The following projects are not actively seeking new volunteers. However, if you’re interested in joining one of these efforts, please contact us.
- Children’s Task Force
- Computer Benefits Management System (CBMS)
- Education Task Force
- Food Stamps Task Force
- ID Task Force
- Immigration Task Force
- Medicaid Home and Community Based Services
- Mental Health Task Force
- Sixth Amendment Task Force
- Taylor Ranch Litigation
Children’s Task Force
This Task Force was created in 2003 to focus the efforts of Colorado Lawyers Committee volunteers on issues relating to children, one of two populations that are the primary focus of Lawyers Committee efforts. The Task Force examines issues relating to treatment of Colorado’s children to determine if there are legal problems that would benefit from the involvement of the Colorado Lawyers Committee. Recently, the Task Force has focused on the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing’s (HCPF) termination of Medicaid benefits to children with autism who previously qualified for the Home and Community Based Services waiver. There are 15 volunteers on this Task Force who donated more than 375 hours to this matter in 2011. The Task Force is co-chaired by David Stark (Faegre Baker Daniels LLP) and Jennifer Hunt (Hill & Robbins, P.C.).
Computer Benefits Management System (CBMS)
Since August 2004, the CBMS Task Force has been involved in litigation with the State regarding the new public benefits computer system that has resulted in serious and life-threatening problems for individuals whose applications for benefits were not being properly or timely processed. In December 2004, the Court ordered the State to meaningfully reduce the backlog of benefits applications, substantially correct the notice problems, establish an 800-number for people in emergency situations, and handle these emergency matters within 5 business days. During 2010, the reports submitted by the State suggested they were significantly out of compliance with the original settlement agreement and Federal law. As a result, the Task Force opened negotiations with both the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) in an effort to modify and extend the existing settlement agreement. Late in 2010, the Task Force reached an agreement with DHS to extend the settlement agreement relating to food stamps. On October 8, 2010, members of the Task Force filed a motion for contempt, enforcement and modification of the settlement agreement against HCPF relating to Medicaid and other health care benefits. In early 2011, the Task Force reached an agreement with HCPF which modified and extended the settlement agreement. The new agreement was approved by the Court on April 25, 2011. During 2011, Task Force volunteers donated approximately 100 hours to Task Force work. The team continues to monitor the State’s progress and compliance with the settlements. Jay Sturhahn (Sherman & Howard L.L.C.) leads this Task Force. Top
Education Task Force
The Colorado Lawyers Committee has a long history of working to improve educational opportunities for children in Colorado. Task Force volunteers closely monitor developments in Colorado’s state budget crisis to assure adequate funding for Colorado’s schools. The Task Force is also examining educational issues to determine if legal solutions might improve education for Colorado’s children. Anyone interested in K-12 education is invited to participate. Craig Stewart (Holland & Hart LLP) and Kenzo Kawanabe (Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP) co-chair this Task Force.
Since 2009, members of the Education Task Force have focused on two issues: (1) DPS. A coalition of lawyers and community leaders was formed to assure transparency in the closure and restructuring of Denver Public School facilities. This Subcommittee is dedicated to the success of DPS and the highest educational achievement of its students. In 2011, 15 volunteers donated approximately 475 hours to this Subcommittee. Anyone interested in participating should contact the co-chairs, John Tatlock (The Harris Law Firm P.C.) and Dan Sweetser (The Sweetser Law Firm, P.C.) (2) School Finance. A second group of lawyers volunteered to assist with Lobato v. State of Colorado, a case which challenges Colorado’s school financing system to provide a ’thorough and uniform’ system of public education, as mandated by the State constitution. In 2011, more than 70 volunteers from 12 different law firms assisted in the case, which included a successful 5-week trial in Denver District Court; the team donated approximately 14,000 hours to assist in discovery, depositions, trial preparation and trial. The State appealed the decision and the Lobato team filed a response, along with several amici briefs on both sides of the matter. A hearing at the Colorado Supreme Court has not been scheduled yet. Volunteers interested in participating in the next phase of this case should contact the co-chairs of this effort, Kenzo Kawanabe (Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP) and Kathy Gebhardt (Kathleen J. Gebhardt, L.L.C.). Top
Food Stamps Task Force
This Task Force was created in 2008 to examine the delay in processing Food Stamp applications in certain Colorado counties. At that time, individuals and families in certain counties were experiencing lengthy delays that far exceeded the federal regulation requiring a non-emergency application for food assistance be processed within 30 days of receipt, or 7 days in cases of emergencies. Due to these long delays, many people living in Colorado were struggling to feed themselves. The Task Force entered into negotiations with Denver County to improve the efficiency of its Food Stamps processing system. As a result, the County completely overhauled its procedures, improving its compliance rate with federally mandated timelines from 60% to over 90%. The Task Force continues to monitor Denver and other counties. During 2011, 11 volunteers donated approximately 100 hours. Blain Myhre (Blain Byhre LLC) chairs this Task Force. Top
ID Task Force
This Task Force was formed in 2006 to address systemic barriers facing homeless individuals in obtaining Colorado identification cards, without which they are unable to secure housing, employment and other services. In December 2006, Task Force volunteers obtained a court order granting their Motion for Preliminary Injunction and requiring the Colorado Department of Revenue to adopt regulations regarding the issuance of ID cards and to establish procedures to provide due process to individuals who are denied IDs. In 2008, in an effort to gather experience about the regulations and to determine if systemic issues remain, the Task Force agreed to identify 25 lawyers who could represent individuals and assist them in obtaining ID’s. During 2009 and 2010, 32 volunteers donated an estimated 2,000 hours and represented 28 individuals; it took an average of 60 attorney hours and 7.8 months to obtain a single ID. In 2010, Task Force members also aided in the passage of SB 6 which permits felons to change their names under certain circumstances, making it possible for them to obtain IDs. Recently, the Task Force joined efforts with the Election Task Force to examine a proposal that would require individuals to present a government-issued ID to vote. It was determined that such a proposal would disenfranchise significant numbers of voters, including the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and those Native Americans whose sole form of identification is a Tribal ID. The Task Force presented these issues at a meeting with the Secretary of State Scott Gessler in early 2012. It continues to monitor proposals that require a State-issued ID and is exploring strategies the resolve ongoing systemic barriers. During 2011, 19 volunteers donated an estimated 140 hours to Task Force projects. To participate, please contact the chair of the Task Force, T.A. Taylor-Hunt (Law Offices of T.A. Taylor-Hunt). Top
Immigration Task Force
The Colorado Lawyers Committee actively supports the efforts of the Immigrant Resource Center (IRC), a nonprofit organization in the San Luis Valley. IRC provides information and assistance to the local population, which includes more than 40,000 permanent residents and 10,000 migrant and seasonal workers. Many live below the poverty level. Its in a geographic area that is almost 50% Hispanic and includes more than 500 Canjaoba’l Indians. This Task Force oversees the services provided by IRC, trains its staff (non-attorneys) and provides referrals to pro bono attorneys. In 2011, eight volunteers donated approximately 75 hours. Jocelyn Campanaro (Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.) and Atim Otii (Otii Law Firm, L.L.C.) co-chair this Task Force. Top
Medicaid Home and Community Based Services
This Task Force was formed in 2011 to address issues related to improper reductions or terminations in Medicaid benefits for individuals with disabilities participating in the Home and Community Based Services-Supported Living Services waiver program. Since its creation, the Task Force has explored legal challenges to the State’s actions as well as met with State representatives to resolve the matter. As a result, several state agencies promulgated new regulations; a new advisory committee also was established to handle any lingering problems. The Task Force continues to monitor the matter. In 2011, 17 volunteers donated approximately 275 hours to the Task Force. Cole Wist (Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.) is the Chair. Top
Mental Health Task Force
This Task Force examines significant issues that relate to the delivery of mental health services for children and the underprivileged in Colorado and explores ways to increase access to such services. Anyone interested in mental health issues is invited to participate. Iris Eytan (Reilly Pozner LLP) and Jessica Yates (Snell & Wilmer L.L.P.) are the Co-Chairs of this Task Force.
Recently, the Task Force has focused on two matters: (1) Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP). A subcommittee of volunteers is working to assure that mentally ill individuals who reside in or are leaving community corrections (halfway houses, etc.) have access to urgent medical care through the CICP. There are 6 volunteers on this Task Force. In 2011, they donated more than 250 hours to this Task Force. It is co-chaired by Bobbee Musgrave (Bryan Cave HRO) and Jessica Yates (Snell & Wilmer L.L.P.). (2) Jail Wait Litigation. In 2011, a second group of volunteers filed Center for Legal Advocacy v. Bicha, which challenged the failure of the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo to provide timely competency evaluations and treatment for mentally ill individuals in jail. Prior to the lawsuit, those individuals charged with a crime and awaiting competency evaluations were forced to wait in jail for periods of time that often exceeded the possible sentences for the crimes. The case settled in April 2012, resulting in a landmark agreement that requires the State to evaluate or begin medical treatment of any person who is presumptively incompetent within 28 days of receiving a court order to do so. This agreement will be phased into every Colorado county over a 15-month time period; to date, the State is in full compliance with it. In 2011, 15 volunteers donated more than 1,000 hours to this litigation. Iris Eytan (Reilly Pozner LLP) is the Chair of this effort. Top
Sixth Amendment Task Force
This Task Force was formed at the end of 2009 to address the constitutionality of a Colorado statute that requires individuals charged with a misdemeanor to meet with the prosecutor before counsel can be appointed for them. In early 2010, the Task Force sent a demand letter to the Governor, which resulted in discussions that failed to resolve the matter. As a result, on December 2, 2010, the Task Force filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court, on behalf of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, alleging that the statute violates the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Since then, two Motions to Dismiss have been filed by the State, one for failure to name necessary defendants, the other for lack of standing. After a hearing in July 2011, Judge Kane dismissed the complaint but not the action. A Second Amended Complaint was filed in early 2012, including Jane Doe and John Doe allegations from unnamed Colorado state public defenders. The Task Force continues to litigate this effort. It has 26 volunteers from 6 different law firms, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In 2011, Task Force volunteers donated more than 1000 hours. Scott Llewellyn (Morrison & Foerster LLP) and Laurence (Trip) DeMuth, III (Faegre Baker Daniels LLP) are the Co-Chairs. Top
Taylor Ranch Litigation
The dispute about access to a 77,500 acre mountainous parcel originated with promises made in the mid-1800′s that Mexican settlers on the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant would have access to the mountainous regions near their homes for uses necessary for their survival. In 1960, Jack Taylor purchased and began to fence off land which had been used for grazing, timber, and wood gathering for more than 100 years, causing enormous disruption to the economic and social fabric of the local communities.
The Colorado Lawyers Committee became involved in 1996 and has seen the case through federal court review, two trials, and both appeals. In an historic opinion, the Colorado Supreme Court, in 2003, upheld the rights of plaintiff property owners (whose heirs and predecessors settled the land grant when it was still part of Mexico) in and around San Luis, Colorado to exercise traditional use rights to graze livestock and collect wood and timber on the property known as “La Sierra” or the Taylor Ranch. The Colorado Supreme Court remanded the case to the Costilla County District Court to identify the current landowners who are entitled to access the property based on the test established by the Supreme Court. The District Court determined that certain property owners were not entitled to these rights because their predecessors in title were allegedly served in one of two 1960 quiet title actions. In 2004, the Court began an identification process to identify the current owners of land entitled to access La Sierra. To date, the district court has examined title to over 6,300 parcels of land and found that all but approximately 300 parcels are entitled to access La Sierra. In 2009, more than 300 individuals provided notice that they intended to use La Sierra for either grazing or to gather timber or firewood. The Task Force continues to work to ensure the right of access to the Taylor Ranch by plaintiff class members. In 2011, the highlight of these efforts was the Torcido Creek Road litigation, a case spearheaded by Larry Treece and a team of volunteers from Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, and Schreck, LLP involving the placement of boulders and digging of trenches to block a road leading to the Taylor Ranch. The result was a swift negotiated settlement that restored access to the Taylor Ranch via Torcido Creek Road.
A number of attorneys have been actively involved in this litigation. During 2011, more than 51 lawyers, paralegals and secretaries worked on this case. It is estimated that they donated over 2,100 hours. For more information, contact the Task Force Co-Chairs, Jerome DeHerrera (Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP) and Antonio Gallegos (Holland & Hart LLP). Top