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TCL > September 2013 Issue > Guest Author: Making Justice Accessible in a New and Compelling Venue

September 2013       Vol. 42, No. 9       Page  5
In and Around the Bar
CBA President's Message to Members

Guest Author: Making Justice Accessible in a New and Compelling Venue
by Greg Hobbs

Attention Readers: I have decided to deviate from the traditional monthly President’s Message. Having had the good fortune of working with many excellent attorneys and judges throughout my career, I have invited a few of these colleagues to step into this space to discuss topics of import and meaning to them and to share some of their views about the legal profession. This month’s guest author is Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs, who is known as the dean of water law in Colorado and as someone who takes great pride in engaging us to improve access to justice in our legal system.

—W. Terry Ruckriegle


About the Author

Justice Greg Hobbs, a member of the Colorado Supreme Court since May 1, 1996, has been a frequent contributor to The Colorado Lawyer. He is a member of Colorado’s Access to Justice Commission and chairs the Judicial Advisory Council and the Water Court Committee of the Colorado Supreme Court. He authored the poems appearing in this article, and they are reproduced with his permission.


Never has the Colorado bar and bench enjoyed such a public place as the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in which to practice the single most compelling reason for a legal profession—access to justice. On dedication day, May 2, 2013, as she walked the columbine atrium floor among 100 eighth-grade students from throughout the state, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor encouraged the students to recall a moment of joy when they are most down-hearted.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in Colorado on May 2, 2013 for the dedication of the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, talks with children visiting from across the state.


Sotomayor Feedback 360

Justice Sotomayor likes best to speak with children,
her father gone, she holds on to her mother, her grandmother,
she carries everywhere the next good book to read.

"You’re not smart enough."
"You’re not worthy enough."
"You’re not pretty enough,"
they’ll tell you.
"You’re sick."
"Your outfit’s plain."
"You won’t make it."

"You will!"
"You can!" she says to them.

"When you’re down, recall a moment of joy!"
"Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you can’t!"
"Go to college, follow your passion, listen to your
parents—education is the greatest gift."

Justice and the kids throw the doors
open to the Learning Center.


Within the Learning Center

Tucked along the northeast side of the Judicial Center’s atrium is the Learning Center. The Learning Center features interactive displays revealing how the rule of law—like the air we breathe—embraces each of us; though invisible, we can’t live without it. Making visible to the public what lawyers and judges do is the focus, not only of the Learning Center, but of every passage, piece of artwork, and working space within the building.

The Learning Center is designed to bring visitors in, and then send them back into the community, encouraged and inspired. There’s a mirror in the triangular apex of the Learning Center intended to reflect the exact likeness of each person in the fullness of our diverse identities.

Next to the mirror is a huggable bronze statue of Ralph Carr, the Colorado Governor who lost his political career by standing up for the constitutional rights of Japanese Americans during World War II. Some of the racist hate mail he received is displayed alongside his likeness.

I can never forget the tears of respect on Bob Sakata’s face as he looked at the Carr statue, embraced it, and quietly thanked him. At 16 years of age, Sakata was interned at a Japanese American relocation camp. Today, he is one of Colorado’s elder statespersons. Like Justice Sotomayor, he delights in speaking to young persons about what it means to be given an opportunity to prove your own worth.

Bob Sakata, pictured here with the Ralph Carr statue, is a member of the Water Court Committee, a standing Committee of the Colorado Supreme Court.


Ralph Carr’s Promise Remembered

Welcome to Colorado! Bring all of Colorado in!

We share a common heritage forged from all too many
common experiences. Despised, dismembered, exiled,

Enslaved, seeking refuge in a homeland of promises
remembered: Before the law, each and all, created equal

Entitled to celebrate the many bonds of our ancestries
as for a more perfect Union continuously we strive

Liberty and Justice for All, in the image of Amache
and the columbine

Mountain, canyon, mesa, plain, mother, father, daughter,
son, chartered by and through the Great Divide.


Judicial Milestones Timeline

One of the prominent entries in the Judicial Milestones timeline within the Learning Center is the 1973 Keyes v. School District No. 1 case.1 In Keyes, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of Judge William E. Doyle prohibiting segregation of African American and Hispanic children in the Denver Public Schools.

Ralph Carr and Bill Doyle were peers in their work for the civil rights of all Americans. Governor Carr welcomed displaced Japanese Americans to Colorado during World War II and advocated for their constitutional rights.2 He was reviled by many, losing his political career to Edwin Johnson in a race for the U.S. Senate.3 Judge Doyle insisted on the right of all children to attend the Denver Public Schools on an equal basis with all other students.4 He too was reviled by many. Someone threw a bomb against the porch of his home, not causing injury but greatly disturbing the Doyle family’s equilibrium.5 Nonetheless, the judge kept on making decisions in the Keyes case.

On the Learning Center’s outside wall facing Lincoln Street, Abraham Lincoln appears. The Civil War Amendments—the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment establishing that due process and equal protection guarantees are applicable to state and local governmental action, and the Fifteenth Amendment recognizing the right of former male slaves to vote—are Lincoln’s legacy. However, they did not, for example, immediately result in the public schools being open to enrollment to every child in Colorado and throughout the United States.

As the Judicial Milestones illustrate, it took Chief Justice Earl Warren’s Brown v. Board of Education6 and decisions like Judge Doyle’s in Keyes to move toward accomplishing the promise of access to justice on an equal basis. Many Colorado lawyers took the plaintiff’s side of the Keyes case on a pro bono basis. Today, more than 270 law firms have committed to Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1’s goal of performing fifty hours of pro bono legal services per Colorado licensed attorney, averaged across the firm, primarily for persons of limited means and organizations that serve persons of limited means.

Colorado’s Legacy—the Pursuit of Equal Justice

The Dred Scott v. Sandford decision7 and the crisis over whether the new states and territories would be slaveholding or free led to the creation of Colorado Territory in February 1861.8 The slavery crisis careened toward civil war when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Dred Scott that black slaves could not be citizens and are property that can be transported and held in bondage anywhere in the newly added Western lands. Congress formed Colorado Territory out of the territories of Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, and Utah in February 1861 at the outset of the Civil War, after Lincoln was elected and Kansas became a state.9

In our generation of Western lawyers and judges, the landscape of the law has swiftly changed. Those formerly without a voice have turned to lawyers and courts for the vindication of their rights. Prejudice and discrimination are twin-headed monsters that continue to dwell among us. Access to justice is the single most compelling reason for the existence of a legal profession and the judiciary, which together comprise a branch of government devoted to adjudicating the rights and protecting the liberties of all persons.

On-the-Ground Understanding

The map of the West is a map of racially charged and gender-based injustice bending toward inclusive justice—as it is for the United States as a whole and as it is for the planet we share with billions of other persons. We must get out of our offices and courtrooms to practice and adjudicate well in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West. Doing this, we begin to understand how each of us comes with a different perspective and we can better appreciate why the inclusive heritage and future of this land is so worth cultivating.

When you travel from Denver north through Cheyenne to Fort Laramie, the Black Hills, Devil’s Tower, and the Little Bighorn Battlefield, you can turn west from Sheridan over the Big Horn Mountains to Cody and back to Denver. As close to the sky as you can walk, an ancient Medicine Wheel occupies the shoulder of a towering bluff on top of the Big Horns. If you are Native American, you can enter through the enclosure surrounding the wheel, say your prayer, and leave your medicine bundle offering on the perimeter fence. On the trail to the wheel, you can see travois tracks where the people hauled their teepees and supplies up the mountains to this sacred place. You cannot journey through the grasslands east of the Rocky Mountains without crossing hilly ground and creek bottoms—every inch of which the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho knew. Rising out of the plains, the Black Hills embrace incomparable beauty. "Nothing lives long but the mountains and the ground" is a Native American saying that continues to accompany this great land.

Travel south along the Rocky Mountains. Go to Santa Fe, cross over the Continental Divide into the Four Corners mesa and canyon country of the Colorado River plateau. Along the way, you will see contemporary Hispanic, Pueblo, Ute, Navajo, and Hopi faces, among the rest of us who have entered here. You also will see in Mesa Verde’s Far View Village, an ancestral Pueblo petroglyph on the front of a kiva (see photo below). This engraving depicts the migration circles of the people as they emerge from the center of the earth: hunting and growing corn, melons, squash, beans, and chili; establishing communities; and creating artworks on water jars and cliff faces.

Far View Village, Chapin Mesa, Mesa Verde National Park.

Considering Our Roles

We attorneys and judges are reexamining our roles in the larger community. Among the initiatives, the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession is emphasizing a greater commitment to pro bono services on behalf of those who otherwise can’t afford them, as well as much more thorough mentoring opportunities for law students and newly admitted lawyers. In this, we return to the core values of our Oath of Admission: never to refuse the cause of the defenseless or oppressed and to treat each other with kindness and respect. I suggest three ways to approach our opportunities and responsibilities.

1. The way we carefully respect each other exemplifies how we will treat all others we come into contact with:

  • airing matters with each other as fully as possible
  • helping the conversation to ripen
  • not preempting or cutting off the conversation before it’s time to make a decision
  • being supportive of each other personally within the bar, the courts, and the community
  • promoting excellence and enthusiasm within each of our spheres of influence
  • recognizing that each of us is the face of the legal profession.

2. The way we enthusiastically perform our work will help serve the public well:

  • setting a tone of good and faithful service
  • supporting the roles of lawyers and judicial officers and getting to know better who they are and what they do
  • recognizing that getting our work done well individually and together contributes to the well-being of the community.

3. The way we engage in bar, bench, and community activities within the codes of attorney and judicial conduct will enhance the merit selection system, the practice of law, and the respect for the rule of law:

  • supporting the role and work of our state and local bar associations, the federal judiciary, and the law schools
  • accepting appropriate teaching and speaking opportunities
  • involving the public in civic education through the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center and through the state’s continuing education resources.

Our Incomparable Landscape

John Fielder’s glorious landscape photography of Colorado appears throughout the Ralph L. Carr Center—mountains, mesas, canyons, and rivers. I especially love his photograph of the flowing Rio Grande River that hangs to the right of our Supreme Court courtroom on the fourth floor.

Welcome to this house of justice. Thank you to this great land in which we live, and to the people and the creatures with whom we share it!

Sue Smedstad gazes in awe at John Fielder’s photograph of the Rio Grande River with the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Mount Blanca in the background. Smedstad is a member of the Judicial Advisory Council, a standing committee of the Colorado Supreme Court.


1. Keyes v. School District No. 1, 413 U.S. 189 (1973).

2. See Schrager, The Principled Politician, Governor Ralph Carr And The Fight Against Japanese American Internment 140-56 (Fulcrum Publishing, 2008).

3. Id. at 161-66.

4. See Keyes v. School District No. 1, 313 F.Supp. 91, 97 (D.Colo. 1970).

5. See Kane, Jr. and Tepker, Jr., "William Doyle: Five of the Greatest," 27 The Colorado Lawyer 21, note 9 (July 1998).

6. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

7. Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1856).

8. See Fehrenbacher, The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics 365-88 (Oxford University Press, 1978).

9. Act of Feb. 28, 1861, ch. 59, 12 Stat. 172.

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