Fourteenth Judicial District - District Judge
Honorable Michael A. O'Hara III
Retention Year: 2018
Recommendation: Meets Performance Standard
The Fourteenth Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance unanimously (9-0) voted that Chief Judge Michael A. O’Hara, III MEETS PERFORMANCE STANDARDS.
Background: Judge O'Hara was born and raised in California. He received his undergraduate degree from St. Mary's Seminary in Missouri, and his law degree from the University of San Diego in 1984. After law school, Judge O’Hara joined a litigation firm in San Diego where he practiced for approximately seven years. In 1991, Judge O’Hara moved his family to Steamboat Springs, practicing eleven years with the same firm, where he ultimately served as managing partner. His litigation practice emphasized family law, personal injury, and criminal defense. He was awarded the Northwest Colorado Bar Association Professionalism Award in 1999. In 2003, Judge O’Hara was appointed to serve as a District Judge for the Fourteenth Judicial District, covering Moffat, Routt, and Grand Counties. In 2016 Judge O’Hara received the Judicial Excellence Award from the Colorado Judicial Institute. Judge O’Hara is the Chief Judge for the District and is the Water Judge for Division 6.
Evaluation Methodology: Judge O’Hara was evaluated as to Integrity, Legal Knowledge, Communication, Judicial Temperament, Administrative Performance and Service to the Legal Profession. The Commission reviewed evaluations from attorneys and non-attorneys, including verbatim comments attached to evaluation questionnaires. The Commission also considered Judge O’Hara’s self-evaluation and written orders and opinions that he submitted for review. Commission members observed Judge O’Hara in his courtroom, and he sat for an interview before the Commission. Of the attorneys surveyed, twenty-one of whom responded to the survey, 67% (fourteen people) found Judge O’Hara to meet performance standards, 19% (four people) found that he does not meet those standards, and 14% (three people) expressed no opinion. Of non-attorneys surveyed, thirty-eight of whom responded to the survey, 86% (thirty-three people) found that he meets performance standards, 5% (two people) found that he does not, and 8% (three people) expressed no opinion. (These percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.)
Performance: Judge O’Hara maintains a full and diverse case load that includes criminal, domestic relations, civil, juvenile, probate, and water cases, and is required to travel between the courthouses in Steamboat Springs and Craig to manage his docket. As Chief Judge for the district, he effectively manages court staff in three counties. He is also very involved in the betterment of the judicial system through his volunteer work on multiple commissions. It is apparent that Judge O’Hara cares deeply for the people who appear in his court and for the well-being of the legal system as a whole. Judge O’Hara issues well-reasoned decisions and explains his verbal and written rulings thoroughly. He is well-suited temperamentally for the job. The Commission discussed concerns with Judge O’Hara regarding taking on too much which has affected, among other things, timeliness of written orders. He also self-identifies this as an area needing improvement and has already started to implement solutions to address these concerns.