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Honoring Chief Judge Susan Blanco, Recipient of the Judicial Excellence Award


Jon Olafson, a shareholder at Buchalter in Denver, gave the following introduction for Chief Judge Susan Blanco of the 8th Judicial District at the CWBA's Annual Judicial Reception, where she received the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Judicial Excellence Award.


"It is my huge honor to help introduce and celebrate such a remarkable woman, Chief Judge Susan Blanco. Chief Judge Blanco is receiving an award today because of her demonstrable commitment to community. She takes a very expansive view of community, too. I would like to walk through some of those achievements and activities with you tonight.


In her jurisdiction, she is the founder and chair of the Latinx Taskforce, a group she formed after she listened to the needs of the community. She also created a competency court to help those challenged with competency identify community resources to assist them in lieu of jail or the state hospital. In fact, Chief Judge Blanco and her competency court won the Fort Collins Human Relations Award in the fall of 2022, celebrating the huge number of lives that have been positively impacted by this work. But she does not stop with one community-based court; she also presides over her jurisdiction’s wellness court, which helps those with severe and persistent mental health diagnoses who are in the criminal justice system. One might think she would stop there, but she does these two community courts on top of a full criminal docket. She also holds regular warrant clearance events outside of the courthouse and in the community. When not on the bench, Chief Judge Blanco is also involved with the Criminal Justice Advisory Council for the 8th Judicial District and serves on the Larimer County Community Corrections Board.


Chief Judge Blanco’s work does not stop with her immediate jurisdiction. Indeed, her passion for community-based positive results and inclusion extends statewide. Chief Judge Blanco currently serves on the CBA’s Executive Council, serves as a commissioner on the Colorado Access to Justice Committee, is part of the Leadership Team for COBALT, was a founding board member of the Colorado Diverse Attorneys Community Circle, Co-Chairs the Judicial Branch’s IT committee, and chairs the Pathways to Access Committee through the Judiciary, where she runs the virtual proceedings committee and the advisory committee on language access. Chief Judge Blanco is also an active member of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, where she has served on the Board and has been active with a new program called Lawyers Teaching for Change.


Yet, all of these remarkable achievements and activities, which I think are the reasons we are here today, are not the things I find most compelling about Chief Judge Blanco, so I want to take a minute to introduce you to Susan and what I love about her. Susan is a wife to Nick and a mother to Landon and Scarlett. Their family is a blast! When you walk into their home, they all treat you like family. Even her parents are quick to welcome you. In fact, Susan’s Mom and Stepdad hosted over 40 Colorado attorneys in their home for a Persian feast as part of the CODACC program. It was spectacular!!! Susan is also a woman of faith, something she studies deeply and teaches at her local Church on Wednesday nights. In this space she is quick to defend people from marginalized communities, including those in my community, the LGBTQIA+ community, when others in the Church do not. This makes her an important ally in a difficult environment. She leads with courage even in the toughest of places.



Susan is also a friend. Indeed, she is my best friend. I can share stories about the rolling laughter that we have shared, including over a fox in Snowmass drinking a caramel macchiato at 10:30 at night. I can share with you the support she has given me in so many endeavors, including helping me write letters and statements until the wee hours of the morning. I can share with you road trips in which she would pretend to hang on for dear life, which is her way of critiquing my efficient driving abilities -- this is also something she and my partner Jerry frequently joke and text back and forth about. We can talk about horse racing games with a Carolseccos. We can also talk about costume contests, gala events, glasses of wine with deep conversation, and cups of coffee with playful banter.



But what jumps out to me the most – and what makes Susan so incredibly special – is how she helped me during my toughest moments. This winter, my mother passed away. My mom’s battle with cancer was difficult and required me to take frequent trips to Minnesota. Susan did not let me go through this alone. When I was driving north, she would call and talk with me and would also allow time for silence. Susan prayed for my mother, my family, and me, and sent me words of healing. Susan had difficult conversations with me about death, life, grieving, and legacy – and helped me understand that everything that I was doing made my mom proud and would continue to make her proud even after she was gone. Susan also helped me understand that all of the work I do honored my mom’s legacy – something I struggled with a lot because I wanted so much to make my mom proud and honor the incredible impact she had on my life. Susan said the words I needed to hear. It was so difficult to talk about – but Susan understood and was able to see into my heart in a meaningful way. There is no way I can ever repay Susan for her love and support during my lowest times. She is one of my rocks and is a big part of my heart and soul. I know I would not be where I am today without Susan, and I am grateful every day for Susan Blanco. Today I celebrate and thank that Susan.


While today we collectively honor Chief Judge Blanco and all of the incredible work she does to make our WHOLE community better, today I celebrate Susan the woman, the mother, the wife, the family member, and my best friend.


Please help me celebrate Chief Judge Susan Blanco, this year’s recipient of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Judicial Excellence award!"

 

Jon Olfason is a partner in the Denver office of Buchalter PC. Mr. Olafson’s practice focuses on domestic and international trade secret protections, corporate espionage, and how to handle situations where a client’s most valuable materials and data are threatened by internal and external sources. Mr. Olafson also works with clients on their complex wage and hour issues, business and corporate compliance, and C-suite transitions. Mr. Olafson also counsels his clients other business-related disputes and business torts, including disputes that involve common business torts like intentional interference, defamation (personal and commercial), fiduciary duty breaches, and conversion.


Priding himself on being involved in his community, Mr. Olafson currently serves as the Secretary of the Board for the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, Interim Secretary for the Sam Cary Bar Association, and the Diversity and Inclusion Director for the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association. Mr. Olafson previously served on the Colorado Bar Association’s Executive Council as an at-large member, the Board of Governors representative for the Colorado Bar Association Labor and Employment Section, and on Group IV of the Colorado Bar Association’s Diversity Initiatives. As part of his role on the CBA’s Executive Council, he founded and chaired the Racial Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity Committee. Since 2020, he has been a Bar Fellow with the Colorado Bar Foundation. Mr. Olafson is also the immediate past president of the Nathan Yip Foundation and is on the Board of Directors for Opera Colorado, where he also serves on the organization’s diversity committee. Mr. Olafson is an out gay man and he and his partner enjoy traveling, paddle-boarding, and spending time with their dogs, Elske and Bailey.

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