Not a CBA Member? Join Now!
Find A Lawyer Directory
Legal Directory

TCL > August 2004 Issue > Sam Maynes*

August 2004       Vol. 33, No. 8       Page  71
Profiles of Success

Sam Maynes*
by Sam D. Starritt

The Colorado Lawyer publishes profiles of practicing lawyers on a quarterly basis. The CBA Profiles Committee selects Colorado Bar Association members who are nominated as outstanding lawyers by their peers. With these profiles, the CBA hopes to: promote the image of lawyers by emphasizing qualities that should be emulated; show the benefits of public service to both the lawyer who serves and the community; emphasize professionalism; provide role models for new lawyers; manifest ways of becoming successful and respected; and reward deserving lawyers for their contributions to the profession. Please send your suggestions, comments, or questions about this ongoing feature to: Arlene Abady, Managing Editor, 1900 Grant St., Suite 900, Denver, CO 80203; (303) 824-5325; fax: (303) 830-3990; e-mail:

Sam D. Starritt, Grand Junction, is a partner with the firm of Dufford, Waldeck, Milburn & Krohn LLP—(970) 241-5500. He also is a member of The Colorado Lawyer Board of Editors.


*Several weeks before publication, Sam Maynes told us he was honored to be chosen to be profiled in The Colorado Lawyer and enjoyed the interview process. Sam died July 25 after a long battle with cancer.


Sam Maynes
Courtesy of Laurie E. Dickson Photography © 2004

Frank E. "Sam" Maynes was accepted to law school at the University of Colorado in 1955. To help with expenses, he applied for a scholarship with the El Pomar Foundation, a charity that had been established by Spencer Penrose and Charles L. Tutt, Jr. to administer Penrose’s estate.
1 Penrose died in 1939, and when Sam applied for the scholarship, Charles Tutt was still interviewing scholarship applicants personally.

At Tutt’s request, Sam traveled from Durango to the Broadmoor Hotel for the interview.2 After dispensing with pleasantries about the trip, Tutt said, "I have a letter here from Judge Noland, who thinks you’re going to make a good lawyer."3 Sam said, "I hope so." Tutt continued, "Well, I’m going to give you a scholarship for law school at CU. There are only two conditions: First, that you maintain at least a C grade-point average, and second, you must never do anything to embarrass your mother or your father."4 Given Sam’s personal and professional success, he evidently complied with Tutt’s conditions.


Sam Maynes was born in Silverton, Colorado in 1933. His father was a hard-rock miner, and his mother was educated at the University of Colorado as a teacher. Later, the family managed a bar in Durango. Sam received his undergraduate degree from Colorado College in 1955 and his L.L.B. from the University of Colorado in 1958. He was a member of the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission, the Chairperson for the Legal Committee of the Upper Colorado River Commission, Chairperson of the Upper Colorado River Commission, and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. In 1994, he was awarded an honorary Order of the Coif, which, according to Sam, is the best way to achieve the award (there is no class rank requirement and people say wonderful things about you). Sam and his wife of forty-five years had four children: Sam W. (who practices law with him in Durango), Mark E. (who practices law in Seattle, Washington), Michele (who works in the pharmaceutical industry outside of Colorado Springs), and Mindy (who is a schoolteacher on the big island of Hawaii).

Learning hard work and humility from his parents, Sam credits everyone and everything but himself for his professional accomplishments: "[I]t isn’t I’m a good guy or a smart lawyer as much as the people I’ve had the good fortune to deal with." First on his list (and judging by his description of her, rightfully so) is his wife, Jacqueline, whom he described as his "rudder" and an "amazing lady."5 Jacqueline Maynes died in 2003 after a valiant decades-long battle with multiple sclerosis. Second are his law partners. He has been with Tom Shipps for twenty-five years, had a long association with Byron Bradford and Larry McDaniel, and never had any kind of serious blow-up or fight with any of them: "They’ve all been wonderful people." Third, Sam credits "being in the right place at the right time."

Add a razor-sharp wit, a twinkle in the eye, hard work, and a genuine love for your profession, and you have Sam Maynes’s formula for success. When asked if he liked being a lawyer, Sam’s smile foretold his response: "Loved it. Loved it. I’ve been very lucky."

Water Law and Water Projects

Sam was in the right place at the right time in 1964 when Bill Eakes,6 the attorney for the Southwestern Water Conservation District,7 became a judge. The District needed a new lawyer.8 Although Sam didn’t know it at the time, his friend and future law partner, Byron Bradford, lobbied for Sam’s appointment. Byron had applied for the job, but during his interview, he urged the District to "hire a young guy like Sam Maynes . . . so [they could] train him and keep him for thirty years."9 As it turns out, this is almost what they did—Sam was hired as the District’s lawyer in 1965 (at the age of 32) and in 2005, he will have been with the District for forty years.

Before being appointed, Sam didn’t give much thought to being a water lawyer, because when he went to school there was no such thing as "water law." Water, mining, and real estate were all wrapped up in one subject. Fred Kroeger, Water District Board member when Sam was hired and, later, president, said: "Sam didn’t know anything about water. [He] knew only that water was necessary for showers, for swimming, and to mix with bourbon."10

So when Sam was hired as the District’s attorney, a job "any young lawyer would dream about,"11 Sam was a little wet behind the ears. But, in spite of his inexperience, Sam suddenly became acquainted with all of the "true water buffaloes in the state of Colorado: Felix Sparks,12 Chuck Beise,13 Glenn Saunders,14 John Sayre,15 Kenneth Balcomb. . . .16 All the huge water interests in Colorado and their lawyers, I got to immediately associate with those people and work with them." And, says Sam, he learned from them: "Being around quality lawyers rubs off on you."

Sam also was plunged headfirst into large-scale federal water legislation, not the least of which was the Colorado River Basin Project. Authorized by Congress in 1968, the Act paved the way for five major water projects in Colorado that directly affected Sam’s new client.17 Between 1965 and 1968, Sam described himself as "chief gopher for Sparks and the other water lawyers." He spent time in California and other states negotiating the Act’s terms, which involved no fewer than seven states. He also spent time in Washington, D.C., helping lobby for the legislation and preparing witnesses for their congressional testimony.18

In 1968, also in connection with the Colorado River Basin Project, Sam was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court when Earl Warren was the Chief Justice. Justice Warren, in his booming voice, said, "Welcome, Mr. Maynes. Welcome to the bar of this Court."19 It was a truly auspicious occasion. When the Act was finally passed, Sam, a bit naively he admits, came home and told his wife he’d better look for another job.20

Nothing could have been further from the truth. It took from 1968 until 2003 for construction to commence on a "watered down" version of the original Animas-La Plata Project, which was one of the "filthy five" projects authorized by the Act.21 The Project was fiercely contested, which even resulted in Sam’s being accused of forging an "unholy alliance" among its proponents.22 At the commencement of construction in 2003, Sam told the Project’s opponents to "eat your heart out."23

Sam and the Utes

Soon after obtaining the position for the Southwestern Water District, Sam became general counsel for the little-known Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Like his position with the Water District, this position gave him a "unique status" among local lawyers, because right away, the governor, senators, and congressmen began contacting him with questions having anything to do with "the Indians."24 Sam’s legal and political help, together with the leadership acumen of Leonard C. Burch,25 turned the Southern Ute Indian Tribe from relative impoverishment into one of Colorado’s "biggest gas producers" and one of the nation’s wealthiest tribes.26

Following Sam’s advice, the Ute Tribe took over management of its own energy resources. As a result, the Southern Utes won national management awards and invested their energy revenues in tribal enterprises, which included their own school.27 Sam also assisted the Tribe in developing an investment portfolio from oil and gas revenue, which will last for generations; helped establish and solidify tribal water rights in connection with the Animas-La Plata Project; and was involved in establishing a college tuition scholarship fund for Indian students.28

Sam’s long-time involvement with the Southern Utes included the introduction of tribal gaming29 and his firm’s appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case about the ownership of coal-bed methane gas.30 Although the Court decided the case against the Tribe, Sam described it as a "once in a lifetime experience." As a testament to Sam’s dislike of losing, a photograph of Justice Kennedy, who authored the opinion, rests in Sam’s office, drawn with devil horns and a goatee. Sam says, jokingly, "Nobody ever accused me of being a good loser, but I’m a helluva good winner."31

Small Town Practice

Currently, Sam Maynes is the senior partner of the Durango, Colorado firm of Maynes, Bradford, Shipps & Sheftel, LLP, which began in the late 1960s with Maynes’s association with Byron Bradford. Except for a five-year period when Bradford was a district court judge, the firm has been in continuous existence since then. The legal profession in Durango, like everywhere, has changed since Sam began practicing there in the late 1950s, when there were only twenty-two lawyers in La Plata County. Now, there are more than 150.

Back when Sam started, other lawyers were more willing to give friendly, professional (and other) advice to help a young lawyer with his practice. For example, early in Sam’s career, an older lawyer, Howell Cobb,32 frequently gave him advice, welcome or not. According to Sam, as he was coming out of a drugstore on Main Avenue one day, Cobb said, "Sammy, were you in there drinking coffee again? You’ve got to be careful about things like that. People will get the idea you’re too lazy to do any work if you’re sitting around all the time drinking coffee. And another thing: you always should have a file folder with you when you walk down the street. People have to think you’re busy." Today, says Sam, "things seem a bit more dog-eat-dog."

But then, as now, the law business wasn’t always easy. With gracious self-deprecation, Sam describes an early incident that, he admits, "just made him sick." Soon after Sam graduated from law school, his old benefactor, Judge Noland, obtained a position for him in Cortez with a lawyer named Marvin Ping. The Colorado Supreme Court had recently decided a case called City of Cañon City v. Merris,33 which held that drunk driving was a matter of statewide concern, and municipal courts could not try drunk driving cases.

There was "a career drunk driver" named Hamilton who was serving a thirty-day jail sentence in Cortez. Somehow, Sam was engaged to represent Mr. Hamilton, and Sam decided he could spring his client with a writ of habeas corpus. So he went to the clerk of court and asked if there had been any such writs filed recently. The clerk pulled out about three. One of them had been written by a lawyer named George Dilts,34 who was not only a good trial attorney, but also the City Attorney for the City of Cortez. Sam copied the material that Dilts filed and called Judge Noland on a Thursday or Friday. He told the Judge that he had filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which required a forthwith hearing. Judge Noland said the soonest he could get there was Saturday morning.

Sam served Dilts with his petition, and the Judge traveled all the way from Durango on Saturday for the hearing. When Judge Noland called the case, Dilts stood up and tore the motion apart. Judge Noland said, "Well, Sammy, what have you got to say? You haven’t followed the statute here, and I have to deny your petition."35 Dilts’s motion was successful when he filed it, apparently because no one challenged it. But Sam learned his lesson: do not simply copy someone else’s work; you have to "do it right." Sam’s client spent a couple more days in jail while Sam corrected the petition, and when the new version was heard, he had done it right, and his client got out of jail. To young lawyers, Sam advises that you get out of the law profession what you put into it. "If you work hard and care about your clients, success will follow."

Baking for Fun and Ribbons

Besides the success he has achieved in his family and career, Sam is proud to be a successful baker. Early in his partnership with Byron Bradford, they began baking bread together, and Sam’s love for baking grew from there. He has won Grand Champion at the La Plata County Fair three times: once for his cinnamon rolls, once for his apricot brandy pound cake, and once for his rum cake. The ribbons are located in his Durango office, except for the rum cake ribbon, which is hanging in the Ore House restaurant in Durango.

A Good Profession

Sam says he doesn’t have any regrets at all. "The law profession has been good to me and my family. It’s enabled me to raise children and take care of my wife. Between the Utes and the Water Board, I’ve had a very wonderful career. I’ve been very fortunate. I can’t think of a single thing that I’d want to change about it." And, with the possible exception of the Animas-La Plata opponents, it is likely that neither could anyone else.


1. Penrose was a Colorado Springs transplant who made a fortune in Cripple Creek gold and Utah copper. Penrose founded the Broadmoor Hotel in 1918, and contributed to many other Colorado Springs landmarks, including the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Manitou Incline, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Fountain Valley School, and Pikes Peak Highway. El Pomar ("pear" in Spanish) was the name of Penrose’s estate near the Broadmoor Hotel. See generally Bertozzi-Villa, Broadmoor Memories: A History of the Broadmoor (Pictorial Histories Pub. Co. (for the Broadmoor): Missoula, MT: 1993). Penrose was a business partner of C. L. Tutt, Sr., whose son, Charles L. Tutt, Jr., continued to work with Penrose and, later, Penrose’s widow, Julie, at the Broadmoor and El Pomar Foundation. Id.

2. According to the Articles of Incorporation for the El Pomar Foundation, the principal office of the Foundation, "unless and until otherwise determined, . . . shall be kept at Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado." The Articles were filed with the Colorado Secretary of State on December 15, 1937, and were signed by both Penrose and Tutt.

3. James Matthews Noland served as a District Court Judge in La Plata County from 1947 until his death in 1968. Treece, "Six of the Greatest: James Matthews Noland," 15 The Colorado Lawyer 1174 (July 1986.) In 1961, Fortune Magazine named Judge Noland as one of the top ten judges in the country. In that same year, he rejected a chance to be nominated to the Federal District Court for the District of Colorado. Id. at 1175.

4. These types of conditions were apparently not unique to Maynes’s scholarship. According to David S. Starritt (the author’s father and long-time Colorado Springs educator), Ralph Cesario, the son of Spencer and Julie Penrose’s groundskeeper, was one of, if not the first, recipient of an El Pomar Scholarship. When Cesario received the scholarship, Julie Penrose, Spencer Penrose’s widow, interviewed him personally and conditioned the scholarship on Cesario’s never doing anything to embarrass (in the following order): his mother, the Catholic Church, or himself. Interview with David S. Starritt, retired, by telephone in Colorado Springs, Colorado (June 2004).

5. See Peel, "Always a Battler," Durango Herald (March 1, 2004).

6. William S. Eakes was first in private practice in Durango and then a District Court Judge for La Plata County, Colorado from 1965 to 1982. See

7. The Southwestern Water Conservation District is one of only three such districts in Colorado. It serves Montezuma, Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, San Juan, San Miguel, and parts of Montrose, Hindsdale and Mineral Counties. See the Southwestern Water Conservation District website, available at

8. See Downing, "An Oral History: Sam Maynes," 26 The Colorado Lawyer 57 (Oct. 1997).

9. Id. at 60.

10. Peel, supra, note 5.

11. Interview with Sam Maynes (March 2004).

12. Felix Sparks was a lawyer from Delta, Colorado, who later became a Colorado Supreme Court Justice and Chair of the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

13. Chuck Beise was senior attorney at Fairfield & Woods in Denver and represented the Arkansas Southwestern Water Conservancy District.

14. Glenn Saunders was General Counsel for the Denver Water Board from 1931 to 1969. After leaving the Denver Water Board, he formed the private law firm of Saunders, Snyder, Ross and Dickson, and continued to represent the Water Board until his death in 1990. See Saunders, "Reflections on Sixty Years of Water Law Practice," 2 Univ. of Denver Water Law Rev. 1 at note dd1 (1998).

15. John Sayre was an attorney with Davis, Graham and Stubbs, who represented the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

16. Kenneth Balcomb is Of Counsel with the Glenwood Springs law firm of Balcomb & Green and represented the Colorado River Water Conservancy District. According to Sam, "Ken Balcomb forgot more about the Colorado River than anyone else has ever known." Maynes interview (March 2004).

17. The Colorado River Basin Project was enacted on September 30, 1968. See Public Law 90-537, 82 Stat. § 885. The legislation authorized Lower Basin developments like the Central Arizona and Dixie Projects. In the Upper Basin, it authorized the Animas-La Plata Project in southwestern Colorado and northern New Mexico; the Dolores Project on the Dolores River in southwestern Colorado; the Dallas Creek Project on the Uncompahgre River, as well as its tributaries in west-central Colorado; the West Divide Project on a series of Colorado River tributaries in western Colorado; and the San Miguel Project on the San Miguel River in southwestern Colorado. In addition to authorizing these projects, the legislation established guidelines for investigating the augmentation of the Colorado River, protection for areas of potential export, the Mexican Water Treaty obligations, the Lower Basin shortage formula, and the criteria for the coordinated operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead. See the Bureau of Reclamation website, available at

18. Congressman Wayne N. Aspinall spearheaded Colorado’s involvement in the Colorado River Basin Project. Before the passage of the Act, he asked Sam Maynes to travel to Washington, D.C. to help prepare John Baker, Sr., then Chair of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and Chief Jack House, the last traditional chief of the Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribe, to testify before Congress about the Tribes’ legal and practical rights to Colorado River water. See Downing, supra, note 8 at 60. Aspinall served in Congress from 1949 to 1972, and also was involved in the Colorado River Storage Act (famous for authorizing the Glen Canyon Dam) and the creation of Redwoods National Park, Padre Island, Fire Island Parks, and a number of other national parks, monuments, and seashores. See Traylor, "Six of the Greatest: Wayne N. Aspinall," 24 The Colorado Lawyer 1513 (July 1995).

19. Interview with Sam Maynes (March 2004).

20. Peel, supra, note 5.

21. As quoted in Peel’s article, id. The chief component of the Animas-La Plata Project is a 120,000 acre-foot reservoir, which originally had been approved for 260,000 acre-feet. Two-thirds of the water from the reservoir serves Indian tribes. The rest goes to the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District and San Juan Water Commission of New Mexico. The water may be used exclusively for municipal and industrial purposes, not irrigation; which, according to Sam, is a shame. Interview with Sam Maynes (March 2004).

22. Draper, "Dam’s Start a Watershed for Legendary Water Lawyer," The Denver Post (Nov. 16, 2003).

23. Even though construction on the Project is finally underway, Sam is somewhat disappointed in the final outcome, because the smaller version does not provide for any agricultural water rights. Interview with Sam Maynes (March 2004).

24. Interview with Sam Maynes (March 2004).

25. Again crediting his success on the chance to work with other influential people, Sam described Burch, who served as the Chair of the Ute tribe substantially between 1966 and 2002, as the Southern Ute’s modern Chief Ouray, "because he under[stood] the value of working cooperatively with non-Indian people," while maintaining tribal traditions and language. Downing, supra, note 8 at 61.

26. Draper, supra, note 22. See also Kostka, "Leonard Burch Honored During Memorial Service," The Durango Herald (Aug. 6, 2003).

27. Frazier, "Maynes’ Mark a Mix of Water, Law," The Rocky Mountain News (June 12, 2004).

28. Id.

29. CRS § 12-47.2-101.

30. See Amoco Production Co. v. Southern Ute Indian Tribe, 119 S.Ct. 1719 (1999).

31. Peel, supra, note 5.

32. Howell W. Cobb practiced in Durango with the firm of Perkins and Cobb from at least 1940 to the late 1960s.

33. 137 Colo. 169, 323 P.2d 614 (1958), overruled in part by Vela v. People, 174 Colo. 465, 468, 484 P.2d 1204, 1206 (1971).

34. George Dilts’s firm still exists in Cortez under the name, Dyer, Dilts and Starr.

35. Interview with Sam Maynes (March 2004).

© 2004 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved. Material from The Colorado Lawyer provided via this World Wide Web server is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and may not be reproduced in any way or medium without permission. This material also is subject to the disclaimers at