August 19, 2019

DBA Award Winners Announced; Chuck Turner Receives DBA Award of Merit

The Denver Bar Association announced the winners of its 2015 DBA Awards on February 24, 2015. Award recipients will be recognized at the annual DBA Awards Ceremony on July 9, 2015 at the Ralph Carr Justice Center.

chuck turner 300Charles C. “Chuck” Turner will receive the Award of Merit, the DBA’s highest honor, for his outstanding leadership of the DBA and CBA. The Award of Merit recognizes outstanding service and contributions to the DBA and the legal profession, rendered to improve the administration of justice.

The Honorable Ruben Hernandez, magistrate judge at the Denver Probate Court, will receive the Judicial Excellence Award. This award is given to members of the judiciary who exemplify outstanding service or make exceptional contributions to the improvement of the justice system.

Gillian McKean BidgoodGillian M. Bidgood has been selected to receive the DBA Young Lawyer of the Year Award. This award is given to a DBA member and attorney who is 37 or under or has been in practice less than three years. Ms. Bidgood is a shareholder in the Denver office of Polsinelli PC who practices employment defense. Ms. Bidgood is a contributing author to CBA-CLE’s Practitioner’s Guide to Colorado Employment Law.

MCHUGH_FORMAL_use_logoJohn M. McHugh will receive the Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award. The Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award is given annually to a DBA member who has performed extraordinary voluntary legal or community service. Mr. McHugh is an associate at Reilly Pozner LLP, where he practices complex civil and commercial litigation. Mr. McHugh is active with the Colorado GLBT Bar Association, and serves on that organization’s board of directors and membership committee.

Doug Wilhelm, 8th Grade history teacher at Hamilton Middle School in Denver Public Schools, will receive the Education in the Legal System Award. This award honors educators or schools that exhibit outstanding participation in legal and civics education. Mr. Wilhelm received the 9News 9Teachers Who Care award in November 2010 for his outstanding classroom work.

The Denver Bar Association Court Mediation Services Program will receive the Projects and Programs Award. This award acknowledges the immense efforts of programs that provide legal education, outreach, pro bono services or fundraising.

Congratulations to all the award recipients!

Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline Amended by Colorado Supreme Court

On Friday, December 12, 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court announced Rule Change 2014(16), amending the Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline. The rule change was adopted and effective December 10, 2014.

The rule changes were extensive and covered many of the rules. Significant changes were made to the rules regarding review of complaints, investigation, determination, statement of charges, and many others. For a redline of the changes, click here.

Law Day 2014: American Democracy and the Rule of Law — Why Every Vote Matters

ChrisBryanIn honor of Law Day, this article will be circulated to all local bar leaders. We encourage you to distribute it to your local media and any other interested parties as well.

By Christopher Bryan

Colorado, like the rest of the United States, celebrates Law Day on May 1. The American Bar Association has designated today as Law Day to draw attention to facets of our justice system and constitutional form of government. The 2014 theme is “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters.”

Here in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, and in western Colorado generally, we know first-hand the importance of every single vote. Small towns—whether in Colorado’s resort communities or in more rural areas—have had numerous elections decided by a few votes or even a single vote. We know that voter turnout matters not only to determine who our elected leaders will be but also because a highly engaged citizenry that votes and participates in representative democracy means stronger communities, more robust ideas, and, ultimately, a better future for everyone.

Protecting citizens’ right to vote and ensuring eligible voters’ universal access to the ballot are among the most important tasks of our legal system, and they are tasks that many people in our community are involved with—from city staff, county clerks, and elected officials, to the election commissioners, poll watchers, and election judges who volunteer their time to ensure proper elections. Watchdog organizations, lawyers’ committees, and civil liberties groups are also important in ensuring legal access to the ballot for everyone, including minorities and under-served populations, and for the orderly administration of processing elections. And, of course, everything depends on voters being well-informed about candidates and issues they vote on, and going to the polls or mailing in their filled-out ballots on time.

So that “every vote matters,” we must be vigilant in ensuring that the “rule of law” remains intact. In Aspen, in Colorado, and throughout the United States, the “rule of law” depends on an intelligent, independent judiciary that safeguards the rights of everyone and applies the law equally. Every schoolchild knows that the judicial branch is a co-equal branch of government in our three-part system of checks and balances. But Law Day is a particularly appropriate day to recognize the difficult and important role that judges serve in our society.

The federal district, bankruptcy, and appellate judges and magistrates who serve Colorado are an impressive bunch: smart, even-tempered, scrupulous, respectful of the truth, and fair to all sides. Under Article III of the Constitution, federal judges appointed to district court and appellate court judgeships are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate; they enjoy lifetime appointments, ended only by impeachment, resignation, or death. Bankruptcy court judges and magistrates are appointed for time-determined terms. Unlike many federal districts throughout the country, Colorado is lucky to have a highly functional federal judiciary with no vacant judgeships, which slow down the administration of justice for everyone.

Our state court judges deserve special mention, for they are the ones who most people in Colorado encounter when they are summoned to jury duty, appear at a hearing to testify, or attend trial as a party. The county, district, and appellate state court judges in Colorado work incredibly hard, day in and day out, with dedicated but over-stretched support staff members, limited resources, and ever-expanding civil and criminal dockets. Our state court judges are the ones who decide every legal matter brought in state court: probate, family law and divorce cases, drunk driving, domestic abuse, sexual assault, violent crimes, theft, fraud, property fights, municipal and water matters, business disputes, and civil litigation, among many others. By definition, our state court judges must be highly knowledgeable in all areas of the law; be proficient in the rules of evidence and procedure; be able to discern untruthful testimony, pick apart attorneys’ arguments; make litigants, jurors, and lay witnesses feel at ease; and maintain decorum in a sometimes seemingly chaotic courtroom.

In Colorado, we have an appointment/retention system for placing judges. A judicial nominating commission (consisting of several lawyers and even more non-lawyers) from each judicial district interviews and vets applicants for district court judgeships. The commission then nominates three finalists to the governor, who conducts his own review process. The governor appoints a judge to a provisional two-year term. Thereafter, the judge stands for retention by the voters for an additional six-year term. County court judges stand for retention every four years. Judges standing for retention are thoroughly reviewed and scrutinized by a local judicial performance commission, whose members vote for or against retention. This process avoids lifetime appointments and allows voters to remove ill-behaving or under-performing judges but does not subject our judges to the indignities of judicial elections and ensures steadiness in the judiciary by avoiding high turnover.

Some states elect judges, which politicizes the judiciary. In judicial-election states, candidates for judgeships have to “run” against one another, raise money from lawyers and special interest groups, and serve under the common impression that their rulings reward their benefactors. Other states impose strict term limits on judges, robbing their citizens of experienced judges who often are at their very best toward the end of their judicial career.

In the Ninth Judicial District, encompassing Pitkin, Garfield, and Rio Blanco counties, we are lucky to have exemplary judges. Our county court judges are perhaps the most visible, as they process a high number of misdemeanor criminal cases each year and hear hundreds of small claims and county court civil cases. Our five district court judges—Chief Judge Boyd, Judge Petre, Judge Lynch, Judge Nichols, and Judge Neiley—are all popular, diligent, thoughtful judges with sharp intellects and commensurate work ethics. They have been faced with one of the busiest dockets in Colorado, and the counties they represent are among the fastest growing in population. Their jobs are among the most difficult anywhere, and they have earned the right to be called “Your Honor.”

On this Law Day, take a moment to be thankful that we live in a nation where “every vote matters,” where the “rule of law” governs. Be glad you live in a state where judges serve the public interest. Be proud that you live in a community with judges who treat everyone with dignity, respect, fairness, and equality.

Chris Bryan is an Aspen attorney and the president of the Pitkin County Bar Association. 

CJD 98-03, Regarding Judicial Solemnization of Weddings, Amended for Inclusion of Civil Union Language

Hon. Michael Bender, Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, issued an update to CJD 98-03 in April. The updated Chief Justice Directive is effective May 1, 2013.

The Chief Justice Directive discusses payment for solemnization of marriages that are performed outside of business hours, and also emphasizes that members of the judiciary may not be compensated for services performed during normal business hours. It was amended to include language regarding certification of civil unions, and the amendment is effective May 1, 2013.

For the full text of the Chief Justice Directive, click here. For all Chief Justice Directives, click here.

Authority and Responsibility of Chief Judges Amended by Chief Justice

Chief Justice Directive 95-01Authority and Responsibility of Chief Judges, was revised on August 17, 2012.

The directive was amended to include a paragraph memorializing the Chief Judge Council and a subparagraph regarding the open case and age of case reports for judges who retire, resign, or are rotating to a new docket. Other conforming amendments include omitting consultation with the chief justice on swearing-in dates for new judges and the obligation for the chief judge to maintain a vacation schedule, which is no longer necessary due to the use of a computerized leave program.

The details are outlined in CJD 95-01 – “Authority and Responsibility of Chief Judges”

If you have questions about this directive or the amendments, contact Carol Haller, Deputy State Court Administrator and Legal Counsel, at (303) 837-3669 or carol.haller@judicial.state.co.us.

HB 11-1302: Creating a Program in the State Department to Train Judges in Managing Business Litigation

On April 19, 2011, Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, introduced HB 11-1302 – Concerning the creation of a program within the department of state for the purpose of training judges in the management of business-related litigation, and making an appropriation therefor. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The bill creates a program within the department of state for the purpose of providing training to judges in managing business litigation. The bill makes an appropriation to the department of state for the implementation of the program. Assigned to the Judiciary Committee; the bill is scheduled for committee review on Tuesday, April 26 at 1:30 p.m.

Since this summary, the Judiciary Committee referred the bill unamended to the Appropriations Committee.

Summaries of other featured bills can be found here.

Update: Judge Stephen Phillips to Retire from 2nd Judicial District; Applicants Sought for Bench Vacancy

The Second Judicial District Nominating Commission will meet in late August to interview Colorado attorneys applying for the vacancy that the Honorable J. Stephen Phillips will leave upon his retirement from the bench later this year.

The meeting will be held at the Colorado Supreme Court conference room, 101 W. Colfax Ave., in downtown Denver, on Monday, August 23. Following the interviews, the Commission will recommend finalists for Gov. Bill Ritter to consider for appointment.

The Second Judicial District Court hears civil, criminal, and domestic relations cases for the 500,000-plus residents of City and County of Denver. District court judges receive a provisional, two-year appointment by the governor, after which they are retained by voter approval every six years.

All attorneys licensed to practice in Colorado for at least five years and who are registered electors in the Second Judicial District are eligible to apply for the judgeship. Detailed information about the Second Judicial District and the application are available online. Application packages (consisting of one original application plus seven copies) must be received by the office of Commission ex officio chair, Justice Allison H. Eid, 101 W. Colfax Ave., Eighth Floor, no later than Friday, August 6 at 5:00 p.m.

Judge Phillips was appointed to the Second Judicial District Court bench in April 1983. According to his court bio, he served in the U.S. Army as a Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, and is a former assistant attorney general and served as assistant United States attorney as a trial prosecutor.

The most recent appointee to the Second Judicial District bench is the Honorable Anne B. Frick, who succeeded former Chief Judge Larry E. Naves upon his retirement in April of this year.

Legal Update: Governor Receives Nominees for 2nd Judicial District Seat

The Second Judicial District Nomination Commission yesterday recommended to Governor Ritter three candidates to fill a vacancy on the Denver District Court bench created by the April 1 retirement of former Chief Judge Larry J. Naves.

In a press release issued by the Colorado Judicial Branch, the Commission recommended:

Governor Ritter will make his selection within the 15-day period proscribed by the Colorado Constitution. The governor’s office welcomes comments from the public about the nominees, sent via e-mail to judicial.appointments@state.co.us.

In related news, Judge Robert S. Hyatt was appointed to Chief Judge of the Second Judicial District, the seat previously held by Judge Naves. Judge Hyatt was appointed to the district court bench in November 1987, after years in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and private practice.

Upon his retirement, Judge Naves joined Judicial Arbitration Group, Inc. (JAG), a Denver-based mediation and arbitration firm comprised of over 20 former trial and appellate judges.

Case Law: SCOTUS Defines "Principal Place of Business"

In Hertz Corp. v. Friend (.pdf), the United States Supreme Court clarified that the “principal place of business” of multi-state corporations is the headquarters, or “nerve center,” of their operations.

Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing the opinion for a unanimous Court, noted:

… the phrase “principal place of business” refers to the place where the corporation’s high level officers direct, control, and coordinate the corporation’s activities. Lower federal courts have often metaphorically called that place the corporation’s “nerve center.” [Citations omitted.] We believe that the “nerve center” will typically be found at a corporation’s headquarters.

What are the possible effects of this decision on the way business is done? Will it redefine “business as usual”? For discussions, see here and here.

For a detailed background of Hertz, see this penetrating article by Tony Mauro of the National Law Journal.

Legal Update: Second District Seeks Nominees to Replace Chief Judge Naves

The Second Judicial District Nominating Commission will meet in early April to interview Colorado attorneys applying for the vacancy that Chief Judge Larry J. Naves will leave upon his upcoming retirement from the bench. The meeting will be held at the Colorado Judicial Building, 2 E. 14th Avenue in downtown Denver, on Tuesday, April 6. Following the interviews, the Comission will recommend finalists for Governor Bill Ritter to consider for appointment.

The Second Judicial District Court hears civil, criminal, and domestic relations cases for the 500,000-plus residents of City and County of Denver. District court judges receive a provisional, two-year appointment by the governor, after which they are retained by voter approval every six years.  All attorneys licensed to practice in Colorado for at least five years and who are registered electors in the Second Judicial District are eligible to apply for the judgeship. Detailed information about the Second Judicial District and the application are available online. Application packages (consisting of one orginial application plus seven copies) must be received by the office of Commission ex officio chair, Justice Alex J. Martinez, 2 E. 14th Avenue, no later than Thursday, March 25 at 5:00 p.m.

Judge Naves was appointed to the Second Judicial District Court bench in January 1987 by then Governor Dick Lamm, and became chief judge in July 2006. During his 23-year tenure, he presided over a number of high-profile and sometimes controversial cases, including ethnic studies lecturer Ward Churchill‘s wrongful termination suit against the University of Colorado.

Upon his retirement next month, Judge Naves will join Judicial Arbiter Group, Inc. (JAG), a Denver-based arbitration firm comprised of over 20 former trial and appellate judges. JAG’s roster includes former Colorado Supreme Court justices Howard M. Kirshbaum, Luis D. Rovira, and Anthony F. Vollack; former Colorado Court of Appeals judges Steve C. Briggs, Karen S. Metzger, and Leonard P. Plank; and former Colorado District Court judges Joseph Bellipanni, Steven T. Pelican, and Cheryl L. Post.

Judge Naves and his wife, local news anchor Bertha Lynn, live in Denver and have three children.