Denver Bar Association
April 2009
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Law School Curriculum Might be Reduced to Two Years

by Craig Eley

The Colorado Supreme Court took public comments on April 1 on a proposal to reduce law school from a three-year to a two-year curriculum.

The move stems from an effort to be prepared for a projected shortage of lawyers. The shortfall is projected if voters pass the Personal Responsibility Initiative on the Colorado ballot in 2010.

The initiative, the wording of which has not yet been decided, would outlaw a number of common medical procedures that are deemed (at least by the initiative’s proponents) to be necessitated by a person’s volitional habits and practices.

According to one of the proponents, Em Balmer, she was inspired by the hoopla surrounding a Colorado state senator who voted against Senate Bill 09-179. That bill would require health care providers to offer a pregnant woman an HIV test.

The bill passed almost unanimously in the Colorado Senate. The only holdout was Sen. Dave Schultheis, a senator from Colorado Springs. "We do things constantly to try to remove the negative consequences of poor behavior, unacceptable behavior, quite frankly," said Schultheis. "This stems from sexual promiscuity."

What do Sen. Schultheis’ theories have to do with the Personal Responsibility Initiative? Everything, says Balmer.

For example, he said, poor eating habits and lack of exercise cause heart disease and adult-onset diabetes. Drinking too much alcohol causes liver disease, as does intravenous drug usage. Therefore, the initiative would ban heart and liver transplants, as well as heart bypass surgery, stent implantation and angioplasty. Treatment for all types of hepatitis would not be allowed, and insulin for Type II diabetes could not be prescribed.

Phil Graves, the Personal Responsibility Initiative’s public policy director, said that the initiative goes even further than just limiting treatment for diseases. Any injuries sustained by someone in an auto accident who was not wearing a seatbelt would not be treated, he said. It would be the same with head injuries of bicyclists who were not wearing helmets.


Of concern to the Bar, lawyers’ work
involves a lot of stress, and that translates
into heart conditions that may have to go
untreated if the initiative passes.


Graves disputed the e-mails he’s received, many of which have stated that it’s draconian to let injured people die unnecessarily or live with disabilities. "Look, we are only making the guilty, and no one else, live with the consequences of their decisions. This is way more lenient than Sen. Schultheis would be toward the offspring of HIV-positive mothers."

People eventually will look beyond their initial gut reactions to the initiative, he said. "First, just as the promiscuous mother envisioned by Sen. Schultheis will feel guilt when she contemplates her ill child, and perhaps reform her ways, so those who witness a relative die from coronary insufficiency brought on by not getting enough exercise may be motivated to get off the couch."

"And let’s not overlook the most important benefit to come from this initiative," Balmer declared. "Health insurance rates will plummet." Adopting the Personal Responsibility Initiative nationwide could help solve the impending bankruptcy of the Social Security system. Many with bad habits, immoral ways and risky behaviors would not live long enough to retire, he said.

Graves is optimistic about the initiative’s chances of passage, because Sen. Schultheis’ sentiments did not result in a rebuke from his party’s headquarters.

Of concern to the Bar, lawyers’ work involves a lot of stress, and that translates into heart conditions that may have to go untreated if the initiative passes. Fewer lawyers means less supply to meet the demand for legal services, thereby making it more expensive for consumers to afford to purchase those services. Reducing the time spent in law school will mean that a legal education would be less expensive, would attract more people to the profession, and would enable schools to crank out more lawyers in less time.

A final word from Phil Graves: "Although Sen. Schultheis is not part of our organization, he was and remains our inspiration, and our motto is proudly taken directly from a quote which appears at the bottom of his web page: ‘Tolerance is a virtue of a man without convictions.’ -- G. K. Chesterton"

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