Trump nominates new U.S. attorney for Colorado

Author: Ernest Luning - June 20, 2018 - Updated: June 21, 2018

Jason Dunn (Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck photo)

President Donald Trump has nominated Jason Dunn to serve as Colorado’s U.S. attorney in a long-anticipated move, the White House announced Wednesday.

Dunn is a former deputy state attorney general and assistant solicitor general under former Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (now Colorado Springs’ mayor) and a shareholder at the powerful Denver law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. Dunn chairs the firm’s Political and Regulatory Law Practice Group and its State Attorneys General Practice Group.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, a process that could take several months, Dunn will replace Bob Troyer, an Obama administration holdover who was appointed acting U.S. attorney in 2016.

Troyer has held the job temporarily for almost two years as Colorado waited for a permanent U.S. attorney to be nominated. Attorney General Jeff Sessions extended Troyer’s appointment last November.

“I’m honored to be nominated and look forward to the confirmation process in the Senate,” Dunn told Colorado Politics.

In announcing the nomination, the White House noted that Dunn argued cases before the Colorado Supreme Court and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and that he helped formulate the state’s legal strategy when he worked for Suthers.

Colorado’s Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner applauded the nomination.

“I’ve known Jason for many years, and I am confident that he will make an excellent United States attorney for the District of Colorado,” Gardner said in a statement. “Jason has a proven record of public service and involvement in his community, and he has the integrity and character that will make Colorado proud. I will urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support his confirmation.”

If confirmed, Dunn likely will be faced with the Trump administration’s shifting stances on marijuana enforcement, as well as tension with local governments over federal immigration laws.

It’s unknown whether Dunn might take a more aggressive approach to enforcing federal law banning pot or continue his predecessors’ mostly hands-off approach to Colorado’s legalized marijuana industry.

An industry spokesman hailed Trump’s pick, telling Colorado Politics he anticipates Dunn’s familiarity with the state’s marijuana regulatory system suggests he understands how to work with the industry.

“There is immense hope within the cannabis industry that Jason will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, who committed to supporting the Colorado cannabis industry by not implementing any specific changes in federal enforcement,” said Peter Marcus, communications director for the Boulder-based Terrapin Care Station and a former reporter for Colorado Politics, in a statement.

“President Trump has signaled support for protecting legal marijuana states from federal interference, and so it is encouraging to see that he has chosen a U.S. attorney for Colorado who can help with that mission of protecting states’ rights when it comes to responsible marijuana regulation.”

Jeff Hunt, director of Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute and one of the leading critics of legalized marijuana in the state, said he’s counting on a tougher approach.

“We hope U.S. attorney Dunn will utilize federal resources to confront the increasing black market marijuana industry in Colorado and the foreign drug cartels that are bringing crime to our state,” he told Colorado Politics.

Dunn was one of four potential nominees whose names have been discussed in state political and judicial circles since last summer, as Colorado Politics first reported. According to sources, Sessions interviewed Dunn and James Hearty, an executive at Denver-based global kidney dialysis giant DaVita, about the position more than a year ago.

Pete Weir, the Republican district attorney in Jefferson and Gilpin counties, told Colorado Politics last summer that Dunn has the right background for the position.

“He is an outstanding lawyer and an outstanding individual,” Weir said. “He’s extremely intelligent, he’s got a broad background with respect to complex civil litigation. When you think U.S. attorney, I think you normally would think about criminal work, but a large proportion of what the U.S. attorney’s office does is also focus on civil cases.”

Michael Dougherty, Boulder’s Democratic district attorney and a former top Weir deputy, said Wednesday he hopes Dunn maintains the strong relationship Colorado’s U.S. attorney’s office has built with local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies.

“Bob Troyer has been a champion for immigrants and respecting the will of the voters when it comes to marijuana,” Dougherty told Colorado Politics. “Jason Dunn is certainly a very intelligent guy, and I’m hopeful that he maintains the same approach, and that the U.S. attorney’s office focuses on the more important and serious matters it has within its jurisdiction.”

Dunn, a Colorado native, earned a bachelor’s, master’s and a law degree from the University of Colorado. He clerked for Colorado Supreme Court Justice Nathan Coates, who was recently made chief justice of the state’s high court.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.