Judge served for 16 years on the bench

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FARMINGTON — District Judge John Dean Jr. is stepping down from the bench after serving for 16 years. Members of the local law community said his expertise and experience will be missed.

Dean told The Daily Times he is not retiring but resigning and referenced a quote from Ernest Hemingway, stating retirement is the ugliest word in the English language.

"I appreciate the opportunity to serve as a judge and serve the community" Dean said.

Dean briefly practiced law in Albuquerque before returning to Farmington and practiced law with fellow attorney Scott Curtis for 22 years, according to a biography provided by the Eleventh Judicial District Court.

He was also elected to the San Juan County Commission in 1992 and has served as president of organizations including the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments and the New Mexico Association of Counties.

Dean was a Domestic Violence Hearing Officer for the Eleventh Judicial District Court for six years before taking the bench in February 2003. He has primarily held a criminal case docket.

Curtis said Dean decided to become a judge to give back to his community after practicing law for about 25 to 26 years.

"We were lucky he did, he was a good judge," Curtis said.

For Dean, he saw being a judge as an extension of his legal career.

During his 16 years, he served as Chief District Judge for six years and was a member of the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission from 2015 to this month.  

"Judge Dean was one of those people who was not afraid to make the tough calls," Chief District Judge Karen Townsend told The Daily Times. "That's usually the hardest job, to stay true to what is right and what is fair."

Townsend described Dean as a great mentor and friend who the courts are going to miss.

She highlighted his work to form the annual, juried Art Show to host artwork by local artists in the Aztec and Farmington district court houses.

San Juan County Commission Chairman and local attorney Jack Fortner said he liked Dean's demeanor and decisions on the bench, adding Dean was a judge who listened and was fair.

"When he rules against you, you know he was always fair," Fortner said.

Dean has selected Feb. 19 as the last day to keep his license to practice law, 100 years after his grandfather became a lawyer on Feb. 19, 1919.

For the future, Dean plans on volunteering around the area, including at the Sherman Dugan Museum of Geology housed in the School of Energy building at San Juan College.

He still serves on the board for the San Juan County Partnership.

To handle Dean's vacancy, District Judge Daylene Marsh will relocate to the Aztec District Court building to help Townsend handle felony cases.

District Judge Bradford Dalley will move to the Farmington District Court building.

The Eleventh Judicial District Judicial Nominating Commission is expected to meet in the future and interview applicants to fill Dean's vacancy.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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