Updated: May 3
As I waited for Alexis King to return from court, the wall of her lobby spoke volumes about the magnitude of her accomplishment in becoming Jefferson County’s first elected female district attorney. The wall displayed 28 framed photographs of her predecessors — all male. For 140 years, only men held this role until she broke through, fearlessly shattering the ceiling. Her smiling face hangs at the end, offering hope for other dreamers and ceiling breakers.
After she arrived, I asked her how she decided to run for this office. She attributed her motivation and drive to several sources. While she was working as a magistrate in Denver, she observed strong, female leadership, including Denver’s first female district attorney, Denver’s female city attorney, and the female presiding judge of Denver County Court. These women inspired her. She also gained confidence when she attended the Colorado Bar Leadership Training (COBALT) program. Further, she realized she had the experience and passion to tackle bond reform, diversion programs, and equity issues. As a prosecutor and magistrate, she had been involved with juvenile diversion programs and bond reform. These topics were not just talking points to her; rather, these were issues close to her heart. She realized that as the elected district attorney, she could do more to effect positive change and shift practices towards equity. Thus, she began her campaign and started talking to voters. She indicated running for office felt completely right and crazy at the same time.
I asked her how she liked the job. She responded happily that she loved it. She described many aspects that she enjoyed in particular, including problem-solving, relationship-building, and questioning old practices. As the leader and top decision-maker, she now has the ability to ask, “Why do we do things this way? Is there a better way?” Through these discussions, she learned there are good reasons for some practices or policies, but there is also a lot of room for improvement and innovation in other areas. Since taking office, she has created a Conviction Integrity Unit, as well as a pretrial diversion program, and modified the bond process, requesting more personal recognizance bond and cash only bonds.
She holds open office hours so her attorneys can brainstorm with her. Throughout the pandemic, she strived for clear communication with her employees. She credited her staff for adapting and persevering after Covid broke up their collaborative environment.
Finally, she shared a story about one employee, a single dad, who expressed how much her framed picture on the wall meant to his daughter. As I had presumed, I was not the only one who was awed by her lobby wall. Based on her commitment to improving criminal justice practices, however, Ms. King’s legacy will likely far exceed the lobby.
Lynn Noesner is a Lead Deputy State Public Defender in the Appellate Division. In that capacity, she works to protect the state and federal constitutions and ensure that her indigent clients receive fair process in the criminal system. Lynn received her law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and her Bachelor of Arts in English and Women's Studies from Colgate University. In her free time, Lynn enjoys yoga, hanging out with her four-year-old daughter, and fighting oppression.