials also say a local federal judge and court would help in economic development.
Easy access to a federal court is one criteria many multi national companies look for when locating operations.
It takes an act of congress to get a new judgeship, but Eid says the issue enjoys strong support among Colorado's representatives and Senators.
In a statement to KSUT, Colorado Third District Representative John Salazar says he strongly supports an expanded federal judicial presence in Southwest Colorado.
Salazar says he met late last year with Chief Judge Nottingham to press the case for Durango and the surrounding areas.
Eid, however, is reticent to estimate just how long it would take to accomplish but agrees momentum is building.
EID: IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS OVERNIGHT, BUT THE WAY IT WILL HAPPEN IS IF THE PEOPLE SAY IT'S IMPORTANT. AND WHAT'S CHANGED IS THAT REALLY IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, PEOPLE HAVE STOOD UP AND SAID, YOU KNOW, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, WE REALLY ARE TIRED OF PAYING TAXES THIS WAY AND NOT GETTING SERVICES THAT ARE ESSENTIAL FOR WHAT WE PAID FOR, AND OUR SAFETY IS GOING TO BE A FACTOR. THE REGION IS GROWING, WE HAVE SIGNIFICANT ISSUES WITH DRUG TRAFFICKING, WITH MAJOR CRIMES COMING THROUGH, AND OF COURSE THE WHOLE SITUATION WITH IMMIGRATION, SO THIS IS GOING TO BE MORE AND MORE IMPORTANT AND NOW PEOPLE HAVE STOOD UP AND SAID, WE'VE REALLY HAD ENOUGH, LET'S GET GOING.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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