CBA LITIGATION COUNCIL
October 7, 2006 MEETING MINUTES
LOCATION: CBA offices, Denver, CO
COUNCIL MEMBERS PRESENT:
Chair: Peter Black
Vice- Chair: Alden Hill
Robert Anderson (recording minutes)
Via Telephone: Peter Goldstein; Doran Matzke; Sandra Wick; Megan Brynhildsen
OTHERS PRESENT: Greg Martin; Michael Valdez; Carol Mullins (CBA – CLE)
1. CALL TO ORDER: 9:05 AM
2. GUEST SPEAKER: Gerald (Jerry) Marroney, State Court Administrator, met with the Council to discuss the current status of the Colorado State Judicial Branch and matters of concern to Litigation Section members.
In summary, Mr. Marroney commented upon the following:
• In the past fiscal year, the Judicial Branch has filled the final allotment of six district court judges that the state legislature approved in 2001. Additionally, the Branch added four county court judges, and the first new panel of three Colorado Court of Appeals judges since 1988.
• The Branch has submitted to the Joint Budget Committee a five year plan that includes a request for six additional Colorado Court of Appeals judges, forty-eight district court judges, and fourteen county court judges. District Court caseload is currently rising at a rate of four percent a year. If this request is approved, funded, and new judges installed within five years, then the allotment of new judges will allow the state to meet staffing needs for the currently projected caseload. The request for additional judges is accompanied by a request for increased staffing to address the support needs for the new members of the bench.
• The Branch has developed metrics to measure caseload and workload more generally, but is now interested in developing new standards to address the quality of services provided to attorneys and parties who work with the Branch, and the detrimental effects of delays in processing cases that has resulted from understaffing.
• The state legislature has enacted requirements for periodic review and disposition in numerous types of cases. As a result, civil and certain types of domestic relations cases have encountered additional delays in processing and disposition. The Branch seeks input from attorneys regarding the quality and timeliness of disposition of civil cases.
• The Branch is studying the possibility of proposing new facilities to house the appellate courts and state court administration in Denver. At present, the State Judicial Building is inadequate to the needs of a growing Colorado Court of Appeals, much less other state offices of the Branch. As a result, court staff attorneys are officed in a different building, as is the state administrative staff. The Branch may propose a new judicial building to house the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Court of Appeals, all of the central administrative staff of the Judicial Branch, as well as the appellate divisions of the Attorney General’s and Public Defender’s offices.
• The Branch is in the process of developing new procedures for review of district court magistrates.
Mr. Marroney then took questions and comments from the Council, which led to discussion of the following concerns:
• Council members reported anecdotally on delays in processing that they and other attorneys have experienced in the disposition of civil cases. Arapahoe District Court was singled out as having extraordinary delays in trial setting and disposition of motions. On the other hand, there was also discussion of at least one case in which a trial was set at an early date over the objections of the parties, both of whom sought additional time to take discovery in a complex matter. Mr. Marroney expressed his eagerness to hear more from attorneys in the Section who are encountering delays and other problems in the disposition of civil litigation matters. Mr. Marroney offered to make his e-mail address and cell phone number available to Section members to contact him directly in order to register complaints or provide feedback regarding the handling of particular cases. Greg Martin suggested that the Branch work with the Council to develop an online survey of Section members.
• Mr. Marroney reported in response to a question regarding judicial training that the judicial conference has received funding for this year after having been left out of prior budgets, but is now down from two and a half days to one and a half days in length. Judicial training in the state consists of three primary components: new judges school for incoming judges; advanced judges school; and, the annual judicial conference. Additionally, the Branch has contracted with West to provide homestudy and online CLE for the state’s judges. And, outside funding provides additional training for family court judges.
• The Council discussed with Mr. Marroney a specific question raised previously by Council member Jon Sands regarding an unconventional procedure for the handling of peremptory challenges in one district court. Mr. Marroney agreed to follow up on the Council’s concern regarding that situation.
• Vice Chair Alden Hill asked whether review of magistrates could be made public, or at least if the process and results could be open to members of the bar. Mr. Marroney responded that employment law concerns prevented the Branch from making that process public.
• Mr. Marroney agreed to assist the Council in following up with judges who have not responded to Council requests for information regarding courtroom policies and procedures for inclusion in the Litigators Handbook.
3. REVIEW OF LITIGATION BOOTCAMP PROGRAM: Carol Mullins reported on the completion of the program and evaluations received from participants. Overall, participants were pleased with the content of the presentations but thought that written materials were deficient. The average age of participants in the series was thirty nine to forty years old, with eight to ten years of experience in practice. More solo or small-firm practitioners participated than any other group.
CBA-CLE proposes offering the bootcamp series again in 2008, and offering a trial skills series in 2007, with the long-term goal of offering each program in alternating years. With respect to the trial skills series, CBA-CLE has been investigating the NITA approach of a series that would include lectures in the morning session and hands-on, practical instruction in the afternoon. CBA-CLE will report further on the proposed trial skills program at the November meeting.
4. FINANCIAL REPORT: Greg Martin presented a financial handout showing the current budget of the Litigation Section. The Section has taken in approximately $30,000 in this fiscal year and is in good financial shape.
A. Motion: Robert Anderson made and Lorraine Parker seconded a motion to grant $10,000 to the Colorado high schools mock trial program for the 2006-2007 fiscal year. The motion passed unanimously.
5. OLD BUSINESS.
A. No on 40 Update: Greg Martin reported that the Council’s grant is part of $1.2 million total that has been collected to date in support of the campaign, and that a major ad buy has been made for the upcoming weeks. The Bar Association is in the process of distributing talking points to members via e-mail.
B. The Council discussed an ongoing review by e-mail of the Trust and Estates section’s proposed revisions to the Dead Man’s statute, and generally approved Lorraine Parker’s suggestion that the proposed revisions would more appropriately made through an amendment to the Probate Code. Lorraine plans to meet with Mark Darling to advocate for the Council’s position.
C. Greg Martin reported that an online survey regarding Rule 26 disclosure requirements has been prepared and will go out for comments from Council members. The Council will review and approve of the substance of the survey by e-mail before it is distributed to Section members.
D. The Council discussed the possibility of making small donations (approx. $1000-2000 each) to support pro bono litigation programs. Greg Martin will investigate further and report back to the Council at a future meeting.
E. Michael Valdez will contact Jon Sands to get him in contact with Jerry Marroney regarding the peremptory challenge issue raised during Mr. Marroney’s visit.
5. COMMITTEE AND SUB-COMMITTEE REPORTS:
A. Professionalism Sub-Committee. Robert Anderson attended a meeting of the Professionalism Committee, during which a working group was established to develop video vignettes on professionalism. Jon Sands attended the first meeting of the working group. Robert and Jon will keep the Council apprised on the group’s work.
B. Section Newsletter. Kim Schutt is working on a new edition that will be distributed shortly.
6. NEW BUSINESS.
A. Nominations were received for new officers for the Council.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS: The Council voted unanimously to retain the current officers – Peter Black, Chair; Alden Hill, Vice Chair; Michael Chapman, Secretary - for an additional one year term.
7. ADJOURNED. -- Next Meeting – Saturday, November 11, 9:00 a.m.
/s/ Robert S. Anderson
for Michael Chapman, Secretary