ALAMOSA — Before a standing-room-only crowd, Amanda Hopkins was formally sworn in as the 12th Judicial District’s 28th district judge last Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Judge Hopkins fills a vacancy left by the death of Patrick Hayes earlier this year.
“This is bittersweet for a lot of reasons, mostly because we shouldn’t be here, at least not yet,” Judge Hopkins said. She said this job should still belong to Judge Hayes, but it was her honor to follow in his footsteps.
Chief District Judge Pattie Swift, who administered the oath to Hopkins on Tuesday, asked for a moment of silence in honor of Judge Hayes whose untimely death from cancer left a vacancy on the district court bench in May. “Judge Hayes was a great judge who touched many people’s lives,” Judge Swift said.
Governor John Hickenlooper appointed Hopkins to the district court bench last month. She is the 28th district judge serving the San Luis Valley since Colorado became a territory and the 24th since its statehood, Judge Swift pointed out as she gave a brief history of the 12th Judicial District. She added that the district only had one circuit-riding judge until the general assembly authorized a second in 1952, a third in 2007 and a fourth in 2015, when Judge Hayes was appointed to the district court bench.
Judge Hopkins joins Judges Swift, Martin Gonzales and Michael Gonzales on the district court bench. The four serve the 12th Judicial District, which encompasses the six counties in the San Luis Valley.
Hopkins was born in Colorado Springs and her mother and sister knew from a young age that she would be a lawyer because she was so stubborn and determined, Judge Swift shared as she provided some background on the new district judge. Swift said Judge Hopkins looks forward to overseeing adoption cases, as she was adopted. She added that the new judge’s parents, who were in the courtroom on Tuesday, greatly influenced their daughter’s life, her father instilling a love of sports that spurred participation in softball, swimming and soccer, and her mother instilling a love of education and advocacy.
Judge Swift shared that Judge Hopkins attended college in Seattle where her siblings and parents had moved, and while serving in law firms there, often working with immigrant families, she applied to law school at Seattle University where she earned one of 80 spots out of several thousand applicants for the night program. While pursuing her law degree, she continued working in a law firm where she gained experience in many facets of the law from bankruptcy to family law.
Hopkins then returned to Colorado where she was hired by the Colorado Public Defender’s Office and assigned in 2007 to Alamosa, a place she expected to stay only 18 months. “It ended up changing her life,” Judge Swift said.
In her first six months living in Alamosa, Hopkins encountered the cold of Alamosa and the warmth of its people, the salmonella outbreak, pneumonia and the death of her older brother. “She discovered that people in small towns take care of one another,” Swift said. Residents helped her through all of those crises, she said, giving her heaters during the cold spell, taking care of her when she was sick, making sure she had clean water during the salmonella outbreak and doing everything they could to get her home for her brother’s funeral.
She also met Joe Martinez whose persistence in pursuing her paid off, Swift added, and the two have been together for 10 years now.
After serving as a deputy public defender with the Alamosa Regional Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, Hopkins was named managing deputy public defender in 2011 and in that capacity has overseen 14 staff. She has also served on numerous boards such as the SLV Immigrant Resources Board and Community Corrections Board and commissions such as the Judicial Performance Commission, of which she is vice chair, and has been involved in initiatives such as the LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program, drug and DUI court.
Judge Swift referred to Judge O. John Kuenhold’s description of a good judge when he swore in Judge Martin Gonzales in 2007 as being someone who is knowledgeable of the law and knows how to find legal answers, has clear communication skills, common sense and a sense of humor, is a person of integrity and strong character who administers justice with compassion, and is someone who has the ability to make difficult decisions even if they are unpopular.
Swift said Hopkins has demonstrated those qualities in her work and will continue to do so as a public servant.
She added that regardless of her background, Judge Hopkins would administer the law in a fair manner when she wears the robe. It will not be so much a position of power as of responsibility, she added.
Newly sworn Judge Hopkins thanked many folks, from family to colleagues, who had supported and assisted her.
She said this place is the “most amazing community,” providing her with “the most beautiful life a person could possibly have.”
She thanked those who worked with her and said she was proud of the office and its team. She thanked those in the community who had made her feel at home and for Martinez’s family for making her feel a part of their family too.
She thanked her family for their support and in making her the person she is today. She credited them with instilling in her a desire to create a better world and for passing on their common sense and view “that every single person deserves to have someone in their corner.”
Finally, Judge Hopkins addressed the community at large and said although the task she was undertaking was significant, she would meet the challenge.
“I will work as hard as I know how to- to be the kind of judge you all deserve.”