Denver Bar Association
May 2004
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From Grocery Bagger to Denver Judge

by Alicia McCommons

"Timing is everything," said Judge Habas. "In 1973, I’m a grocery bagger at King Soopers, and now in 2004, I’m Judge Habas."

On the day Governor Owens appointed Christina Habas to the Denver District Court, in December 2003, she was teaching in a Tribal Program Faculty Training, as part of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. Judge Habas recalls that the participants formed a ceremonial prayer circle and offered a Native American blessing.

"I used to say, if I could live through the first 60 days, I’d be okay, and here I am," said Judge Habas. Stimulated by conversations with her colleagues and invigorated with the challenges of being on the bench, she admits, "I cannot believe I get paid for this job."

The typical frustrations with law practice that Judge Habas said she felt after her first 12 or 13 years of practice disappeared once she began teaching law as part of her career. "Teaching saved me. . . . It reenergizes me." While teaching, Judge Habas sees lawyers and the process improve, and she is convinced that "our profession is continuing to get better."

During her private practice, which evolved into representing law enforcement and municipalities, Judge Habas taught civil, employment and constitutional law to police officers. She once thought about becoming a homicide detective, but "then, there would be all of those bodies."

FOR THE LAWYERS

Judge Habas has several pointers for success for those who practice in front of her. Her advice is this: "Be honest about everything. If I ask for help, be as complete as you can in directing me to the statute and case law. Treat each other with respect and know that I’ve been there before."

Even with her twenty-plus years of litigation experience, Judge Habas said she did a lot of reading before taking the bench. One of the most difficult transitions from private practice to the bench (she presides in the Domestic Division) was being unfamiliar with the area of law that was before her.

"Admitting to yourself that you don’t know everything is difficult," but Judge Habas loves lawyers because "if there is something new that I missed," they "should point it out to me."

FROM THE BENCH

Judge Habas admits that she hasn’t been a judge long enough to know what qualities make up a good judge.

"As a lawyer, I thought it was someone who recognized that the process should be done fairly and should get it done."

Judge Habas enjoys "cooking and eating, and not necessarily in that order." She has a unique taste in art and her chambers are filled with an eclectic collection of art.

"I have no life," but "I am an easy laugher and people appreciate that about me. . . . You can’t take yourself too seriously."

Judge Habas received her B.A. and J.D. from the University of Denver.


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