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Letter to Judge Michael Ponsor, Chair of the Committee on Space and Facilities for the United States Courts

Letter

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Date:
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Today, Mark Udall sent a letter to Judge Michael Ponsor, chair of the Committee on Space and Facilities for the U.S. Courts, expressing concerns that the U.S. Courthouse in Durango is on a list of sites for potential closure. Closure would impact a growing number of constituents who are served by the court in southwestern Colorado and would specifically affect the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes who rely on the federal court system.

"The U.S. District Court in Durango is geographically important," Udall wrote in the letter. "I am particularly concerned with closing the court because the only two Indian tribes in Colorado reside in this region. The unique relationship that these important communities have with the federal government makes continued access to the federal court system paramount. The fact that many cases arising on tribal lands must be litigated in federal court underscores a crucial need for such services in this part of the state."

A March 22, 2012, report from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts lists the court in Durango as 57th out of 60 potential closures. The Judicial Conference Committe on Space and Facilities has asked that each Circuit Judicial Council review whether their facilities on the list are needed and provide a recommendation on closure to the committee by April 13, 2012. Following this report, in a June meeting, the committee will review and forward any recommendations to the Judicial Conference for final decisions in September, 2012. The Durango court is a member of the District of Colorado in the 10th Judicial Circuit.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Judge Ponsor,

I write to express my concerns with a March 22, 2012 report from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which identifies the U.S. Courthouse within the federal building in Bodo Industrial Park in Durango, Colorado as a potential site for closure. Losing the federal court presence could have negative, lasting impacts on the many Colorado communities and citizens in Southwest Colorado, including the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribes.

The U.S. District Court in Durango is geographically important. I am particularly concerned with closing the court because the only two Indian tribes in Colorado reside in this region. The unique relationship that these important communities have with the federal government makes continued access to the federal court system paramount. The fact that many cases arising on tribal lands must be litigated in federal court underscores a crucial need for such services in this part of the state.

It is also important to note that driving to the federal court in Denver takes an entire day, and winter weather conditions often make passage through the mountains especially challenging. The closure of this location could have a detrimental impact for tribal members and all residents in rural southwestern Colorado.

While I applaud your efforts to identify cost savings within the judicial branch, I encourage the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to recognize the importance of the federal court in Durango and consider the region's unique circumstances as you move forward with final closure determinations.


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