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

TCL > July 2012 Issue > Frank E. (Sam) Maynes (1933–2004)

July 2012       Vol. 41, No. 7       Page  55
Six of the Greatest

Frank E. (Sam) Maynes (1933–2004)
by Thomas H. Shipps

About the Author

Thomas H. Shipps is a partner in the Durango firm of Maynes, Bradford, Shipps & Sheftel, LLP, where he has worked since 1979.


On those rare occasions when our office received a phone call for "Frank Maynes," it was certain to be a caller from out of town, because everyone in Southwestern Colorado knew him as "Sam." Sam was a dynamo. His laughter was contagious and would fill any room. He could make people feel at ease (or, on occasion, ill at ease), and he had an incredible capacity to bring people together. His leadership skills were critical in securing a crowning achievement—construction of the Animas–La Plata Water Reclamation Project. However, that was by no means his only professional accomplishment.1 For many reasons and in many ways, he was a remarkable lawyer and a great and wonderful man.

Growing up in Silverton and Durango

Sam was born in 1933 in Silverton, Colorado. The families of Sam’s father and mother had immigrated to the United States—Sam’s father’s family from Ireland and his mother’s from Northern Italy. Sam and his brother, Bernard (Beanie), grew up in Silverton, surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins who remained a large family network throughout Sam’s life. When Sam was in his early teens, Sam’s father left the mines of Silverton and opened a bar in Durango, where Sam spent mornings cleaning out spittoons and mopping floors. Sam’s father was a notoriously tough, no-nonsense character who policed his own establishment with little help from the local authorities.

While only the misguided crossed Sam’s father, the Maynes family was also known for its generosity. In 1951, the death of their mother orphaned the Lovato twins, Joe and Junior, who attended high school along with the Maynes boys. At the urging of the Maynes parents, Joe and Junior moved in with the Maynes family, where they stayed throughout high school and the completion of schooling at the old Fort Lewis College campus at Hesperus. Throughout all of their successful careers, the Maynes boys and the Lovato twins maintained an enduring bond.

Like his father, Sam enjoyed hunting and fishing. From his mother, Louisa, who was a graduate of the University of Colorado–Boulder (CU), Sam developed a love for books. As much as he enjoyed the outdoors and reading, Sam loved sports. Whether playing baseball, basketball, or football, he excelled, and his competitive drive was apparent on the field and on the court. On many occasions after I joined Sam’s law practice, and with encouragement from a drink or two at Manny’s Town House or the Elk’s Club, he and his former teammates or coaches would laughingly recall a trick play, a miraculous catch, or a blown layup from high school days. With the influence of those early experiences, Sam grew up understanding people very well, and his camaraderie with and respect for individuals had nothing to do with class or privilege.

Frank E. (Sam) Maynes (right), in front of Otto’s Tavern in Durango, with his father Sam, brother Bernard, and mother Louisa (early 1950s).

A scholarship from the El Pomar Foundation2 made attendance at Colorado College a possibility. He majored in economics. His older fraternity brother Don Diones and his classmate John Price remained lifelong friends. While at Colorado College, he successfully competed in debate, and he and his debate partner advanced to the national debate tournament. Sam later would recount how furious he was when they were denied service at a restaurant because of his partner’s skin color, and only at his partner’s urging did Sam leave rather than create a major scene. He also participated in intercollegiate athletics and played on the varsity basketball team. Unfortunately, he sustained a serious concussion playing football that ended his intercollegiate athletic career. It also led to his rejection from enlistment as a U.S. Marine following college graduation in 1955.

Law School and Early Career Days

Having graduated with good marks from Colorado College, and having been denied enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps, Sam followed the advice of one of his professors and entered law school at CU. To supplement his limited income, he worked as a bartender at Tulagi’s nightclub on the Hill in Boulder. While attending law school, he also met and married Jacqueline Stahl, whose family farmed and ranched in the area of Holyoke. Sam and Jacqueline remained married until her death in 2003 from complications associated with multiple sclerosis.

Sam had deep regard for his instructors and particularly enjoyed courses taught by Professor Clyde Martz. Martz, who later was appointed to serve as the Solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior, subsequently became a partner at Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP. In 1958, as law school neared completion, Sam was hired by the El Paso Natural Gas Company. Immediately after graduation, Sam and Jacqueline moved from Colorado to El Paso, Texas, where the first of their four children, Michelle, was born.

As Sam later would explain, his starting salary was as high as anything promised to his classmates. He was directed to the land department at the El Paso company. After several months on the job, he reviewed and approved the form of a contract that had come across his desk. Later that day, a supervisor called Sam into an office and chastised him for taking this unilateral action. The approval of contracts was an activity left only for lawyers, and, because Sam was working in the land department, he was not authorized to approve such transactions. "I thought I was a lawyer," Sam would say when recalling those early days. "That’s why I went to law school."

With both Sam and Jacqueline homesick, and Sam less than thrilled about the El Paso job, the Maynes family returned to Colorado. For a short period of time, Sam worked for Marvin Ping in Cortez, but opportunities lured him back to Durango, where he would practice for the rest of his career.

A Durango Lawyer

Shortly after his return to the Four Corners region, Sam went to work for two Durango lawyers, Larry McDaniel and Byron Bradford, both of whom were respected general practitioners. The economy in La Plata County at that time turned on activities that were largely land-related—farming and ranching, oil and gas development, and some coal and hard-rock mining. In addition to abstract and title work, these activities also required an understanding of water rights and water rights administration, and Larry McDaniel had a great background in water law. Between court-appointed criminal defense cases, Sam obtained a solid background in real estate law and water law, and he became particularly close to Byron Bradford, his mentor.

As first one and then another year passed, Sam’s cousin Frank Anesi graduated from CU Law School and wanted to return to Durango to practice with Sam. Together they started the firm of Maynes and Anesi. In the mid-1960s, Frank Anesi would become the second Public Defender appointed in Colorado, joining John Kane, who was the first such appointee.3 At that time, a major institutional water client in Southwestern Colorado was (and still remains) the Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD), one of several regional water districts created by Colorado statute (CRS §§ 37-47-101 et seq.). When Bill Eakes, the lawyer for SWCD, became the district judge for the Sixth Judicial District in 1965, the SWCD Board, headed by longtime business leader Fred Kroeger, selected Sam as its new general counsel.

Representing the SWCD was no small challenge. Development of the Colorado River divided upper basin states from lower basin states and served as a fertile subject for debate in the halls of Congress, not to mention creating mammoth litigation.4 Sam found himself in constant contact with Colorado Congressman Wayne Aspinall, the powerful Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. He also participated actively in congressional hearings leading to passage of the Colorado River Storage Project Act of 1968.5 The 1968 Act authorized construction of five major water projects in the SWCD territory, including the Animas–La Plata, the Dolores, the Dallas Creek, the West Divide, and the San Miguel Water Projects.

Sam Maynes with Chairman Burch during the early stage of construction of the Animas–La Plata Water Project near Durango, circa 2002.

Securing congressional authorization for such projects, however, was only part of the battle. The more daunting task was securing appropriations for the actual construction and operation of such projects, which, among other things, required coordination among members of the Colorado congressional delegation and the leaders of communities served by them. Although it would take years for construction to get underway, Sam was instrumental in securing the federal funds needed for a number of these projects.

In the course of his representation of the SWCD, Sam developed cherished relationships with many of Colorado’s great water lawyers, including Kenneth Balcomb, Chuck Beise, Glenn Saunders, John Sayre, and Felix Sparks.6 After I joined Sam’s practice as an associate in 1979, Sam graciously introduced me to those legendary lawyers and to the next wave of the water bar’s leading figures, such as Scott Balcomb, John Carlson, Greg Hobbs, Scott McElroy, and David Robbins.7

Following passage of the Colorado River Storage Project Act, Sam spent more than three decades seeking to convert federal water project authorizations into actual facilities. This article is simply not an adequate medium to convey the scope and complexity of the tasks associated with that objective. To the extent that those goals were realized, they were largely a product of Sam’s ability to maintain a coalition of varied interest holders, including farmers, Indian tribes, municipalities, the states of Colorado and New Mexico, and politicians at all levels. His contribution to water development in the West was reflected in President Bill Clinton’s 1995 appointment of Sam as the U.S. representative and Chairman of the Upper Colorado River Commission. Perhaps most gratifying, Sam lived to see construction begin on the Animas–La Plata Project in 2003. Today, as the project nears completion, Nighthorse Reservoir is full, and key features should achieve operational status in the coming months.

Representing the
Southern Ute Indian Tribe

As a member of the Durango High School basketball team, Sam first met Leonard C. Burch as his competitor at Ignacio High School. Following military service, Leonard Burch returned to the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. In 1966, at age 32, Burch became the youngest tribal member to be elected Chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Shortly after Chairman Burch’s election, Sam and the Chairman would find themselves attending the same congressional hearings leading to passage of the Colorado River Storage Project Act. In 1968, the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council hired Sam to become the tribe’s general counsel.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe was and remains a small, federally recognized Indian tribe headquartered near Ignacio in Southwestern Colorado. As a result of the vagaries of federal Indian policy and historical developments, the Southern Ute Indian Reservation is a patchwork of land ownerships held by private landowners, by individual Indian allottees under restricted patents, and by the United States in trust for the tribe. The exterior boundaries of the Reservation include an area of approximately 700,000 acres, most of which contains significant natural gas resources. When Sam became the Southern Ute legal counsel, the practice of Indian law was unusual and remote, even though it had been developing through federal statutes, regulations, and case law since the formative years of the United States.8

Over the next thirty years, Chairman Burch proved to be a visionary tribal leader whose skills and commitment would lead the Southern Utes from poverty to a position as one of the country’s most successful tribal nations. He relied heavily on Sam’s counsel; together, he and Sam were a formidable duo. Throughout their lives, they regarded one another as brothers.9 I was extremely fortunate to become a member of the team that assisted the Southern Utes to emerge as a national force in Indian Country.

Tom Shipps and Sam Maynes celebrate a surprise gift of golf equipment following their completion of major litigation (2001).

Politics, Pomegranates, and Purgatory

Given its importance to the success of Sam’s clients, it is not surprising that Sam was deeply engaged in politics, although never as a candidate for office. During his early years as a lawyer, Sam was an active Young Democrat. Joined by his close friends John Murphy (later manager of La Plata Electric Association, Inc.) and Jim Arribito (probation officer), Sam handed out campaign literature and literally drove voters to the polls. Not all of their efforts were successful, however. Sam occasionally spoke of the time that he and Jim Arribito picked up an elderly gentleman who needed a ride to vote in the national election. On the way to the courthouse, Sam and Jim talked back and forth, extolling the virtues of presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. The man listened silently. After voting and returning to their car, the man proudly declared, "That’s one vote that Catholic is not going to get!"

Most of the time, however, Sam’s political advice and support were highly sought. Every representative of the Third Congressional District of Colorado, from Congressman Aspinall to Congressman John Salazar, knew Sam well. The same was true of Colorado Senators—from Gordon Allott to Mark Udall. Among his closest friends were Ray Kogovsek, former congressman and lobbyist for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and Ray’s associate, Christine Arbogast. Senators Gary Hart, Ken Salazar, and Ben Nighthorse Campbell visited our offices whenever they were in Southwest Colorado.

Left to right: Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Leonard C. Burch, Sam Maynes, and Gordon Allot, former U.S. Senator from Colorado, circa 1970.

Politics was only one of Sam’s avocations, though. He was a great cook and a blue-ribbon winning baker. Whether he was making sauerkraut, cinnamon rolls, or pomegranate jelly, Sam’s creations were wonderful!

He also continued to hunt, fish, and ski for many years after I went to work for him. (In later years, Sam’s attentions focused largely on caring for Jacqueline.) Of course, the best days as a young lawyer were when Sam and Byron would come to work and announce that we were shutting things down and everyone would be going skiing at Purgatory Ski Area.

Sam’s Firm

The 1970s saw the Maynes and Anesi firm grow to meet client needs. Sam’s cousin and Frank Anesi’s younger brother, James Anesi, joined the practice, as did Larry Malick. The Maynes and Anesi firm also became one of the earliest local firms to hire a woman lawyer. Sara Duncan joined the firm in 1973.

The collection of personalities did not survive for long; in the mid-70s, Sam and Sara found themselves the firm’s only remaining members. In the meantime, Byron Bradford, Sam’s mentor, had retired as a district court judge for the Sixth Judicial District. He agreed to forgo his position as a member of the ski patrol for Purgatory Ski Area, and returned to the practice of law with Sam and Sara. Armed with my own casebook on Indian law, co-authored with Daniel Rotenberg, one of my law school professors, I joined Maynes, Bradford & Duncan in 1979, where I have remained throughout my career.10

Although the firm’s current iteration, Maynes, Bradford, Shipps & Sheftel, LLP, has remained small by Denver standards, it has enjoyed the addition of a number of skilled lawyers over the years. Janice Sheftel, who recently retired, followed in Sam’s footsteps to become one of Colorado’s leading water lawyers. Pat Hall, whose career in Native American law began on the Navajo Reservation, served as a judge for the Southern Ute Tribal Court and, later, as the county judge for La Plata County, before joining the Maynes firm in 1991. Sam’s sons, Sam W. Maynes and Mark E. Maynes, both became lawyers. Sam, whose practice includes air and water quality matters, remains one of the firm’s five partners, along with Barry Spear (banking, real estate, water, and electric utilities); Steve Boos (Native American law); and Adam Reeves (water and natural resources).

Steve Boos, Patricia Hall, Sam Maynes, Tom Shipps, and Barry Spear at a partners’ retreat near McElmo Canyon (2004).

Exemplary Professional and Friend

Sam served as a member of the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission, where he participated in a process that led to the appointment of five Colorado Supreme Court justices. He also served as the Chair of the Colorado Bar Association’s Water Law Section, and was a member of the Colorado Forum. He understood the value of service to the legal community and to the public at large.

Sam was genuinely humbled by the professional recognition he received in the later stages of his career. He was very proud of his induction as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and of his honorary award in 1994 of the Order of the Coif from CU Law School. He was one of Colorado’s great lawyers. All of us who practiced with or who had dealings with Sam over the course of his career deeply respected him and loved laughing with him.


1. Sam’s remarkable career garnered the attention of The Colorado Lawyer on more than one occasion. See Starritt, "Profiles of Success: Sam Maynes," 33 The Colorado Lawyer 71 (Aug. 2004); Downing, "An Oral History: Sam Maynes," 26 The Colorado Lawyer 57 (Oct. 1997).

2. The El Pomar Foundation, a charity established as part of the Penrose estate, was administered by Charles L. Tutt, who conditioned the award on Sam maintaining at least a C grade-point average and never embarrassing his mother. Starritt, supra note 1 at 71.

3. Unconfirmed rumors suggest that Frank Anesi and future U.S. District Court Judge John Kane felt it beneficial to the cause of public defense to hold annual Colorado Public Defenders’ conferences attended by the two of them at locations that would alternate between their home offices in Adams County and Durango. Of course, when the conferences were held in Durango, after the business was completed, both attendees of the conference would be joined at local establishments by Sam and other well-known supporters of the public defender system.

4. See, e.g., Arizona v. California, 373 U.S. 546 (1963) (initially filed under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in 1952, the case continued in litigation for decades). Sam marveled at the career of a lawyer he knew from California, who had spent his entire professional life working on this one case.

5. Pub. L. No. 90-537 (codified at 43 USC §§ 1501 et seq.).

6. Starritt, supra note 1 at 72 and accompanying notes 12–16. Kenneth Balcomb, a Glenwood Springs attorney, represented the Colorado River Water Conservation District for many years and won two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Chuck Beise, who began practicing law in Durango, was a senior attorney for Fairfield & Woods and represented the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Glenn Saunders served as general counsel for the Denver Water Board from 1931 to 1969, and his firm, Saunders, Snyder, Ross and Dickson, continued to represent the Denver Water Board for many years. John Sayre was an attorney for the Denver firm of Davis, Graham & Stubbs, which represented the Northern Colorado Water Conservation District. Felix Sparks, who chaired the Colorado River Water Conservation District, became a Colorado Supreme Court justice.

7. Scott Balcomb of the Glenwood Springs firm of Balcomb & Green succeeded Sam as an appointee to the Upper Colorado River Commission. John Carlson practiced water law with Holland & Hart before founding the firm of Carlson, Hammond & Paddock. He was recognized as one of Colorado’s leading legal scholars, and his passing in 1992 was deeply felt by his professional colleagues throughout Colorado. Greg Hobbs practiced water law at Davis, Graham & Stubbs before founding the firm of Hobbs, Trout & Raley. Since 1996, he has served as a justice on the Colorado Supreme Court. Scott McElroy is a founding partner in the Boulder firm of McElroy, Meyer, Walker & Condon and a nationally recognized advocate for Indian tribes in water rights and natural resources litigation. David Robbins is a founding partner of the Denver firm of Hill & Robbins. In addition to serving as general counsel for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, he was Colorado’s counsel of record before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Kansas v. Colorado, 514 U.S. 673 (1995), and continued to serve in that capacity in related matters.

8. Sam eagerly consulted with the expert lawyers from the Native American Rights Fund (formed in the early 1970s and headquartered in Boulder) about complex jurisdictional matters affecting the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. Several of those attorneys, including Rick Collins, Charles Wilkinson, John Echohawk, and the late David Getches, provided valuable insight to Sam as he addressed legal questions confronting the Southern Ute Indian Tribe over the years of his representation.

9. Leonard Burch suffered a heart attack and died in 2003. Sam lost a battle to cancer and died less than a year later.

10. Several years after I joined the firm, the voters of La Plata County elected Sara Duncan as a County Commissioner. Subsequently, she moved to Denver and served for many years as a lobbyist for the Denver Water Board.

© 2012 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