by David J. Santistevan Jr.
TRINIDAD — Third Judicial District Chief Judge Leslie J. Gerbracht started and ended her tenure in the Third Judicial District with this quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”
Last Friday afternoon, with over 100 family, friends, co-workers, and community leaders packing the Las Animas County District Courtroom, Chief Judge Gerbracht gave an emotional farewell as she heads into retirement. “I love Trinidad. This has been my home for 25-years. The people and community are wonderful,” Gerbracht said, fighting back tears. “I want to thank the community here in Trinidad for being so kind to me and my family.”
Judge Gerbracht was sworn in as a District Court Judge in January of 2007. Prior to her appointment, she was a Deputy Public Defender from 1995 to 2005 and was in private practice in Trinidad from 2005 to 2007. She graduated from Sangamon State University in Springfield, Illinois, with a B.A. in 1984 and obtained her law degree from Southern Illinois University Law School in Carbondale, Illinois in 1997.
Joanne Montero the Clerk of Court III in Las Animas County said during the retirement celebration, “It was 16 years ago that Chief Judge Gerbracht was sworn in, a snowy January day. This court room is just as packed now as it was then. Today it is fitting that 16 years later, it is sunny and warm outside. Judge Gerbracht has done such an amazing job here for the Third Judicial District in Las Animas County and in Huerfano County, for Trinidad and our entire community. We will miss you and we thank you.”
Chief Judge Gerbracht has made her mark on history, as she was appointed as the first woman judge to serve in the Third Judicial District and Las Animas and Huerfano counties.
The Honorable Retired Third Judicial Chief Judge Jesse Manzanares added, “Judge Gerbracht’s tenure as a District Judge in Las Animas County was outstanding. We will greatly miss her insights in resolving domestic and family issues and addressing truancy issues. I really liked the way she handled jury trials.”
Retired local attorney and former Las Animas County District Attorney Jon Neil Barclay said, “Chief Judge Gerbracht was always fair and she was very progressive. She brought a lot to the Third Judicial court room and our community. I want to wish her well in retirement.”
The Chairman of the Las Animas County Board of Commissioners Felix Lopez said at the celebration, “We here in Las Animas County want to give you our sincere congratulations and as the sun shines brightly on you and your family, enjoy your retirement, you have done so many wonderful things here in our great community. Thank you.”
Back in 2019 she replaced the Hon. Claude Appel who retired after serving nearly 34-years. She served as the administrative head of the Third Judicial District, where she was responsible for appointing to the court executive, chief probation officer, and clerk of the court. She was also responsible for the court being conducted efficiently and effectively.
Gerbracht began a truancy prevention program and GED completion program in district court which has seen great success. Gerbracht added, “The true people who made it (the truancy program) work were the teacher, staff and administrators of the area schools. They did all of the work with the kids. They filled out the paperwork, they did all of the hard work this is what made it a success.”
Chief Judge Gerbracht finished by saying, “I want to thank all of my staff. We have the best staff in all of Colorado. They are over worked and understaffed. You don’t know how much I appreciate everyone who works in the Third Judicial District in both counties.”