Vol. 28, No. 6
CBA President's Message to Members
What it Meant to be a CBA President
by Ben S. Aisenberg
It meant a whole lot to me.
First and foremost, it meant getting out to the local bar associations and meeting Colorado lawyers who really care. It meant, in many instances, giving a professionalism award to those attorneys who epitomize what a lawyer should be. It meant discussing your concerns with you, as represented by your responses to the 90-second survey we sent out before every local bar meeting. These responses showed:
1. You are concerned about the economics of the practice; the ability to make a living. This is caused in part by the overpopulation of attorneys in Colorado; you believe it is too easy to move here and practice law.
2. You are concerned about the lack of civility among attorneys and the bad image the profession has, although you concede that change must come from within.
3. You are concerned about the attack on the independence of the judiciary.
4. You are split on whether the CBA should get involved in "political" or "controversial" issues.
5. C.R.C.P. 16 and 26 are a subject of concern. Mandatory pro bono no longer is.
With regard to the overpopulation of attorneys, the CBA Board of Governors has discussed on two occasions the Colorado rule concerning admission on motion and has made recommendations to the Colorado Supreme Court. After our first letter, the court eliminated the part that says lawyers can be admitted solely on the basis of their exam scores. This cut in half the number of attorneys admitted. We sent another letter in February 1998 asking that the Supreme Court adopt a true reciprocity rule that would limit admissions on motion to lawyers from states that grant similar privileges to Colorado attorneys. We discussed it again with Chief Justice Mullarkey in March 1999 and, based on our request, she has appointed Justice Rice to chair a committee to review our present admission policy. Thank you, Justice Mullarkey.
With regard to other issues related to the economics of the practice, the CBA staff continues to help with seminars on technology, continuing legal education programs, The Colorado Lawyer, bar-press breakfasts to change the image of attorneys, discounts for members, helpful tips for attorneys to assist them in their practice, and many other services. We are truly a member-oriented Bar.
Those of you that have read earlier columns know that I agree with your concerns about civility and professionalism. I have been practicing law for more years than I care to admit, and I have seen many changes, not all of which have been beneficial. I miss the congeniality that used to exist among members of the Bar—it made the practice fulfilling. In Denver, at least, we have lost a great deal of the congeniality. When I started practicing, I knew about 75 percent of the active lawyers—today I know less than 25 percent. I miss the ability to work with opposing counsel to ensure an even playing field. As the number of lawyers increases, we have to work even harder to insure we treat each other with civility and courtesy.
The independence of our judiciary is under attack. In 1998, two initiatives were filed providing for term limits for judges that would deny us our best and most experienced judges. The CBA Board of Governors approved a $20,000 expenditure to oppose terms limits, and we challenged these initiatives in the Supreme Court based on the proposition that they violated the "single subject" rule. We were successful in these challenges. Since then, we have challenged three other initiatives and have been successful on all of them. However, we believe we will be facing a term limit initiative limited to a single subject in the year 2000. We have been holding numerous meetings to prepare to challenge any such ballot initiative. We are committed to the Missouri plan of selection and retention of judges and will continue to fight for the independence of the judiciary.
With regard to political or controversial issues, we had a meeting in 1998 with the Federalist Society to talk about whether the Bar should ever be involved in these issues. It is an ongoing debate with a lot of strong feelings on both sides. To some, an issue might look like a critical civil rights issue; to others it might look like a political issue we shouldn't mess with. Usually, when these things come up, there is no bright line. We have what I would term an awkward democracy—with more than 140 members on our governing board. Mandatory bars cannot take positions on anything, but for better or worse, we are a voluntary bar and we have latitude. We will be asked to take a position from time to time. There will be full discussion and debate, and the issues will be considered. We hope we can count on you, as members of the Bar, to participate in those debates.
Many of you feel we should do away with C.R.C.P. 16 and 26. In that regard, the CBA Litigation Section has joined with representatives of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association, and the courts and have sent out a formal survey. Hopefully, based on the results of the survey, changes can be made to make Rules 16 and 26 more effective.
During my visits, members were very concerned about the status of mandatory pro bono. You all know the results of your opposition [see, e.g., Hartman, "Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors Debates Mandatory Pro Bono," 28 The Colorado Lawyer 25 (Feb. 1999)]. I merely ask you to recognize the critical need for legal services for the poor and to recommit yourself to the concept of voluntary pro bono.
What does it mean being Colorado Bar Association President? It means working with a wonderful staff at the Bar, from Chuck Turner on down, employees who are dedicated to serving the members. It means traveling with and working with dedicated professionals like my predecessor, Rebecca Koppes-Conway, and my successor, Bart Mendenhall. It means traveling to ABA conventions in Nashville, New Orleans, and Toronto, and to the Western Bar Conference in San Diego, where it is apparent that the Colorado Bar Association is in the forefront in terms of new ideas and programs to benefit its members. I also had the honor of traveling to Washington, D.C. in May with the Chief Justice and the state court's administrator for an ABA conference to discuss restoring public trust and confidence in the justice system. Being president means meeting a lot of dedicated attorneys. And finally, it means starting to feel comfortable with the position just as my term is ready to expire.
In closing, I want to thank all the members of the Bar for giving me an opportunity to be your President this past year. Thank you for your nice comments on my columns (which turned out to be a lot of fun and gave me a platform) and for your attendance at local bar meetings and at the Board of Governors meetings.
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