Denver Bar Association
April 2011
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Colorado Lawyers to Fix Judicial Complex Budget Shortfall

by Marshall Snider

 Ralph F. Carr Judicial Complex Construction


n an effort to compensate for an unexpected revenue shortage, every licensed Colorado attorney will be required to contribute 10 hours of physical labor toward the construction of the new Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Complex. The judicial complex, which will house the Colorado Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Supreme Court Library, and Attorney General and judicial department offices, is being financed by bonds and repaid by court fees. However, state auditors recently discovered that these revenue sources will not be sufficient to cover the nearly $300 million cost of the new judicial center.

Attorneys will be assigned duties at the judicial complex site based on their knowledge, skills, and experience in the construction industry.”

The Colorado Supreme Court announced that to reduce construction costs, every licensed Colorado lawyer will be required to contribute 10 hours of skilled or manual labor to the project over the next 12 months. These 10 hours of mandatory CLE (Counselors’ Labor Exchange) will be in addition to the already existing 15 annual hours of the other CLE, Continuing Legal Education.

Attorneys will be assigned duties at the judicial complex site based on their knowledge, skills, and experience in the construction industry. For example, those lawyers with experience as ironworkers will be able to put their skills to use in that arena, while attorneys with less proficiency in construction trades may be assigned more menial jobs, such as toting bricks, swinging hammers, or sweeping up on the construction site. Lawyers with significant experience operating heavy construction equipment will be particularly valued.

Given that there are nearly 35,000 licensed attorneys in Colorado, the auditors have calculated that this mandatory work requirement will provide enough free labor to cover any financing deficit for the complex. With Colorado attorneys rolling up their sleeves in this manner, the project is expected to be completed on time and within budget.

According to a spokesperson for the Colorado Bar Association, another anticipated benefit of this program will be to increase the physical fitness of attorney–laborers, thus lowering health care costs and health insurance premiums under bar-sponsored insurance programs. The Obama administration also is rumored to be keeping an eye on this initiative; if health care costs can be decreased as a result of work on the judicial complex, a similar mandatory labor program may be considered for the country as a whole. At press time, The Docket was unable to obtain a response to this proposal from congressional Republicans that could be printed in a family-friendly publication.

Attorneys who do not have the physical ability to contribute manual labor will be able to work in the construction office, provided that they bring a note from their doctor. Taking a page from the Civil War handbook, the Colorado Supreme Court also announced that any attorney can buy an exemption from this construction draft for $5,000. D

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