Fourteenth Judicial District - District Court Judge
Honorable Michael A. O'Hara III
Retention Year: 2006
The Fourteenth Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance unanimously recommends that Judge Michael A. O’Hara III BE RETAINED.
Judge O'Hara was born and raised in Southern California. He received his undergraduate degree from St. Mary's Seminary in Perryville, Missouri, and his J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1984. After law school, he joined a small litigation firm, in San Diego where he practiced for seven years. In 1991, Judge O’Hara moved his family to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, practicing eleven years with the same firm, where he ultimately served as managing partner. There, his litigation practice emphasized family law, personal injury and criminal defense. In January, 2003, Governor Bill Owens appointed O’Hara to serve as a District Court Judge for the Fourteenth Judicial District, covering Moffat, Routt and Grand Counties. Judge O’Hara’s caseload currently includes civil, criminal, domestic relations and juvenile matters and he travels among the three counties. He also serves as the water judge for Division 6.
In addition to his judicial duties, Judge O’Hara has served as the Chief Judge of the District since his appointment. The Chief Judge oversees the administration of approximately sixty employees throughout the Fourteenth Judicial District. He works with the District Court Administrator and Chief Probation Officer to manage the operation of the District, including personnel issues and policy making. As Chief Judge, Judge O’Hara has been substantially drawn into court facility discussions with county commissioners in both Grand and Routt Counties.
Judge O’Hara makes his home in Steamboat Springs. He enjoys nordic skiing, mountain biking and has an appreciation of the outdoors. He has served the community as a little league coach, a member of the board of directors of Hospice of Steamboat, and was a volunteer attorney for the Northwest Colorado Legal Aid for several years. He now spends time volunteering with several organizations, including serving as a regional ski jumping judge. He received the Northwest Colorado Bar Association’s Professionalism Award in 1999.
The Commission reviewed written evaluations of Judge O’Hara from attorneys and non-attorneys, including written verbatim comments attached to the evaluation questionnaires. The Commission also considered a written self-evaluation completed by Judge O’Hara and conducted a personal interview with Judge O’Hara.
Judge O’Hara describes his philosophy as striving every day to do the right thing and try to do no more harm. Above all he tries to be fair, although he recognizes that this does not always mean to be lenient, as leniency is not always the fair thing. He hopes that his reputation for integrity is high, as he does not believe he is swayed by community belief or political correctness. Judge O’Hara strives to maintain appropriate judicial temperament, and insists that fairness and respect be afforded to all appearing in his courtroom. During his interview, Judge O’Hara acknowledged that he is relatively new to his position, that his administrative duties were initially a significant distraction from his judicial duties and he recognizes areas where his efficiency and performance can be improved. Judge O’Hara likes his job and is grateful for the opportunity to serve the people and believes he is an asset to the Fourteenth Judicial District. The Judicial Performance Commission agrees with this conclusion.
Judge O’Hara received high ratings from both attorneys and non-attorneys in virtually every category, particularly in the following areas: being courteous; communicating clearly, thoroughly and in a well-reasoned manner; maintaining proper judicial temperament; treating parties equally and in a fair and considerate manner; and giving all participants an opportunity to be heard. Of the attorneys responding to the questionnaire, 81% recommended that Judge O’Hara be retained in office, 14% recommended that he not be retained, and 4% were undecided. Of the non-attorneys responding to the questionnaire, 79% recommended retention, 9% recommended non-retention, and 11% were undecided.