Sixth Judicial District Judge William Herringer has announced his upcoming retirement. Herringer’s last day with the district is scheduled for March 9.
In an interview Friday with The Durango Herald, Herringer, 56, said he has reached a point in his career where it makes sense to start working less.
He was sworn into the judgeship on April 17, 2013, but he started his legal career in October 1993, as a public defender. Herringer worked as a lawyer for 20 years and served as a judge in La Plata County for nearly nine years.
“It’s been an absolute privilege to be able to serve the state of Colorado and our district and La Plata County,” he said. “It’s an incredibly rewarding but also challenging job.”
The judge complemented his “extraordinary colleagues and staff” and said the people who work in the 6th Judicial District are amazing.
“People often have negative things to say about government,” he said. “If they could see how hard the people in this building work and how seriously they take their job, I think that that would really go a long way to change the public’s view of public servants.”
Making the right decision is usually harder than one might suspect, Herringer said. He said in his role as judge he tries to look at things with an open mind, listen to people and get the best understanding of the law that he can in order to make the best possible decision.
He said 50% of the people in his courtroom would disagree with pretty much any decision he makes. Sometimes, everybody leaves unhappy. But Herringer tries to bring his best to a challenging and important job, he said.
“You’re making decisions about people’s lives, often about people that are strangers and (without) as much information as you’d like to have,” he said. “I really tried to listen to people and be fair and make the best decision possible.”
Herringer said not too much has changed during the past nine years, but there is a “greater sensitivity” to providing greater access to justice. But he noted the judicial system is a large institution dictated by the Colorado Legislature, and it does not change quickly.
“It’s not nimble,” he said. “I think there’s signs that it’s headed in the right directions in some aspects, but I think there’s always going to be room for improvement.”
He said it is tremendously difficult to put people into prison. He described cases where children have been victimized or neglected as “incredibly difficult to deal with.”
Other challenging cases are homicides – where somebody has lost a loved one.
“There’s nothing you can ever do to make those victims feel even remotely that justice has been done,” Herringer said. “They’ve lost somebody, you can’t replace them.”
The district judge said he wants to keep working in some capacity, but he doesn’t know what that will be. Although Herringer is still contemplating his options for the near future, he doesn’t have any plans to wave goodbye to Durango, where he’s worked his whole career.