Kirk Samelson grew up in Illinois. He moved to Colorado to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and graduated in 1973 with degrees in political science and international relations. He spent two years as a criminal investigator in the Air Force before attending law school at the University of Denver. After law school, Kirk worked as an Air Force Prosecutor and as an associate professor of law at the Air Force Academy. In 1984 he left the Air Force to enter private practice in Colorado Springs, concentrating on real estate, construction, water law and business law. During that time he was a visiting law professor at Colorado College and the Odessa Institute of Economics and Law. Kirk maintained his ties with the Air Force, retiring as a reserve Lt. Col. in 1995.
In 2000 the governor of Colorado appointed Kirk to the District Court bench where heard civil, criminal, domestic and juvenile cases. In 2007 he was appointed to be the chief judge of Colorado’s Fourth Judicial District, presiding over 43 judges and magistrates in El Paso and Teller Counties with a total population of 600,000. He received the Judicial Excellence Award in 2010 from the Colorado chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.
Kirk retired from the bench in 2012. After retiring, he received a Fulbright Senior Specialist award to teach at Otago and Waikato Universities in New Zealand. He is practicing as a mediator and arbitrator.