FAMILY LAW SECTION EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEETING – MAY 18, 2007
The meeting was called to order by the Chair at 10:10 am.
The following members and/or past chairs, attended in person: David Johnson, Kathryn Beck, Marie Moses, Denise Cook, John Eckelberry, Steve Epstein, Fran Fontana, Beth Henson, Rob Hinds, Marc Kaplan, Bob Malman, Joan McWilliams, Dick Rotole, Ellen Squires, Brenda Storey, and Richard Zuber. Meredith Patrick Cord from The Colorado Lawyer Family Newsletter attended as a guest.
Members present by telephone: Katie Hayes, Terri Harrington and Kevin Sidel.
These members had excused absences: Deb Anderson, Mike DiManna, David Littman and Jackie St. Joan.
Melissa Nicoletti was available from the CBA.
A motion was made to approve the minutes of the April 20, 2007 meeting. The minutes were corrected to reflect that Ellen Squires was an excused absence. The motion was seconded and was approved without opposition.
CHAIR’S REPORT BY DAVE JOHNSON:
1. David Johnson reported on the Brown Bag Lunch held in Boulder County on May 8, 2007. Boulder has established a uniform Case Management Order to be used in all courtrooms in response to complaints that there were different case management procedures in effect in different courtrooms. A discussion was had concerning work towards a Family Court System and it was noted by the Boulder judges that such a system could face resistance in independent judicial districts. There was a discussion at the luncheon of the need for a pro-bono program to provide CFI’s to families with incomes that exceed the guidelines for state-pay CFI’s, but who nonetheless do not have sufficient resources to pay a CFI. Kathryn Beck delivered Bench Books to the Boulder judges.
2. David Johnson reported on the lunch held in Douglas County on May 11, 2007 with Judge Arkin. This lunch did not include other members of the Douglas County judiciary because a “full court” meeting needed to be rescheduled after a new judge takes the bench in Douglas County later in the summer. The lunch was held on May 11, 2007 so that the FLS could be advised of the significant changes in the assignment of domestic relations cases that will take effect on July 1, 2007 in Douglas County. Effective July 1, 2007, Judge Arkin (Division 4) will only handle Domestic Relations cases. Magistrate Martin (Division 3) will handle all Temporary Orders matters and Initial Status Conference (however, Kara Martin will be handling ISC’s in her capacity as the court facilitator, not Magistrate). Judge Arkin will be responsible for all other domestic relations matters (pre-decree and post-decree). Magistrate Gresh will no longer handle domestic relations cases, and will have a docket that is 100% juvenile. Juvenile cases that cannot be heard by Magistrate Gresh (for lack of consent) will be heard by Judge Hopf. The new Judge that is expected to start on July 1, 2007 will hear domestic relations cases one week per month, and is expected to be assigned cases ending in a 5 or 0. There will be a new Case Management Order that requires most permanent orders prep work to be completed within 120 days of filing. Failure to comply with this requirement will result in dismissals of cases. A full court Douglas County Brown Bag lunch will be scheduled after the new judge takes the bench.
3. The Denver County Brown Bag will be scheduled in the summer.
4. Presently, Brown Bag Lunches with judicial districts are usually only attended by FLS officers. A discussion was had concerning whether the Brown Bag Lunches should be open to members of the Executive Council. While wider attendance is desirable, there are logistical problems concerning scheduling, cost, coordination of food and the availability of space. Because there are occasions when a few officers cannot attend, there is an opportunity for other council members to be invited to attend.
VICE CHAIR’S REPORT – KATHRYN BECK:
Family Law Institute- Deferred to later in the meeting.
SECRETARY’S REPORT- DAVID LITTMAN
TREASURER’S REPORT BY MARIE MOSES:
Marie Moses reported that the treasurer’s report indicated that the CASA grant money approved in April had not been paid out yet. Bob Malman noted that the luncheons were not losing as much money as previously anticipated. A discussion was had concerning efforts to make the treasurer’s report more informative next fiscal year so that the council will have better information regarding where money is being spent. The treasurer’s report was approved.
IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIR (FRAN FONTANA):
Fran was present at her final meeting as Immediate Past Chair. Fran informed the coucil that the ballot for FLS Treasurer and Executive Council members was going out that day, May 18, 2007. Fran noted that while the FLS Bylaws require the ballots to have been distributed by May 15, 2007, the Bar Association was not able to meet this deadline because while the ballot had been ready for distribution at that time, the Bar Association experienced internet, telephone, and server problems that precluded the distribution on the ballots on May 18, 2007. The ballots needed to be reconstructed because the server lost all biographical information for the candidates.
A motion was made to approve a deviation from the FLS Bylaws this year to allow ballots to be distributed on May 18, 2007 and to extend the deadline for the return of ballots from June 1, 2007 to June 8, 2007. Discussion was had concerning whether it was possible to take such action. The motion passed unanimously.
1. Marc Kaplan confirmed that he and Jordan Fox will provide an ongoing update of Family Law Cases. This Update will be for the purpose of providing FLS members with current caselaw by way of the FLS website and also keeping on track of updates for the Bench Bar Book.
2. Family Court Task Force- Beth Henson reported that she and Leslie Monahan attended the ABA Family Court Conference in early May in Baltimore. Beth found the conference to be very informative to the work of the Family Court Task Force. She noted that there is no state that has in place what would be considered a “Unified Family Court” based on the current definition of that term. The current concept of a unified family court involves a system where one court hears all issues concerning a family including divorce, domestic violence issues, truancy, adoption, delinquency and support issues. Beth stated that Colorado is closer to the goal of a unified family court than the Task Force had previously believed. One of the family court systems that was presented at the conference was that of Fulton County, Georgia. Beth reported that Fulton County’s Family Court system was very similar to that found in many Colorado counties, with the exception that the court provided more free or low cost services to litigants.
COLORADO LAWYER- (Meredith Patrick Cord): Meredith and Trish Cooper are in the final stages of preparing the materials necessary to gain approval for a “specialty issue” focusing on Family Law to be published in October 2008. The formal proposal must be submitted by July 15, 2007 and must contain a complete list of authors with biographies, article topics and substantially completed outlines of the articles. Meredith and Trish sought suggestions for an “eminent member of the family law bar” to write an introduction to the issue. It was suggested that Kathryn Beck, the incoming Chair be selected for that job. Concerns were raised regarding the reasonableness of the Colorado Lawyer’s requirements that articles be submitted so far in advance when there is a possibility that the information could be stale or outdated by the publication date. Additional discussion was had concerning dissatisfaction with the policy of the Colorado Lawyer that articles should not contain opinion or be focused on recent changes in case law. Frustration was expressed that the Colorado Lawyer’s policy of only publishing articles that are devoid of opinion results in articles that are not helpful or interesting to the practitioner hoping to gain insight into innovative legal theories or concepts. It was suggested that articles that were rejected for publication in the Colorado Lawyer be submitted to the Family Law Newsletter for publication.
FAMILY LAW INSTITUTE: Kathryn reported the FLI has a full faculty that have been selected with the goal of trying to get “new faces” that promise to be informed and interesting speakers. The brochures for the FLI should be distributed within the week. Kathryn will be notifying speakers of deadlines for materials
LEGISLATIVE – Dick Rotole and Marie Moses –discussion deferred for Legislative Update Luncheon at noon.
MEMBERSHIP – John Eckelberry and Terri Harrington - John and Terri reported on efforts to revive the FLS Mentoring program. John has been working with the University of Denver and Terri has been working with the University of Colorado to try to find ways to make partnerships between the section and law students interested in pursuing careers in Family Law. It is thought that if there is a mentoring relationship between FLS members and law students with an interest in family law that this could lead to increased membership in the FLS and a stronger support system when the law students become practicing attorneys. Terri requested a description of benefits that the FLS extends to law students. She was advised that it is free for law students to join the CBA but that they must pay $30 to join the FLS. Law students can attend FLS luncheons for $15 and that they are encouraged to apply for the one law student scholarship to the FLI (which provides for free tuition and some assistance with lodging). This scholarship information should be distributed with the FLI brochures. Terri will try to obtain contact information for someone at CU that can distribute announcements of FLS luncheons to CU students.
A discussion was had concerning the problems that exist in any mentoring program for young lawyers. Although judges often express an interest in a list of mentors so that they can make referrals to struggling young attorneys, the judges rarely make such referrals. Additionally, mentors are often frustrated because young lawyers seek supervision on cases from the mentors. The goal of a mentoring program would be to reach young lawyers that are not associated with established family law firms.
John suggested that the section organize a Mentor Program Dinner that would match young lawyers with mentors, with some effort being made to match individuals based on interests outside the law. It was determined that John would pursue organizing such a dinner to include young lawyers and new members. He was advised to anticipate working with a budget of $1000. He will look at hosting the dinner at DU, the Bar Association or Terri Harrington’s office. John and Terri will create a proposal for a structured mentoring program to be presented to the FLS officers at their summer meeting. It was suggested that they confer with Jennifer Feingold and Sarah Quinlan of the FLS Young Lawyers Committee. It was suggested that they use the opportunity provided by the upcoming Young Lawyers Family Law CLE in June to present new lawyer with a survey concerning their feelings with respect to a mentoring program.
A reminder was made that it is the duty of the members of the FLS Executive Council to be available to serve as a Mentor. It was expressed that it would be nice if other experienced and well regarded members of the bar made themselves available to serve as mentors.
NEWSLETTER – Ellen Squires reported that the Newsletter to be sent out following week. Dick Rotole will provide the materials from the Legislative Update to be included in the Newsletter.
1. Common Law Marriage Ad Hoc Committee - Richard Zuber reported that as this issue has come into the spotlight, it has become apparent that this is a large emotional issue with a wide ranging impact on many sections of the bar. Accordingly, Liz Stars, President of the CBA, has formed an Ad Hoc Committee of the CBA to study the issue. Martin Brown will be the FLS delegate. Richard Zuber will be the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers’ delegate to the committee.
2. Farewell to Dave Johnson as Chair—All members of the Executive Council extended their heartfelt thanks to Dave Johnson for his service to the Family Law Section and his unflagging willingness to put thousands of miles on his car in service of the section.
A motion to adjourn was made and seconded. The meeting was adjourned at 11:40 a.m.