Denver Bar Association
December 1999
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Civil Law Topics Make the News

by Karen Bries


by: Karen Bries

Tune in to Laitos on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Channel 9. His stories give the public a more educated look at the law.

If you are up at 10 o’clock, and want to watch something law-related, there’s a show that deals with criminal and civil matters.

In the past 10 months, Channel 9’s late news broadcast has devoted a segment to civil law, with topics thought up by Jan Laitos, D.U. College of Law Professor.

Laitos thinks up ideas and does interviews for Channel 9’s "@ Issue."

The segment appears most Tuesday nights. Laitos, an unpaid legal consultant for Channel 9, is glad to give the public information about issues that affect them.

"I used to not watch local news. I was a huge critic, because I thought they reported only easy-to-cover stories relating to the law," he says.

@ Issue, Laitos says, gives the viewers legal information to learn and live by.

Laitos became a cherished media source when President Clinton was on trial for impeachment. Laitos was legal counsel to the Ford/Nixon Administration in the Justice Department at the White House. He had to answer many different questions concerning Watergate.

Because of his experience, the news stations were fighting over him, but he liked Channel 9’s newscasts the most and joined them.

Channel 9 then asked him to stay as legal consultant.

"When the Clinton thing was finished, we wanted to see if there were enough stories with law-related dimensions to them," Laitos cotinues.

And as we all know, there are more than enough. Laitos has had 40 @ Issue pieces on-air since February 1999.

Since working in television news, he’s learned to appreciate the fast pace of the newsroom.

"[Working with Channel 9] is the closest I’ve come to working in a White House situation since I’ve left Washington," Laitos says.

He says he has to get his point across to the News Director in about 30 seconds, because she’s taking phone calls, watching other newscasts and typing memos at the same time.

"It’s also a challenge to tell a legal story in two and a half minutes on television," Laitos says.

His favorite story so far is the one questioning if there are too many lawyers in Colorado.

Laitos asks, "Did you know we rank fourth in the U.S. for the most lawyers per capita?"

During that program, Laitos justified the numbers by saying it’s good to have training in the law, despite your occupation.

Hubert Farbes (Denver Bar Association President) took the side that our society always needs lawyers and Jim Chalat said there are too many.

Since @ Issue began airing, he has received both positive and negative feedback.

One show was about Colorado ranchers who brought a law suit challenging the federal government’s changes to rules about how ranchers may use public lands.

"Because of the changes," Laitos says, "ranchers are going belly up."

After this program, Channel 9 got a few calls from viewers, some saying the story was unbalanced.

"At least it’s piquing the public’s interest to get educated about the law," Laitos says.

In addition to his time at Channel 9, Jan Laitos has taught for 25 years at the University of Denver College of Law, where he was voted Teacher of the Year last year. He has also authored many books about natural resources and environmental law.

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