The annual DBA Awards recognize outstanding attorneys and legal programs in the Denver area. Each of the award winners was nominated by their peers as an example of the very best our legal community has to offer. The DBA congratulates the winners and nominees, and thanks everyone who took time to submit a nomination. Please join us to celebrate the award recipients at the DBA Annual Awards Party, Friday, June 29 from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center. We will also be conducting the induction of the incoming CBA and DBA presidents on this occasion.
Award of Merit : Mary Jo Gross
Recognizes outstanding service and contributions to the DBA and legal profession, or rendered in the interest of the improvement of the administration of justice. This award is given to a lawyer, judge or law professor who is a regular member of the DBA and whose distinguished career exemplifies the purpose of the Award of Merit.
I am honored to have been awarded the 2018 DBA Award of Merit. To say that I was surprised by the call would be an understatement. But I have always been lucky. I was lucky to have been introduced to service and volunteering when I was a young girl in Youngstown, Ohio. After college I moved to Denver and earned my Masters Degree in Library Science from the University of Denver. It was a stroke of luck that my first position was at a Catholic High School and that the low pay forced me to take on part-time jobs during the summer months. And were the Fates guiding me when I took a 4-day secretarial temp job at Fairfield & Woods, where I stayed for 23 years, attending DU Law in the evenings and praying for a job offer upon passing the Bar? How fortunate those were the days when the firm paid for bar association dues AND expected the attorneys to be active members! How lucky that I had been taught the lessons of reliability, thoroughness and dedication.
Was it pre-ordained that I would work for many years with individuals who also recognized the value of service and who encouraged and celebrated all of my bar association activities? Was it mere chance to have met lifelong colleagues and friends through bar association activities? That they would create a statewide network of professional and personal support that sustains to this day? I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I do know that I have always been lucky.
Judicial Excellence Award: Alan Loeb
Honors a DBA member of the judiciary for extraordinary service or exceptional contributions to the improvement of the judicial system.
I am honored and humbled to receive this year’s DBA Judicial Excellence Award. Born and raised in Denver, I have been a proud member of the DBA since 1971, when I returned home after graduation from Michigan Law School to begin my legal career practicing with Davis, Graham, and Stubbs. But my understanding of the value of bar association membership and participation goes back even further, because my father practiced law in Denver for over 50 years and was an active member of the DBA his entire career.
In 2003, I was blessed to be appointed as a judge on the Colorado Court of Appeals, and in 2013, I was doubly blessed when then Chief Justice Bender appointed me to be the Chief Judge of the COA. Truth be told, I believe that when the DBA honored me with the Judicial Excellence Award this year, it was really honoring the entire COA in recognition of the role it plays in the Colorado judicial system and the contribution it makes to providing access to fair, equal and quality justice to the people of the State of Colorado. Each and every day, I marvel at the excellence, integrity and collegiality of every person who works at the COA — judges, law clerks, staff attorneys, and clerk’s office staff. It has been my privilege to be part of the COA family for the past 15 years, and accepting this Award on behalf of the entire Court is truly one of the great highlights of my career.
I am also deeply committed to the importance of mentoring in the legal profession. Well before Colorado wisely created the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP), the DBA led the way by organizing its own mentorship program. And I was an active and enthusiastic mentor for several young lawyers in that DBA program. I also was fortunate as a young lawyer at DGS to have wonderful mentors of my own, including Dick Davis (who was a DBA President and is the “Davis” of the DBA Richard Davis Award that is given to a deserving young lawyer each year). Dick gave me an invaluable perspective on what it truly means to be a lawyer (and later a judge) and infused me with a professional identity that has stayed with me throughout my career. Most importantly, he inspired me to pass on these same values to all the young lawyers who I have had the privilege to mentor both at DGS and in my 15 plus years as a judge.
Finally, I never could have accomplished even half of what I have done in my career without the love and support of my wife Karen; my daughter, Melissa, and her husband, Matt Bloom (and, of course, my new grandson, Theo); and my daughter, Rachel, and her fiancé, Jesse Rodgers (who I had the pleasure of swearing in as a new Colorado lawyer just last year and is now a DBA member as well).
Young Lawyer of the Year: Richard Murray
Recognizes outstanding service and contributions to the DBA, legal profession and community. This award is given to a Denver lawyer who is a member of the DBA and is younger than age 37 or has been in practice less than three years.
My decision to come to Colorado to attend the University of Colorado almost two decades ago was a life changing event. As with many individuals who come to Colorado, I did not leave, and I have been blessed with tremendous mentors since moving to this great state. During law school at CU, I was fortunate to have interned for Justice Allison Eid, Judge David Furman, and attorney John Zakhem. Following law school, I was honored to have clerked for Justice Nathan B. Coats on the Colorado Supreme Court. After my clerkship, I became a litigation associate at Kennedy Childs & Fogg, P.C., where I worked side-by-side with Mark Fogg. In 2012, I transitioned to Polsinelli, where I became a shareholder in 2016. This listing is not just a job history; it represents a fundamental and important part of my education and training as a young lawyer that can be summed up in one word — mentorship. Each of these important individuals in my professional life taught me invaluable aspects of the law and professionalism, and I would not be where I am today without the lessons I learned from each of them.
It is an incredible honor to receive the DBA’s Young Lawyer of the Year Award. My involvement in the bar associations and legal community dates back to my time as a student. I have been blessed to have served in various positions within our legal community, including as the current president of CBA-CLE, chair-elect of the University of Colorado Law Alumni Board, a DBA representative to the CBA Board of Governors, formerly as the first vice president and second vice president of the DBA, and on the Colorado Access to Justice Commission. I truly enjoy the work of the bar associations and working to give back to our community.
Volunteer of the Year: Ellie Lockwood
Presented to a DBA member who has performed extraordinary voluntary legal or community service.
Being named the Denver Bar Association’s Volunteer of the Year is an incredible honor. I received my J.D. from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 2010. My practice focuses on business and intellectual property litigation, but pro bono has always played a significant role in it as well.
My pro bono work really took off while I was still in law school when I became involved with the Colorado Lawyers Committee. I had the wonderful opportunity to work with terrific lawyers on high-impact litigation affecting our state mental health and public school systems. Now, as Co-Chair of the Colorado Lawyers Committee’s Denver Legal Night with my colleague Stephanie Kanan, I have the privilege of helping to coordinate and run bi-monthly legal clinics where volunteer attorneys provide free legal information to people in our community who cannot afford legal services on issues like immigration, housing, family, and employment matters.
I am also one of the lawyers who represents Disability Law Colorado, which protects and promotes the rights of people with disabilities and older people in Colorado. The DLC legal team achieved a groundbreaking settlement in 2012 with the State of Colorado that we are still working to uphold. It concerns the constitutional rights of pretrial detainees with mental illness who are languishing in jails throughout our state and seeks to ensure timely competency evaluation and treatment in an appropriate clinical setting.
Lawyers have a civic duty to use their law degrees — a tool others do not have — to make a difference in our community. Lawyers in Colorado are fortunate to have the support of our Supreme Court and organizations like the DBA to encourage volunteer and pro bono participation. Making legal services accessible to all members of our community is so important, which is why I enjoy volunteering my time to help those most in need.
I am grateful to my family, my firm, and the DBA for supporting my efforts.
Outstanding Program of the Year: Denver Office of the Independent Monitor’s Youth Outreach Program
Acknowledges those programs or projects that uphold the highest traditions of the legal profession such as ethics, professionalism, education, access to justice, community service or promoting charitable causes.
It is a tremendous honor to receive the DBA’s Education in the Legal System Award. As Denver’s Independent Monitor, I provide independent oversight of the Denver Police and Sheriff Departments, and actively look for ways to strengthen relationships between our community and police officers. The Bridging the Gap Program was born in 2013, when I saw an uptick in community concerns about low-level contacts between youth and officers escalating into arrests — and sometimes further youth entanglement in the criminal justice system. These contacts were often propelled by misunderstanding: many youth were familiar with their rights but not their responsibilities when in contact with law enforcement, while officers often expected adult reactions from youth, despite their cognitive immaturity. In partnership with Denver’s Department of Safety, the Denver Police Department, community service organizations, local attorneys and judges, and other partners, we developed the Bridging the Gap Program. The program trains youth on their rights and responsibilities when in contact with law enforcement. It also provides evidence-based training to officers on adolescent development and de-escalation techniques when contacting youth. Trained youth and officers then participate in day-long forums in which they share their personal experiences of prior police/youth contacts, discuss their perceptions during those encounters, and collaborate to develop guidelines for future contacts.
To date, the program has trained 1131 youths and 267 police officers, and we have hosted 26 forums with kids and cops from neighborhoods across Denver. Faculty from the University of Colorado’s School of Public Affairs are currently conducting a grant-funded evaluation of the program’s impacts, and the preliminary data are very promising. Participation in the program markedly improves youth perceptions of and willingness to trust police officers, and it empowers them to more successfully interact with officers. Anecdotally, officers also report increased confidence in their ability to manage their interactions with youth.
As Independent Monitor, my role is to enhance the Denver Police Department’s compliance and internal accountability mechanisms. As a lawyer, I believe that one of my responsibilities is working to enhance our system of justice. Contacts with the police often represent young people’s first (or only) interaction with our legal system. By improving those contacts and increasing trust in the police, it is my hope that the Bridging the Gap Program will also enhance trust in our legal system in general. I am very grateful to the dedicated staff of the Office of the Independent Monitor and the Denver Police Department who work tirelessly each and every day to make the program a success. D