From the President: Get Down, Get Recognized, and Stay Informed
by Jim Benjamin
The coming of spring marks a time for renewal, and within the legal community there are a number of chances in the coming months to renew your commitment to involving yourself with your fellow professionals, whether it’s getting down for a good cause, giving back to the community, or keeping track of happenings at the legislature.
Barristers Benefit Ball—Down & Derby
The pride of the Denver Bar Association is its operation of Metro Volunteer Lawyers. MVL provides pro bono and low-cost civil legal representation to persons in need who are otherwise financially unable to obtain representation.
MVL is staffed with full-time employees and shares office space with Colorado Legal Services, but the organization is sustained largely by the funding of the DBA and neighboring bar associations — namely the Adams/Broomfield Bar Association, the Arapahoe County Bar Association, the Douglas/Elbert County Bar Association, and the First Judicial District Bar Association.
The source of the DBA funds is generated primarily from the proceeds of the Barristers Benefit Ball. Although the ball is an event that most attendees find to be such fun that they attend for that reason alone, it is imperative that it sells out to ensure necessary funding for MVL. Interest earned on COLTAF accounts used to be a major source of funding to MVL; however, with interest rates of less than one percent per annum, this source has literally dried up. Meanwhile, the economy has increased the number of clients in need of MVL’s services. The need for a complete sell-out exists now more than ever.
Taking place on May 4, the same day as the Kentucky Derby, the ball committee has come up with an exciting theme to take advantage of the excitement of the day: "Down & Derby." Half the fun of attendance this year will be the pre-event shopping for derby bonnets and regalia. The event itself will include mint juleps, horseracing games, and pictures in the Winner’s Circle.
This year also marks the 25th year of the ball, which is a significant achievement for any fundraising event. It has weathered the down economy and continues to be one of the most important legal social events of the year. You can read more about how the ball was started on page 13.
Admission to Down & Derby has been designed to accommodate all. Firms are encouraged to purchase a patron table, which will ensure the best seating for the event and recognition in the dinner program. Patron tables, which seat 10 and are available for $3,250, result in the greatest funding for MVL. For our YLD members, tickets are priced at $100, and student members can attend for $60.
Seating is assigned preferentially according to when tables and tickets are purchased, so make your reservations today. You can do so at cobar.org/bball.
Be Recognized for Your Commitment to Pro Bono
Our Rules of Profession Conduct suggest attorneys commit themselves to performing 50 hours of pro bono legal services each year. Those who commit to and achieve this goal will receive thanks and recognition from the Colorado Supreme Court at a series of ceremonies throughout the state this spring. If in 2012 your firm or group has met this goal, outlined in Rule 6.1, contact the Colorado Supreme Court by Feb. 15 to be recognized. Send the name of your pro bono coordinator and his or her contact information to Justice Greg Hobb’s Law Clerk Lauren Dickey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (720) 625-5440.
The 50-hour goal per Colorado -licensed attorney is averaged across the firm and prorated for part-time attorneys, a substantial majority of which (35 hours or more per attorney on the average) is for indigent persons and/or organizations that serve indigent persons. The balance of the 50 hours per attorney on the average may include other types of pro bono legal services mentioned in Rule 6.1. You can find out more about this great program led by the Colorado Supreme Court on page 23.
Serving on LPC, a View under the Dome
For four months out of the year, one of the Colorado Bar Association’s hardest working committees is the Legislative Policy Committee. When the General Assembly is in session the LPC meets every Friday morning at seven — dark — thirty. The role of the LPC, in general, is to promote the interests of the membership regarding proposed statutory law. During an ordinary legislative session, the LPC will review all bills being introduced and will determine the CBA’s position on those that on some level apply to the membership.
This role may cover decisions on behalf of the association to sponsor, support, or oppose proposed bills, and the LPC also may offer its services to assist a legislator in crafting statutory provisions designed to meld with existing law.Whether the LPC determines to support or oppose a particular bill, an implicit philosophy of the bar association is that it will provide whatever professional assistance possible to attempt to ensure a proposed bill will be as unobjectionable from the CBA’s perspective as possible or simply to attempt to create clear and constitutionally enforceable law.
One such instance, in which I became deeply involved, arose a couple of years ago.
In Boulder, an owner of a vacant lot in a subdivision learned that the neighbor with an adjoining lot had, for more than two decades, been in open, notorious, and hostile possession of a portion of the owner’s vacant lot. The situation resulted in a civil action in which the neighbor’s ownership interest in the vacant lot, acquired by adverse possession, was quieted in the neighbor.
The story was carried in the local newspapers, on many talk radio shows, and even in the Los Angeles Times. The media labeled the incident the "Boulder Land Grab Case" and members of the legislature adopted the slogan, "If you steal a person’s car for 18 minutes you will spend 10 years behind bars. If you steal a person’s real estate for 18 years, you will be rewarded with title."
The LPC has a relevant slogan of its own: "If more than one newspaper carries the story, there will be legislation." Word quickly leaked out that a majority had been obtained in both chambers of the legislature to pass legislation to totally abolish the doctrine of adverse possession. The doctrine, you may recall from law school, dates back more than five centuries and it continues to have necessary and beneficial purposes today. When the "Dean of Real Estate Law," Willis Carpenter, was asked if incidents of adverse possession might exist in urban Denver, his response was that in his estimation "not a single fence exists exactly on the actual boundary line of any lot in Denver." After all, Denver was laid out using surveyors with lengths of chains for measurement and now GPS systems can be accurate to fractions of an inch.
The LPC, together with the Colorado Bar Association’s Real Estate Section, embarked on a project with two primary goals: to educate legislators carrying the bill on the beneficial aspects of adverse possession and to assist in drafting a piece of legislation that would respond to the particular concerns of the legislators sponsoring the bill, while permitting survival of components of adverse possession.
Although no steward devoted to protecting real estate law would be proud of drastically bastardizing the centuries-old doctrine, after hundreds of hours drafting and consulting with the sponsors, volunteers from the LPC and Real Estate Section crafted a bill that retained the doctrine and satisfied all of the complaints about adverse possession raised by legislators and their constituents. To see the finished product, take a look at CRS, §38-41-101.
The legislative session is kicking into high gear and the LPC has already experienced a month of Friday morning meetings analyzing such matters as an omnibus probate bill drafted by the CBA Trust and Estate Section, a bill drafted by the Juvenile Law Section, and the civil unions bill. If you wish to stay on top of what’s happening under the dome, you can follow the CBA’s Legislative Relations Director Michael Valdez on Twitter @CBACapMatters or sign up to receive his weekly eLegislative Report by emailing email@example.com. D