August 21, 2019

Archives for May 8, 2014

The Practice of Life (Part 6): Facing Down the Saber-toothed Tiger

rhodesThe 2013 Colorado Lawyer Satisfaction and Salary Survey, showed that most Colorado lawyers (a) work under the kind of chronic stress that hurts us in the long-term, but (b) put up with it because they’re well paid. Lots of other scholarly research and media articles have said the same thing.

In other words, one of the things that can stand between lawyers and happiness is the money they make. 83% of Survey respondents reported earning $60,000 or more, 69% were at $80,000 or more, and 54% were over $100,000. Those are strong numbers. So what’s to complain about?

If you’re not happy, the numbers don’t help. Turns out that “money doesn’t buy happiness” is more than a folksy saying; it has roots in neuroscience. Our minds know that being happy and making money aren’t mutually exclusive. Our brains, on the other hand, aren’t so sure. They’d rather play it safe and take money over happiness any day.

Why do our brains do that? Once again quoting positive psychologist Shawn Achor and his book The Happiness Advantage:

Neuroscientists have found that financial losses are actually processed in the same areas of the brain that respond to mortal danger. In other words, we react to withering profits and a sinking retirement account the same way our ancestors did to a saber-toothed tiger.

Did he just say that our brains react to financial stress the same way they would if we found ourselves face-to-face with a saber-toothed tiger? Yes, that’s what he said. It’s a neurological fact that money issues light up the most basic survival-instinct parts of our brains. Mess with our paychecks and our fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in. Adrenaline pumps through the system; we get busy surviving.

No wonder, then, that the Great Recession hit the business of law so hard. It hit us where it hurts: in our above-average pocketbooks. That was bad enough on financial terms, but the source of our distress and disorientation goes much deeper. Making good money helps things look good on the outside, and therefore maintains a happiness-depleting external locus of control, at the expense of a happiness-enhancing internal locus.

That shift in locus is why, in our minds a least, a well-paying job trumps happiness. Pit happiness against money, and we’re not talking prestige anymore, we’re talking survival. And that is why we eventually take on the mindset of learned helplessness that kills happiness. This doesn’t happen because our priorities are screwed up; it happens because our brains are wired that way.

Fortunately, we can use our minds to alter our brains’ automatic “put up and shut up” response. Which is why knowing the tiger is still on the prowl has motivated many lawyers to seek new, sustainable solutions to the business of law. (In case you missed it, we looked at several of those in the last series.)

Going inside ourselves to cultivate happiness becomes a practice of life that’sgood for our souls, good for business, good for professionalism. And none of that requires taking a smaller paycheck. In fact, as we’ve also seen, cultivating happiness might just create a larger one.

Kevin Rhodes is a lawyer in private practice and a registered mentor with the Colorado Supreme Court’s CAMP program. He offers career coaching for lawyers and leads workshops for a variety of audiences, including the CBA’s Solo and Small Firm Section and the Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. You can email Kevin at

Colorado Court of Appeals: Announcement Sheet, 5/8/2014

On Thursday, May 8, 2014, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued six published opinions and 20 unpublished opinions.

People v. Stroud

People v. Curren

People v. Rhea

Zueger v. Goss

City & County of Denver v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office

Visible Voices, Inc. v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office

Summaries of these cases are forthcoming, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.


Tenth Circuit: Sentencing Enhancement for Pattern of Activity Applies No Matter When Prior Instances Occurred

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Lucero on Friday, May 2, 2014.

In March 2012, Lawrence Lucero worked as a social worker at the Community Based Outpatient Clinic, which provides social services to military veterans for the Veterans Administration. A random search of VA computers by the VA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) revealed that one of Lucero’s computers had accessed numerous questionable websites that appeared to contain child pornography. The OIG searched the computers in Lucero’s offices in April and found numerous images of child pornography and stories about incestuous acts with children of unknown authorship.

In May 2012, an OIG agent interrogated Lucero about the computer findings and Lucero admitted that he used his work computer to look at images of child pornography and collect stories, and that he had been viewing child pornography for 20 years. He also told the agent that he had molested two of his nieces in the ’60s and ’70s. Lucero was indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2012 on several counts and pled guilty to the indictment in December 2012 without a plea agreement. In February 2013, a probation officer issued a presentence report calculating Lucero’s Guidelines sentencing range at 78 to 97 months in prison. Various sentence enhancements and reductions were applied, including a five-level increase because he engaged in a “pattern of activity” involving the sexual abuse of minors, including molesting his nieces. Lucero received a sentence of 78 months, which he appealed, arguing that the district court erred procedurally by applying the five-level enhancement based on conduct that occurred more than 35 years ago, and that the district court should have granted him a downward variance based on the age of his pattern-of-activity conduct as well as his personal characteristics.

The Tenth Circuit disagreed with Lucero’s contention that the remote-in-time conduct should not count for enhancement purposes, noting “[t]he guideline and the commentary do not include any temporal limitations.” In fact, the Tenth Circuit pointed out that the commentary to the guidelines makes clear that the pattern of activity need not be contextually related to the offense charged. The Tenth Circuit also rejected Lucero’s arguments that he should have received a downward variance based on the remoteness of the conduct. The ruling of the district court was affirmed.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 5/7/2014

On Wednesday, May 7, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and eight unpublished opinions.

Hogan v. Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency

United States v. Guerrero-Carreon

United States v. Radcliff

United States v. Paz-Rojas

United States v. Pena

United States v. Quinn

Bruner-McMahon v. Jameson

Ilioi v. Holder

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

HB 14-1398: Creating a New Class of Financial Institutions for Marijuana Businesses

On April 30, 2014, Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sen. Pat Steadman introduced HB 14-1398 – Concerning the Provision of Financial Services to Licensed Marijuana Businesses, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, financial institutions are reluctant to serve state-licensed marijuana businesses. These businesses therefore currently operate almost entirely on a cash-only basis, which raises their costs and increases the risk of crime, among other things.

The bill enacts the “Marijuana Financial Services Cooperatives Act.” Marijuana financial services cooperatives (referred to as “cannabis credit co-ops”) are a type of financial services entity, membership in which is restricted to entities that are licensed to own or operate a marijuana business. Cannabis credit co-ops are subject to regulation by the state commissioner of financial services in a manner similar to that of credit unions, with the following differences:

  • The commissioner has 60 days after the filing of an application for a charter to determine whether the application meets the applicable requirements;
  • The incorporators of the co-op must provide the commissioner with written evidence of approval by the federal reserve bank for access by the co-op to the federal reserve system;
  • The commissioner cannot allow more than 10 charters for Cannabis credit co-ops to be outstanding at any one time;
  • The commissioner must examine cannabis credit co-ops at least once every six months; and
  • Once a member no longer owns or operates a licensed marijuana business, the member is no longer qualified to be a member of a co-op.

A cannabis credit co-op:

The bill gives the court of appeals jurisdiction to review certain of the commissioner’s actions. The bill sunsets the regulation of cannabis credit co-ops on September 1, 2020.

The bill has been approve by the Business, Labor, Economic, & Workforce Development, Finance, and Appropriations Committees in the House On May 2, the House passed the bill, as amended, on 2nd Reading Refer Amended to Finance.

  • Cannot refer to itself as a “credit union” or “bank;”
  • Does not need to acquire and maintain deposit insurance;
  • Is subject to taxation; and
  • Is specifically required to comply with federal requirements relating to marijuana businesses and their proceeds and to file reports with the commissioner regarding its federal law compliance and compliance with federal guidance.

Since this summary, the bill passed through the Senate Finance Committee and was referred to Appropriations, where it also passed. The bill passed 2nd Reading in the full Senate with amendments. It also passed 3rd Reading in the Senate, where it was also amended. The bill went back to the House for consideration of the Senate amendments. The first consideration in the House was to not concur with the Senate changes, and a committee conference was requested. The committee conferred, and the bill went back to the House floor, where the changes were accepted.

HB 14-1383: Increasing Required Number of Designated Healthcare Providers for Workers’ Compensation Treatment

On April 16, 2014, Rep. Angela Williams and Sen. Lois Tochtrop introduced HB 14-1383 – Concerning the Required Number of Physicians that Must be Provided to an Injured Employee for Selection of a Treating Physician in Workers’ Compensation CasesThis summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

Current law requires an employer or workers’ compensation insurer to provide a list of at least two physicians or two corporate medical providers or one physician and one corporate medical provider to an injured employee from which to select a treating physician. The bill changes that number to four physicians and corporate medical providers.

Current law states that if there are fewer than four physicians or corporate medical providers within 30 miles of the employer’s place of business, the employer or insurer may instead designate one physician or one corporate medical provider. The bill adds an exemption for rural areas where there are more than three, but fewer than nine physicians or corporate medical providers within 30 miles of the employer’s place of business, the employer or insurer may instead designate two physicians or two corporate medical providers or a combination of the providers.

The bill was approved by the House on April 24. The Senate State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee approved the bill on April 28. On May 2 the bill was approved on 2nd Reading in the Senate.

Since this summary, the bill passed 3rd Reading in the Senate.