On September 6, 2022, President Biden nominated Judge Gordon Gallagher to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado to the seat vacated by Judge William Martinez who is taking senior status in 2023. A solo practitioner and part-time magistrate judge for the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Judge Gallagher has dedicated his career to criminal defense work both as a private attorney and as alternate defense counsel to the public.
Judge Gallagher was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1970. After receiving his B.A. from Macalester College, he earned his J.D. from the University of Denver College of Law in 1996. While in law school, he was a quarterfinalist and runner-up for the best oralist in the University of Denver Barrister’s Cup appellate competition and a semi-finalist in the American Bar Association’s National Appellate Advocacy Regional Competition.
Prior to graduating from law school, Judge Gallagher clerked at Underhill & Underhill, P.C., a small business law firm. Upon graduation, he continued his work there as an associate until 1997 when he joined the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office as a Deputy District Attorney and then as Lead County Court Prosecutor. In 2000, Judge Gallagher shifted back to defense work and opened his own firm, Gordon Gallagher Attorney at Law, where he has operated as a solo defense practitioner for over twenty years. The same year he opened his firm, he also began serving as a contract attorney with the Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel, which provides representation to indigent defendants in juvenile and criminal cases when the assigned public defender has a conflict of interest. He served the public through that role for twelve years until 2012 when he was elevated to the federal bench.
In 2012, Judge Gallagher was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado as a part-time Magistrate Judge. Due to the part-time nature of his appointment, he also continues to serve as a defense attorney though his private practice. Judge Gallagher was unanimously re-appointed to his magistrate position in 2016 and 2020. He primarily presides over petty offense and misdemeanor actions arising within federal lands in Western Colorado. He has also handled portions of felony criminal matters prior to jury trial. He has resided solely over bench trials.
Since 2014, Judge Gallagher has overseen the pro se intake division for the District of Colorado, where he manages eight law clerks who review all pro se prisoner cases and non-prisoner pro se actions, as well as civil cases. Judge Gallagher reviews all substantive orders to amend or cure filings and orders to dismiss, among other filings. In 2020, he made significant changes to the review process to address the urgent and essential needs of prisoner requests relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a magistrate judge, Judge Gallagher occasionally interprets tribal law and interacts with local tribes. While the entire District of Colorado is within his jurisdiction, Judge Gallagher primarily serves the Western Slope and frequently substitutes for a magistrate judge in Durango, which hears cases involving tribal communities in the Four-Corners region. He has presided over a significant number of supervised release violations arising from the Ute Mountain Ute Reservations and the Southern Ute Reservation.
The following cases are representative of Judge Gallagher’s judicial experience:
In Bennington v. Stryker Corp., No. 20-CV-01211-CMA-GPG, the plaintiff sued a medical product manufacturer for product liability after complications arose from undergoing a total hip replacement. The plaintiff raised multiple claims, including negligence, breach of warranties, and a violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. The defendants moved to dismiss the case, because the case was based on the alleged failure of FDA-approved market medical devices. Judge Gallagher recommended denial of the motion to dismiss, which the District Court judge adopted. The case is ongoing.
United States v. Holder, No. 18-CR-381-MSK-GPG, 2019 WL 7047332 (D. Colo. Dec. 20, 2019) was a significant criminal case related to a Western Slope fentanyl distribution ring. The defendants were charged with distributing fentanyl disguised as prescription medication, which was later linked to several deaths. Although Judge Gallagher did not preside over the trial, he did make recommendations on many substantive motions that were litigated before him, including a recommendation to deny the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found in a search of his home, which the District Court judge adopted. The primary defendant, Mr. Holder, was convicted and the other defendants entered guilty pleas before Judge Gallagher. The District Court judge sentenced all the defendants.
In a case that garnered considerable media attention, United States v. Koch, defendants were accused of using their funeral home as a front to illegally sell body parts. The mother and daughter duo charged families for cremations and provided fake cremated remains, while actually selling the deceased’s body parts to research groups and educational institutions. This was done without the consent of knowledge of the decedents’ families. Both defendants pled guilty to fraud and sentencing is set for early 2023.
In McFadden v. Meeker Housing Authority, 16-CV-2304-WJM-GPG, plaintiffs alleged that the defendants, which included a federally subsidized apartment complex, the town of Meeker, CO and others, violated the Federal Fair Housing Act by failing to accommodate the plaintiffs’ disabilities. The complex, which had previously allowed therapy animals, changed its policy in 2016 to no longer allow therapeutic animals unless provided a letter by a medical doctor, not including a psychologist, psychotherapist, or therapist. The plaintiffs, who already lived in the complex, were notified of violations of the policy and filed suit against the complex. Judge Gallagher presided over discovery and motions for sanctions and violations. The case ultimately settled.
A plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief against Garfield County in RMR Industrials, Inc. v. Garfield Cty., No. 19-CV-01445-RBJ-GPG, 2019 28 WL 10250745 (D. Colo. Sept. 29, 2019). The plaintiff claimed that a violation notice issued by the County, which attempted to limit the level and type of extractions allowed from the plaintiff’s mine, conflicted with their mining permit from the Bureau of Land Management. Judge Gallagher issued a stay in the case to allow identical litigation to proceed in Colorado State Courts. Ultimately, the case was dismissed.
Professional Activities and Accolades
Prior to joining the bench, Judge Gallagher was a member of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. Judge Gallagher serves on the Board of Directors of Riverside Education Center in Grand Junction Colorado. Between 2015 and 2020, he also served on the Board of Directors of Community Food Bank of Grand Junction. Judge Gallagher also serves on the Board of the American Inns of Court Minoru Yasui Inn, the Colorado Bar Association’s Board of Governors, and is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Magistrate Judges Association.
Judge Gallagher is Co-Chair of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado’s Pro Se Prisoner Task Force, which was created to protect and oversee prisoners’ right to self-represent. He is also a member of the Tenth Circuit Historical Society and volunteers to speak at local middle schools, high schools, and universities.