Official Magazine of the Denver Bar Association

Well Done: A Roast of Tom DeMarino


Veteran attorney and administrative law judge Tom DeMarino was roasted by the DBA Seniors Committee on October 7 during a dinner at the University Club. Mistress of Ceremonies Mary Jo Gross was in charge of keeping the speakers moving and the egos in check, functions she performed admirably.

DeMarino, a former DBA president known for his enthusiastic attitude, love of the law and booming voice, was pilloried by three colleagues before an audience of the glitterati of the Colorado legal community. Judges, past judges, judge wannabees, attorneys and assorted admirers of all ages gathered for what was billed as a blood-letting, but which turned out to be a love fest.



The first out of the chute was roaster Bob Kapelke, a retired Colorado Court of Appeals judge who has known DeMarino since the ‘60s. Kapelke began by blaming his faulty memory for the fact that he had prepared roasts of Dan Marino and Tom Martino before realizing at the dinner that it was actually Tom DeMarino to whom his barbs were to be directed.

Kapelke then related a story in which he and his wife were in a hotel lobby in Osaka, Japan, when they heard DeMarino’s distinctive laugh, later discovering that DeMarino was still two continents away.

One of Kapelke’s first memories of DeMarino was one evening when they were standing in line to see a movie on Larimer Square, and DeMarino began to climb a sheer brick wall, using only his fingers to find purchase points to pull him upward. Kapelke was astounded, and DeMarino explained to him that the happiest he had ever been was climbing an overhanging cliff face in a rainstorm—at night.

Attorney Tom Kanan, who had been in private practice with DeMarino, was the next up. Kanan had actually done research on DeMarino’s background and produced poster-sized photos of him on his college football team. Kanan had contacted some of DeMarino’s old classmates and teammates, and revealed that his nickname in college was “Zorro.” Kanan suggested that DeMarino’s love of jumping out of airplanes as an Army Ranger in Korea could be explained by the fact that during DeMarino’s college football years, helmets were optional.


DeMarino was a founding member of the Denver Barbarians Rugby Team, and Kanan recounted how he loved getting bloodied during a weekend scrum (or whatever they call it). Yet, as a litigator, DeMarino never employed Rambo tactics and has always been known as the consummate gentleman.

In honor of the occasion, Kanan offered an original poem extolling DeMarino, which was moving and unforgettable (inexplicably, this reporter is unable to recall it now).

Rounding out the roasters was Craig Eley, who works as a judge along with DeMarino. Eley explained that DeMarino doesn’t speak—he declaims. Thus, it was no surprise to learn that DeMarino had been a two-time Pennsylvania high school speech champion. DeMarino’s pièce de résistance in speech competition was his delivery by memory of Patrick Henry’s most famous speech. When asked by Eley if he still remembered the speech, DeMarino jumped to his feet, reached into the 60-year-old recesses of his memory, and shouted only “give me liberty or give me death!” The crowd was appreciative but underwhelmed.

DeMarino had graduated from both Dickinson College and Dickinson School of Law, which Eley disclosed was named for John Dickinson, the only member of the Continental Congress who refused to sign the Declaration of Independence. Eley surmised that, but for DeMarino’s urgent need to join the Army, he might well have sought a master’s degree at the Benedict Arnold School of Public Policy.

Although DeMarino has been a decades-long member of the Law Club of Denver, and has appeared in many shows and revues, Eley enumerated that DeMarino had never had a starring role, never sung a solo, never wrote a song, never wrote a skit, never danced and never played an instrument. Invoking Linus’ comment about Charlie Brown, Eley remarked “Sometimes I marvel at Tom’s consistency.”

DeMarino’s crowning achievement as lawyer has nothing to do with arguments, trials or appeals. Instead, his enduring legacy is the Barrister’s Benefit Ball. He came up with the idea 27 years ago and pushed hard to make it a reality. It has become the social event of the year in the legal world (sometimes referred to as the “Lawyers’ Prom”). Over the last 27 years, the Barrister’s Benefit Ball has raised approximately $2,562,500 for Metro Volunteer Lawyers.


DeMarino was given time for rebuttal, and in his usual self-effacing manner, he related how he had changed bad-faith insurance law in Colorado—by losing an important appeal. But it was clear that DeMarino had not lost his appeal with the assembled crowd, as he was given a standing ovation for his life-long achievements and his living example of what a lawyer should be.


By Craig Eley, a former Docket Chair and former DBA President, Eley works as an administrative law judge.

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