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Mayor Hancock Names Three Appointments to the Denver County Court

Denver – Mayor Michael B. Hancock today announced the appointments of Michelle Martinez-Thomas, Tanya Wheeler and James Zobel to the Denver County Court. The appointments will fill the vacancies created by the retirements Judge Johnny C. Barajas and Judge Brian T. Campbell, as well as the vacancy due to the creation of a new judicial seat on the Denver County Court.

“We had a dynamic pool of candidates for these vacancies, which made this a difficult decision, and these phenomenal jurists were all capable, committed, passionate and progressive legal scholars and exceptional civic-minded leaders,” Mayor Hancock said. “Michelle, Tanya and James rose to the top as individuals who would greatly add to the judicial reputation of our Denver County Court as this venerable institution’s newest judges. All three exhibited traits that will serve the court and the people of Denver well – a commitment to justice, superb legal aptitude, fair mindedness and so much more.”

Michelle Martinez-Thomas

Martinez-Thomas currently serves as a District Court Magistrate for the 17th Judicial District, a position she has held since 2017. As District Court Magistrate, she has overseen a docket including Domestic Relations, Criminal and Protection Orders cases. Prior to her role with the 17th Judicial District, Martinez-Thomas served as an attorney in the Colorado Public Defender’s Office from 2007 to 2017, as a Case Manager for Denver Area Youth Services from 2001 to 2002, and as a Summer Youth Employment Program coordinator for the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development from 2000 to 2001. Martinez-Thomas received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Martinez-Thomas will fill the vacancy due to the creation of a new judicial seat on the Denver County Court. Martinez-Thomas will assume her new role as Denver County Court Judge on March 1, 2020.

Tanya Wheeler

Wheeler currently serves as the First Assistant Attorney General for the Human Services Unit in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, a position she has held since 2015, and represented the Colorado Department of Human Services in federal, state and administrative proceedings on issues related to child abuse and neglect, child care licensing, youth corrections, behavioral health, developmental disabilities, public benefits, and procurement disputes. Prior to her role with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, Wheeler served as a Litigation Associate Attorney for Silver & DeBoskey, P.C. (2008-2010) and Jones Law Firm, P.C. (2005-2007).

Wheeler is a member of the Board of Directors for Denver CASA and previously served as the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for Colorado Youth-at-Risk. Wheeler received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Wheeler will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Brian T. Campbell. Wheeler will assume her new role as Denver County Court Judge on March 11, 2020.

James Zobel

Zobel currently serves as a Magistrate for the Denver County Court, a position he has held since 2015. As Magistrate, among other assignments, he has served as the Presiding Judicial Officer for the Denver Outreach Court at the Denver Rescue Mission, the Wellness Court and Denver County Juvenile Court. Prior to his role at the Denver County Court, Zobel represented clients in private practice for at the Zobel Law Firm, Zobel & Kolhouse and the Law Offices of James E. Zobel from 2003 to 2015, as well as the Law Office of Frank Moya overseeing attorneys for the Municipal Public Defenders Contract from 2004 to 2014. He served as a Deputy Public Defender for the Colorado State Public Defender’s office from 2002 to 2003, and as an adjunct professor in Criminal Law for the Community College of Aurora from 2014 to 2015.

Zobel is a founding member of the mock trial teams for 4th and 5th graders at Denver Public Schools’ College View Elementary and Cole Arts and Science Academy. Zobel received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Zobel will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Johnny C. Barajas. Zobel will assume his new role as Denver County Court Judge on Feb. 1, 2020.