Denver Bar Association
June 2008
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Making a Stand in Cowtown

by Justice Greg Hobbs

The Judge's Apprentice--Part 1

 

Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a two-part article. Read the second half in the next issue!

A word I give to remain in your memories
and minds,
As base, and finale too, for all metaphysics ...
Of the well-married husband and wife –
of children and parents,
Of city for city, and land for land.
 - Walt Whitman

 

Berkeley and Babies
June 1971. I had just graduated from the University of California Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). Bobbie and I left the married student housing at Albany for the last time. The old naval barracks from World War II had served us well at $71 per month since September 1968.
Our son Dan was born in November 1968; Emily in May 1971. During study breaks I loved hiking with Bobbie, and taking Dan in the backpack up to Tilden Park above Berkeley and along the dunes at Point Reyes in Marin County north of San Francisco.


One. Two. Three. It all happened during those three years of law school:
* the Third World Strike in favor of anti-discrimination   policies;
* the student takeover of “People’s Park” (a vacant lot   the University wanted to put another building on);
* and the Cambodian Invasion shutdown of the campus   when helicopters swooped in to tear gas anti-Nixon   anti-Vietnam demonstrators.


As a result of this third episode, much of the university ceased functioning the rest of the semester. But the law professors insisted their primary aim was to help us to graduate, pass the Bar, and become lawyers. I got a great gulp of gas going to Family Law class.

Heading for Denver
Juris Doctor in hand, we were relocating to Denver in the Rambler American we’d bought with the $2,000 we got when leaving the Peace Corps in June 1968. Our first car, two young children, a phonograph, some records, and books — we were rich.


Then we pulled into Denver. From Broadway to Curtis, the Urban Renewal Authority had leveled much of downtown for future skyscrapers. The tallest structure was the federal building at 19th and Stout, where I’d be working for Judge William E. Doyle of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Denver looked like the cow town I suspected it might be. Beef joint restaurants scattered amidst a sea of parking lots. Anyway, my job as law clerk to the judge would last only a year and we’d be back in Berkeley or San Francisco.

The Judge
When I first stepped into his chambers in September 1971, Bill Doyle was still considering issues left from his service as a federal district court judge on the integration of the Denver Public Schools. The U.S. Supreme Court soon would uphold his fundamental finding of deliberate racial
Judge Doyle and Greg Hobbs discuss a case in 1972. Hobbs' clerkship was from 1971 to 1972.
segregation in the city’s schools — the Keyes v. School District No. 1 decision. It put a stop to the practice of gerrymandering school boundaries as African-Americans moved out of Five Points into previously all-white neighborhoods, such as Park Hill. 


The desegregation issue caused an explosive uproar throughout the city and the state. Literally. Early in Judge Doyle’s consideration of the matter, someone threw a homemade bomb against his house. It missed the front window and bounced off the wall onto the porch, fortunately causing little damage and no physical injuries to the Judge or his family. The criminal perpetrators of this act of retaliation and warning were never caught.


Characteristic of his upbringing, Judge Doyle dug in all the more resolutely. He was a Denver Irish Catholic kid who prized the underdog, served in the military during World War II and prosecuted criminal cases before taking the Bench. However, the Doyle family paid a great price for the Judge’s allegiance to the constitution. Worn frantic by the threats, Mrs. Doyle moved to Florida.
During a clerkship for Judge Doyle, Hobbs had the opportunity to participate in deliberations.


Brown v. Board of Education stands for the proposition that separate but equal can only be separate and never equal if young Americans of all races cannot learn with and about each other in the same school.  Implementing Brown, Judge Doyle required Denver through his multiple Keyes opinions to adopt an effective cross-school boundary integration plan. In a 1970 opinion, he carefully heard the testimony about “the vicissitudes of mandatory bussing,” and expressed his doubts about ordering it. Nevertheless, after the Supreme Court’s remand, he found that the Denver School Board had practiced de jure segregation and in 1974 approved the “Finger plan,” which included bussing to the extent it was not “unnecessary and disproportionate.”
During my clerkship, I had the opportunity to participate in Judge Doyle’s deliberations leading to his unpublished opinion of October 19, 1971. In this opinion, he extended desegregation relief to Hallett and Stedman Elementary Schools.


In another act of retaliation, Colorado voters adopted a state Constitutional provision, “the Poundstone Amendment of 1974,” prohibiting Denver from annexing any new unincorporated territory of surrounding counties without a vote of the people in the area to be annexed. Ironically, this fixing of the city’s boundaries eventually led to the suburbs being cut off from the long-term reliability of Denver water they’d been counting on for their future growth.

The Base of All Metaphysics
The man who gave me my first law job was regarded as Atticus Finch to some, and as more of a Communist-like Earl Warren to others. In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Atticus is a lawyer in the community who uses integrity and the power of persuasion to pursue another person’s good cause, running the risk of reprisal.


“Impeach Earl Warren” blared the billboard sponsored by the John Birch Society. I had delighted passing it every morning as I left married student housing for another day of law school. Chief Justice Warren was a graduate of Berkeley Law and a profound implementer of due process and equal protection — that Civil War 14th Amendment Jim Crow had rendered dormant for ninety years until Warren and his colleagues began making the Bill of Rights applicable to the States.
In Abraham Lincoln’s era, a young man aspiring to be a lawyer apprenticed to a practicing lawyer. My mentor, Judge Doyle, had graduated from being one of the best trial lawyers in Colorado into becoming one of a handful of judges whose decisions attracted nationwide attention. At oral arguments before the court, I’d watch how he would ask the question that cut the adversarial knot. He loved how lawyers pit themselves against each other on behalf of their clients, and he delighted in letting the big city lawyers from New York and Washington demonstrate their self-appointed superiority over what they thought was yokel talent on the local Bench and in the Bar.


“Watch this,” he’d tell me. He would hold back a bit so they could flash their shining stars, then he’d zing to the core of the complicated question of securities law or federal court jurisdiction the court needed to answer.


With his family life severely disrupted, and having held his lawyer friends at a distance so there wouldn’t be conflicts in his decision-making, Judge Doyle enjoyed working with his law clerks. To get the day’s work started each morning in our chambers, I had the privilege of making the coffee. 

Part II of Justice Hobbs’ article will appear in the July/August issue.

Justice Greg Hobbs has served on the Colorado Supreme Court for twelve years. Prior to that, he practiced environmental, water, transportation, and land use law as an enforcement attorney for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the Colorado Attorney General’s Office; Davis, Graham & Stubbs; and Hobbs, Trout & Raley.


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