The Conveners are judges who have water litigation before them.
Hon. Ronald Robie has served on the California Third District Court of Appeal since 2001 and as a DTW co-convener since 2004. Prior to his long service as an appellate and trial court judge, Robie enjoyed a distinguished career as a California water leader, starting as the first State Assembly committee consultant on water. He went on to serve as a member of the State Water Resources Control Board and director of the Department of Water Resources. Robie has taught and written about water law for much of his career as a jurist.
Hon. Debra J. Stephens joined the Conveners after hosting the 2015 Dividing the Waters conference in her hometown of Spokane. As a Washington State Supreme Court justice, she advocates for greater judicial understanding of science, as the Washington State Chair of ASTAR (Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center), and co-chair of the National Advisory Board of the National Courts Science Institute. In recent years, she has participated in several critical water decisions, on topics from municipal water law (Lummi/2010) to instream flows (Swinomish/2013) and tribal water rights (Aquavella/2013). Before joining the Supreme Court, Stephens served on the Court of Appeals in Spokane, appointed in 2007. She previously practiced appellate law, and received both her undergraduate and law degrees from Gonzaga University.
Hon. Kate Appleby was appointed to the Utah Court of Appeals in 2014 by Gov. Gary Herbert; she will retire at the end of 2020, but will continue as a Senior Judge. Prior to her appointment, she was a Third District Court Judge for nearly eight years. Judge Appleby graduated from the University of Maryland in 1991, served as a judicial law clerk with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, then joined the Maryland Public Defender’s Office. She was in private practice in Utah from 1993 until 1996, when she joined the Utah State Bar’s Office of Professional Conduct. Since her days as managing editor of the Maryland Law Review, Judge Appleby has served as editors of other legal publications, including Voir Dire and the Utah Bar Journal. She was a member and Chair of the Board of District Court Judges and a member of the Grand Jury panel of judges. She served on the Utah Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure. She was an advisory board member of the Family Justice Center and the Utah Foster Care Foundation. Judge Appleby currently serves as a member and Vice-Chair of the Judicial Council. She is a Convener for the Dividing the Waters judicial conference. She is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. You can find her profile in the February 2016 Network Note.
Hon. Eric Wildman serves as the presiding water judge for the state of Idaho Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) court following his gubernatorial appointment in 2010. The court is dedicated to resolving and defining water rights ownership and entitlement claims. Previously, Wildman was in private practice before joining the SRBA as a staff attorney. The SRBA is the largest water adjudication in the history of the state of Idaho, covering all the water that begins in Yellowstone National Park, stretches west to the Oregon border and north to Clearwater County. After completion of the SNRB (2014), Wildman continues to handle a similar adjudication in the Coeur d’Alene Basin as well as other water resources cases.
Hon. C. Shannon Bacon was appointed to the New Mexico Supreme Court on January 25, 2019 after being recommended by a nonpartisan Judicial Nominating Commission. She took the oath of office on February 4, 2019. Prior to her appointment, Justice Bacon served as a district court judge on the Second Judicial District Court and as the Presiding Civil Judge. While serving on the district court, Justice Bacon presided over thousands of cases spanning complex civil litigation, class actions, adult guardianship and conservatorship cases, real estate and contract disputes, election issues, domestic and children’s court cases and appeals. Justice Bacon was also the Bernalillo County Water and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District Judge.
Prior to joining the Supreme Court Justice Bacon served on numerous commissions and committees. She served on the New Mexico Supreme Court Adult Guardianship and Conservatorship Steering Committee (Chair) and Rules Committee, the Access to Justice Commission, the Bernalillo County Pro Bono Committee (Co-chair), the Supreme Court Personnel Rules Committee (Chair), the Supreme Court Rules of Evidence Committee (Chair) and the District and Metropolitan Judges Association (President). Justice Bacon has also served on non-profit boards that address the needs of youth experiencing homelessness for more than a decade.
Prior to taking the bench, Justice Bacon was a partner at Sutin, Thayer and Brown, P.A. and Eaves, Bardacke, Baugh, Kierst and Larson, P.A. where her practice focused on complex litigation and appeals. She began her legal career as a law clerk for the Honorable A. Joseph Alarid at the New Mexico Court of Appeals.
Justice Bacon earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History and her law degree at Creighton University. Upon completion of her education, Justice Bacon returned to Albuquerque, New Mexico where she was raised, to begin her professional career.
Hon. John ‘JP’ Schlegelmilch was born in Brooklyn, New York and moved to Lake Tahoe when he was 14. After graduating from Incline High School, he attended the University of Nevada graduating with a dual degree in Speech Communication and Political Science in 1988. He received a Nevada W.I.C.H.E. grant to attend Willamette University College of Law, graduating with his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1991. Judge Schlegelmilch was admitted to practice law in Nevada the same year.
He began his practice of law as a Deputy Lyon County District Attorney in 1991 and served as Chief Deputy District Attorney from 1995 – 2001. In 2001, Judge Schlegelmilch left the District Attorney’s Office and opened the Law Offices of John P. Schlegelmilch, Ltd. in Yerington, NV. A true rural practitioner, he traveled rural Nevada representing a vast variety of clients in litigation related matters. He has tried in excess of 50 criminal (both as a prosecutor and defense counsel) and civil (both plaintiff and defense) jury trials during his career. His legal experience includes criminal, real property, water, domestic relations, business, personal injury, estates, probate, and a variety of other issues. On November 4, 2014, Judge Schlegelmilch was elected to Department I of the Third Judicial District Court and took office in January 2015.
Throughout his legal career, Judge Schlegelmilch has been involved with water litigation. Judge Schlegelmilch currently serves on the Supreme Court Water Adjudication Commission. Practicing law his entire career in Lyon County provided a solid foundation for contributing to the NV commission and Dividing the Waters. His county has three rivers that flow from CA to provide water for its communities and neighboring Indian tribes. The rivers generate some of NV’s most difficult water conflicts and federal/state legal precedents.
Although he started his career as a prosecutor, he practiced law for 13 years in Yerington, where he served agriculture and other water right holders. His understanding of the administrative complexities of the State Engineer’s office and water litigation experience made him a good candidate to contribute to the NV commission’s work.
The Texas DTW conference at the Baylor Law School gave Schlegelmilch his first exposure to the Program. The judicial experience on water of his peers impressed him. He has found DTW “invaluable in keeping me up to date on the science and law relating to water throughout the west.” It “has given me significant insight in addressing Nevada’s unique issues as the nation’s most arid state.”
Hon. Gregory Hobbs,who died Nov. 30, 2021, served on the Colorado Supreme Court and before that had a distinguished career as a water attorney and author. He published fiction and non-fiction (including water poetry), as well as the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s most popular guide, Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Water Law (4th Ed., Spring 2015). He also served as vice president of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and was a member of the Colorado Authors League.
Hon. John Thorson co-founded the Program in 1993, when he was the special master for the Arizona general stream adjudications. (The other co-founder, retired Idaho Judge Dan Hurlbutt, recently retired as a DTW convener.) Thorson later served as assistant chief administrative law judge for the California Public Utilities Commission, and now serves as Federal Water Master for the U.S. District Court (E.D. Wash.). He has more than 25 years’ experience as a water attorney, writer, and consultant, and has published numerous books and articles.