December 18, 2018

Colorado Gives: DU’s Tribal Wills Project Needs Volunteers and Donations

Colorado Gives: CBA CLE Legal Connection will be focusing on several Colorado legal charities in the next few days to prepare for Colorado Gives Day, December 4, 2018. These charities, and many, many others, greatly appreciate your donations of time and money.

Each year, students from the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver participate in the Tribal Wills Project (TWP). In January, March and May, TWP participants travel to a tribal reservation in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana for a week to draft wills, medical powers of attorney, living wills, and burial instructions for tribal members on a pro bono basis. This work is extremely important for the following reasons.

Under the American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA), if a tribal member dies without a will and his or her interests in trust land total less than specified amount, such interests automatically pass to the tribal member’s oldest living descendant to the exclusion of his or her remaining descendants. If the tribal member is not survived by any descendants, such interests pass back to the tribe. This is often in contravention of the tribal member’s intent. In some instances, tribal members are unaware of these default provisions under AIPRA; in other instances, tribal members may be aware of the default provision but are without the means or resources to have a will prepared to avoid the foregoing results. TWP gives tribal members a voice so that desired family members are not excluded from inheriting interests in trust land.

Additionally, TWP provides a unique opportunity for law students to gain hands-on experience with real clients. Initially, a student is paired with a client to conduct an interview. Thereafter, the student prepares initial drafts of the desired documents, which are then reviewed by a Colorado supervising attorney. The student and attorney work through the revision process together, which provides an essential learning opportunity for the student. Once the documents appear to be in order, the documents are further reviewed by an attorney who is licensed in the particular state where the reservation is location. Once the documents receive final approval, the student participates in the execution process.

TWP was initially developed in February 2013 by John Roach, who is a Fiduciary Trust Officer for the Southern Ute Agency of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians; former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr.; and University of Denver Professor Lucy Marsh, among others. The first trip occurred in March 2013 when the students and supervising attorneys travelled to the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Reservations in southern Colorado. Since then, TWP has grown exponentially. Each year, students apply for limited positions on the TWP team; many must be turned away based on the limited availability of funds and supervising attorneys.

In January 2019, 24 students and 7 supervising attorneys will travel to Tohono O’odham Reservation, near Tucson, Arizona. The Tohono O’odham Reservation is partially in the United States and partially in Mexico. At the invitation of various tribes, TWP has now been to six states: Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah.

It costs approximately $15,000 to fund each trip, which is funded entirely by donations. Through your donations, you can ensure that no student is prevented from participating in this wonderful educational experience because of finances.

TWP is also actively seeking volunteer supervising attorneys to assist with future trips. If you are unable to serve as a supervising attorney for any reason, you can still help by making a tax-deductible donation to TWP.

For more information, please contact Lucy Marsh at (303) 871-6285 or lmarsh@law.du.edu.

Bruce Smith Named Dean of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law

smithOn Monday, April 4, 2016, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law announced the appointment of Bruce Smith, J.D., Ph.D., as its new dean, effective July 1, 2016. Smith will replace Dean Martin Katz, who is returning to the faculty.

Smith is currently a Guy Raymond Jones Faculty Scholar at the University of Illinois College of Law, where he specializes in Anglo-American criminal procedure in the 18th and 19th centuries. Smith was Dean of the University of Illinois College of Law from 2009 to 2014 and has served on the faculty since 2001. Prior to that, he was in private practice in the Washington, DC area for five years, where he focused his practice on intellectual property litigation and sports law. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, from Williams College; bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Cambridge, England, which he attended as a Hersch Smith Fellow; his J.D. from Yale Law School; and his Ph.D. in history from the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where he was a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities.

For more information about the appointment, click here.

Run the Red Rock Scramble 5.8K to Benefit the Colorado Indian Bar Association

RedRockScrambleThe Colorado Indian Bar Association is hosting its annual fundraiser, the Red Rock Scramble, on Sunday, October 11, 2015, at 10 a.m. This 5.8K run on a hard-packed dirt road with beautiful views of the flatirons and surrounding mountains benefits the CIBA and raises money for scholarships to benefit one student each year in attendance at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the University of Colorado School of Law who will be practicing in the field of Federal Indian Law or who commits to working with American Indian communities. Registration for the run is only $30, and small prizes will be awarded to the top male and female runners in each of several age categories. CIBA will also provide a $50 gift certificate to a running store to the overall top male and female runners. Click here to register and for more information about the race.

The Colorado Indian Bar Association is a local bar association consisting of American Indian lawyers, practitioners of American Indian law, and American Indian law students in Colorado. CIBA promotes the development of Indian Law for the maximum benefit of Indian people, strives toward justice and effective legal representation for all Indian people, provides a forum for Native Americans to become more involved in the local and national issues affecting Indian people, provides networking and support to encourage Native Americans to pursue careers in the law, and promotes the nomination of Native Americans for judicial appointments.

Register today for the Red Rock Scramble!

February 2015 Bar Exam Results Released

On Thursday, May 7, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court released the results of the February 2015 Bar Exam. Congratulations to the people who passed the bar! Welcome to Colorado’s legal community.

A total of 359 people took the exam, and 222 (62%) passed. The University of Colorado Law School had 30 test takers, and 20 (67%) passed. The University of Denver Sturm College of Law had 73 test takers, and 57 (78%) passed. National law schools, including Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Michigan, Chicago, UC Berkeley, Virginia, and Texas, submitted 14 test takers, of whom 11 (79%) passed.

We at CBA-CLE wish all of you the best of luck on the beginnings of your careers. We hope to meet you in our classroom soon. You can also get the CLE Pass to gain access to our library of Video On-Demand and MP3 homestudies, as well as special pricing on live seminars.

Don’t forget: if you haven’t stopped by already, you are required to take our Practicing with Professionalism course. This is a mandatory program and is a condition of admission to the Colorado Bar. Click here to find a class.

Colorado Law Schools Rise in 2016 U.S. News Law School Ratings

The 2016 U.S. News and World Report law school rankings are in, and both Colorado law schools saw slight increases. University of Colorado Law School ranked 40 this year, up from 43 last year. The University of Denver Sturm College of Law ranked 67 this year, up from last year’s 68. DU’s part time program was ranked 10 this year, up two spots from last year.

U.S. News changed their rating procedure this year, and schools were discounted for having large percentages of students in university-funded jobs. U.S. News did not completely eliminate employment information for graduates employed by their schools, since any legal job is preferable to unemployment.

In addition to the main law school ratings, each school had specialty programs with high rankings. CU’s Environmental Law program was ranked 5th nationally, the legal writing program at DU was ranked 7th, and DU’s clinical program was ranked 14 this year.

For the complete U.S. News and World Report law school ratings, click here.

New Study Examines Overlooked Process for Selecting Key Federal Judges

Quality Judges, an initiative of IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, has just released A Credit to the Courts: The Selection, Appointment, and Reappointment Process for Bankruptcy Judges. This study provides the first in-depth examination of the process for selecting U.S. bankruptcy judges, highlighting the similarities and differences among the regional circuits.

Unlike other federal judges, bankruptcy judges are not appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Since 1984, they have been chosen by the judges of the federal circuit in which they will serve. According to U.S. Judicial Conference regulations, the judicial council in each federal circuit may appoint a merit selection panel to review applications for bankruptcy judge vacancies and make recommendations regarding potential nominees to the council. But until now, no empirical study has explored whether the judicial councils use such panels, who serves on these panels, and how the panels’ screening processes work.

“Despite the number of cases processed in these high-volume courts, and their significance in the financial lives of individuals and businesses alike, very little was known about how the judges who preside over these courts come to be on the bench,” said Malia Reddick, Director of the Quality Judges Initiative at IAALS.

The IAALS study is based on interviews with 25 bankruptcy judges and 11 participants in the selection process—including circuit and district judges, bankruptcy practitioners, and academics, as well as questionnaires completed by the 12 regional circuit executives.

Researchers learned that the judicial council in every circuit uses a merit selection panel in screening applicants for bankruptcy judge vacancies, but these panels vary extensively in composition and operation. For instance, while merit selection panels in some circuits are composed only of judges, other circuits exclude judges from participating on these panels. Panels also range in size from three to nine members. Additional differences, as well as similarities, in bankruptcy judge selection processes across the circuits are highlighted in the report.

Participants were unanimous in praising the products of the selection process. As one now-chief bankruptcy judge who has been on the bench for more than two decades summed it up: “They generally pick the best person, and it truly is merit selection. I’m proud of the way bankruptcy judges are selected. To me it is the best merit selection process we have.”

Quality Judges is an initiative of IAALS dedicated to advancing empirically informed models for choosing, evaluating, and retaining judges that preserve impartiality and accountability.

IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, is a national, independent research center dedicated to continuous improvement of the process and culture of the civil justice system.

Alli Gerkman is Director of Communications for IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. IAALS is a national, independent research center dedicated to continuous improvement of the process and culture of the civil justice system.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.