Denver Bar Association
December 2006
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Vote No 40 Recap

by Paul Chan

When Amendment 40 was certified for the November ballot this summer, initial surveys showed it was extremely popular, with 69 percent of potential voters in favor of the measure and only 24

DBA President Paul Chan speaks at the DBA YLD "Vote No 40" event.

percent opposed. Clearly, something dramatic needed to be done if we were to protect Colorado courts.

Thankfully, the coalition to defeat Amendment 40 came together quickly and effectively. The uniformity with which Coloradans spoke out against the measure was almost unprecedented. It was lawyers, however, who took up the issue on their shoulders and carried most of burden to keep Amendment 40 out of the constitution. Leaders from our profession organized the opposition and led the Vote No 40 charge.

It took about $1.3 million to keep this measure out of the Colorado constitution. The Denver Bar Association donated $100,000 to fight the initiative, the second largest contribution after the Colorado Bar Association’s $500,000. Law firms, individual lawyers, CBA Sections and specialty bar associations collectively contributed another $600,000.

Just as important, lawyers across the state turned their advocacy skills to spread the message of "Bad idea. Serious consequences." Some of us debated the proponents on television, radio and at public forums. Others distributed yard signs, circulated flyers, waved placards on street corners and wore Vote No 40 stickers. We wrote letters and guest editorials for newspapers. We found friends in business, government, education, law enforcement and labor to join us in opposing the measure. We talked to anyone who would give us a few moments to listen to our message.

By Nov. 7, 33 of the state’s newspapers, large and small, had recommended a "no" vote on 40. The list of those opposing the measure grew to include Gov. Owens and all of Colorado’s living former governors, attorney general John Suthers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, children’s victim and advocacy groups and both candidates for the Governor’s office.

When the dust had settled and the votes were counted, the people of Colorado rejected the measure, 57 to 43 percent. With 370 of 421 precincts reporting, Denver voters opposed the measure 62 to 38 percent.

Sen. Ken Salazar spoke with Steve Adams, president of Colorado AFL/CIO; and John Lay, president and CEO of Southeast Business Partnership at the Oct. 21 Vote No 40 Press Conference.

I don’t think I ever have been more proud to be an attorney as I was during the campaign against Amendment 40. Given my office, many people have thanked me for working on defeating the measure, but my efforts were minor compared to the real leaders of the Vote No 40 coalition. Those leaders who gave tirelessly of their time and energy included: John Moye, who chaired the coalition steering committee; Dale Harris and Stacy Carpenter, who led the fundraising for the campaign, and Hal Haddon, Jim Lyons, Tom Romer, Mike Smith, Bill Walters and Marla Williams who were instrumental in fundraising; Gale Miller, who oversaw the communications efforts; Jim Witwer, Roger Clark and Randy Starr, who spearheaded the outreach committee; Pete Willis and the members of the Colorado Judicial Institute, who lead the coalition-building subcommittee; and Bob Miller, who tirelessly debated John Andrews in TV and radio appearances.

Ridder/Braden, Inc. was our political consulting group; and Ellen Brilliant led as campaign director, along with the campaign staff: Chad Repko, Amy Redfern, Ray Merenstein, and Stacy Chesney, whom the bar association "loaned" for communications.

Each of these friends deserves our heartiest congratulations and sincerest thanks for a job well done. Their efforts were truly above and beyond the call of duty. But all of you also were instrumental in defeating Amendment 40. If you spoke out even once against Amendment 40; if you displayed a sign in your yard; spoke to your neighbors or your book club or the parents standing next to you at the soccer game; if you urged a "no" vote from a coworker or from family or from a friend, you were crucial in the Bar’s efforts to get rid of this bad idea. Thank you for your efforts to protect Colorado courts.

The Vote No 40 victory party was held on Nov. 7. Pictured left to right, Michael Valdez, Chad Repko, Ellen Brilliant, Stacy Chesney and Dana Collier Smith.

Last spring, when we heard about the possibility of judicial term limits appearing on the ballot, many of us shared the same reaction: "This is a joke, right?" We assumed that everyone understood the importance of the three independent branches of government. We believed that the marble and granite used in our judicial buildings symbolized a strength and permanence essential to our courts. We took it for granted that our founding fathers got it right when it came to the Constitution.

In a state like ours where citizen’s initiatives are common and numerous, even the foundations of our system of government can be imperiled on a vindictive whim. The experts tell us that anyone with $200,000 to $300,000 for petition-gathers can get an amendment before Colorado voters, and we suspect that there is plenty of out-of-state special interest money to fund measures of this type. Sadly, even though Amendment 40 suffered a convincing defeat, John Andrews already has stated that he’ll be back with a similar measure in 2008.

Consequently, we can afford ourselves the luxury of celebrating a well-deserved victory over Amendment 40 for another week or two — but that’s about all. The Bar’s responsibilities are far from over. We need to be proactive and diligent, starting now, in our efforts to educate the public on the strengths and the virtues of our judicial system. Together we can and will find a way to reach out to citizens across our state.

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