Officer of the court for half a century, district court judge calling it a career

Retired Mesa County District Judge Bill Ela and Mesa County District Judge Valerie Robison at the surprise going-away party for Senior Judge Ed Ruland at the Mesa County Justice Center.

To get a sense of how long Judge Ed Ruland has been practicing law, consider his Colorado registration number: 611.

That means Ruland, who has been practicing law for the past 48 years, was the 611th attorney to register with the state. Registration numbers of new attorneys these days top 41,000.

Judge Ruland, whose career spans two appointments to the Colorado Court of Appeals, working locally in private practice and, during the past eight years, as senior district court judge, mostly around the Western Slope, was honored by friends and colleagues Wednesday at a surprise farewell party.

“He’s going for the Brett Favre record,” Mesa County District Court Chief Judge David Bottger said jokingly during a short speech at the Mesa County Justice Center. “Unfortunately for us, when he says he’s retiring, he means it.”

Ruland, 73, worked as a Court of Appeals judge for 20 years, and prior to that he was with the practice of Dufford, Waldeck, Ruland and Milburn in Grand Junction.

Stephan Schweissing, who worked at the local firm in the late 1980s, said he enjoyed learning from Ruland and missed being mentored by Ruland when he moved on.

“He really taught you how to look at a case in a thoughtful way,” Schweissing said. “He always cared about his clients. He was very thorough.”

Several Court of Appeals judges, including Judge Leonard Plank, traveled from Denver for Ruland’s party. Plank described Ruland as an “excellent writer” who is direct, well-measured and logical, but the opinions he authored weren’t excessive. That is important in appellate court, so rulings won’t be taken out of context, Plank said. Furthermore, Ruland is an expert in property law, which would result in other judges seeking him out for clarification in that realm.

“If other judges had a question, they’d go to Ed, and he’ll help you go through it,” Plank said. “He follows the law very strictly.”

An opinion authored by Ruland affirmed a 1993 Colorado state statute that specified eight-foot buffer zones for individuals around medical facilities. The statute was in reference to protestors at abortion clinics. The U.S. Supreme Court later upheld the ruling.

In his later work as a senior judge, Ruland filled in for other district court judges who were on vacation or absent. It’s not uncommon for senior judges to recuse themselves from cases for a variety of reasons, but Ruland rarely did. He also always kept a happy demeanor, said Sandy Casselberry, clerk of the court for the 21st Judicial District.

“He was always available and so friendly,” she said. “He was never grumpy.”

Ruland and his wife, Marilyn, have plans to visit the Northeast and spend more time with their grandchildren. Ruland also likes to ride all-terrain vehicles. He said he is also looking forward to pursuing his hobby of woodworking, labeling himself an amateur.

“Most people say you should measure twice and cut once,” Ruland said about cutting wood. “I measure three times and take the average.”


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