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TCL > June 2004 Issue > The Last Word: It Ain’t Funny Anymore

June 2004       Vol. 33, No. 6       Page  37
CBA President's Message to Members

The Last Word: It Ain’t Funny Anymore
by Robert J. Truhlar


This is my last monthly message as your CBA President and, before I express my heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to serve, I want to say one more thing: It ain’t funny anymore.

What isn’t funny is that lawyers as a profession continue to be the target of obnoxious jokes, and we’re so busy ducking the potshots that we have trouble moving forward. We need to reclaim our leadership role in helping mold an orderly, civil, and just society. It’s time to fight back.

Speaking Up

A few weeks ago, I was at a fundraiser for a facility for troubled teen-aged girls. It was a beautiful dinner and charity auction, and we were honored to be the guests of some dear friends. Above all the tables were large balloons of various colors that were designed to look like floating hot-air balloons. The auctioneer was thanking the woman who was in charge of the decorations and added, "And we would like to thank the Colorado Bar Association for the hot air in those balloons." Most people laughed. I did not. I also decided not to respond to the auctioneer’s call for money.

It irritated me to think that, in the middle of a lovely evening for a worthwhile cause, an event at which many attorneys were in attendance, it was completely acceptable, and even funny, to poke fun of attorneys. There was no other profession that was the brunt of a joke that evening, even though there were plenty of doctors, accountants, psychologists, and other professionals in the room. Lawyers were singled out.

Two other incidents that happened recently involved a Judicial Performance Commission public hearing on judges standing for retention in the general election this year. The chair of the Commission, in introducing each lawyer member, stated, "This is John Lawyer, an attorney, but we won’t hold that against him." Later during the hearing, one of the non-attorney members stated, during a heated discussion between two attorneys, "Maybe Shakespeare was right," referring to the famous quote about killing all the attorneys.

Some people laughed, but many did not. I don’t think it was funny. I spoke to the person commenting on lawyers, in regard to the Shakespeare quotation, during the hearing when it was my turn to speak. I said that his comments were inappropriate and not appreciated. He admitted that he was wrong. I am committed to speaking up in the future.

We’ve got to fight back.

As a profession, we must hammer home the point that lawyers do huge amounts of pro bono and community work. I had the privilege of being at a reception recently where attorneys who have contributed to Metro Volunteer Lawyers ("MVL") were recognized for their dedication to providing services to poor and low-income people. Attorneys were honored who have dedicated hundreds of hours of work on behalf of MVL clients.

The individual lawyers who were honored were Dee Keller, Elsa Martinez Tenreiro, Mark Bove, and Jason Cuerdon. A law firm, The Harris Law Firm, was recognized because it had a commitment to having every one of its attorneys carry at least one pro bono case at all times during 2003. Most of the lawyers at The Harris Law Firm have, in fact, carried three pro bono cases at a time. It pains me that a profession that works so hard for the poor and disadvantaged has become a target of derision.

Fighting Back

Bob Truhlar in Washington,
D.C. in May 2004.

One way we can fight back is to always publicize our service and good works, which are impressive. Another way we can fight back is to encourage more lawyers to run for our Colorado General Assembly and other public office. In 1970, the Colorado legislature was made up of 35 percent attorneys. Today, only 12 of the 100 legislators are lawyers. More of us need to run for the General Assembly because we are in a profession that gets things done and knows how to solve problems. Many of us are experienced in the kinds of duties that fall to legislators.

Furthermore, we must develop an ongoing dialogue with our Congressional delegation, so they know what national issues are important. The first week of May, I traveled to Washington, D.C. with my wife and law partner, Doris Truhlar, on behalf of the CBA. We met Karen Mathis there, who chaired this "ABA Day on the Hill." Together, we visited Senator Wayne
, Representative Diana DeGette, Representative Bob Beauprez, and the legislative liaison from Representative Mark Udall’s office. Each was receptive to our concerns and complimentary of our opinions. They all agreed that it was important for us as a profession to bring issues and information to their attention. They valued our efforts. Thanks to all of them for meeting with us!

We must be in the forefront of innovative solutions in the twenty-first century. Serving in the legislature is an important way to assume leadership roles in our state and to be in a position to educate the public regarding the importance of attorneys in our society. Granted, it is a financial sacrifice for an attorney to serve, but one that is worth making. Additionally, we must tell the public every time we get a chance about the contributions that our profession makes to our community and our state.

And we shouldn’t laugh at attorney jokes. We should protest and take the opportunity to educate people about the exceptional work that attorneys do for the good of society.

Heading Off Judicial Attacks

Speaking of the Colorado General Assembly, a fantastic, talented, and articulate group of attorneys spearheaded the effort to defeat the recent misguided resolution in the Colorado House of Representatives to impeach Judge John Coughlin of the Denver District Court for a decision he made involving parental responsibility for a child who was raised by a lesbian couple. Judge Coughlin is an excellent judge who has been retained by the voters several times and is recognized in the legal community as knowledgeable, intelligent, diligent, and thoughtful.

The attorneys who led the effort to defeat the impeachment resolution included Don Bain; Bill Kaufman, who is a former legislator; Mike DiManna; Gerry Marroney, who is the State Court Administrator; Bill Ritter; former Chief Justice Luis Rovira; and former Chief Justice Tony Vollack. They made me proud to be an attorney!

Thanks go to the legislative representatives who courageously voted against the resolution. They are Betty Boyd, Terrance Carroll, Lynn Hefley, Cheri Jahn, Joel Judd, Ann McGihon, Matt Smith, and Joe Stengel.

If you see any of these attorneys or legislators, be sure to thank them. Better yet, send them a note telling them how much we appreciate their efforts.

A Heartfelt Thanks

I’ve had a wonderful year serving as CBA president. Thanks go to all the committee chairs, section chairs, members of the Board of Governors, Executive Council members, Legislative Policy Committee members, local bar leaders, and especially the entire CBA staff. You’ve all helped to make it a fantastic experience. Special thanks go to my wife and law partner, Doris, who often held down the fort (at home and work) while I was gallivanting around the state and the country on Bar business!

It’s been a great year! Thank you!

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