Denver Bar Association
September 2011
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Stop and Touch the Eagle

by Joseph A. Murr

Murr poses at the top of the City and County Building with the eagle.
Murr poses at the top of the City and County Building with the eagle.

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ften in our busy, stressful days, we forget the sage old advice to stop and smell the roses. I am embarrassed to confess that I had been practicing law in Denver for more than 20 years before I noticed there was an eagle on top of the Denver courthouse—also known as the City and County Building. In my defense, when headed to the courthouse, I am usually extremely focused. Focused is a nice way of saying stressed. When we attorneys are extremely stressed, we are not as likely to notice all the small details around us, such as an eagle on top of a clock tower on top of a courthouse. A non-stressed tourist would be much more likely to stop and carefully admire all the details of the beautiful Denver buildings and landscape than a focused attorney headed to court.

Sometimes, the "little" things like finding the correct judge in the correct courtroom can add to the stress. The court system in the City and County Building has always been progressive, and by progressive, I mean the system often gets "reshuffled" to obtain more efficiency. Cases get moved to different courtrooms and the judges periodically get rotated. The end result is the additional stress of not knowing exactly where you are going while rushing to join a client for a court appearance. Suspicious clients get concerned when their seasoned attorney starts explaining why he is reading the hallway maps. The bottom line is that notwithstanding the pleasant demeanor of the judges, the Denver City and County Courthouse creates more stress than most courthouses.

Additionally, the normal stress level caused by needing to win every court encounter obviously is high; however, these are only two of my excuses for not noticing the eagle. How do I explain more than 20 years of not seeing it as I’m leaving the courthouse? Presumably at that time my client is happy (usually) and I am happy and the stress has departed. My only explanation is a wrong direction observation. By this, I mean that I don’t usually turn around and admire the courthouse while walking away.

Nevertheless, imagine my excitement when I belatedly learned from a client who was restoring the City and County Building about the beautiful eagle on the top of the clock tower. The eagle has adorned the building since it was completed in 1932. My excitement increased when an OSHA/legal issue inspection presented an opportunity for me to climb the scaffolding and personally observe the eagle. After donning the proper gear and accomplishing a very scary climb to the top, I succeeded. The views were incredible and the eagle was indeed magnificent to behold. My personal thanks to my adventurous client (who obviously climbs mountains as a pastime) who hung out on the side (literally) of the scaffolding to get a picture of me with my law firm office window in the background (obviously preapproved OSHA equipment testing). This picture, the climb to the top, and touching the eagle indeed provided a peak day in the practice of law.

The act of touching the eagle had numerous benefits. The first was the obvious physical achievement of climbing approximately 14 (felt like 100) flights of temporary stairs and ladders. This required ignoring the queasy feelings of altitude, fear, and exposure, as well as the necessity of not embarrassing myself in front of a fearless client. Additionally, there was the psychological joy of touching the eagle while all my favorite judges were so far beneath me, working diligently away, presumably writing those favorable orders granting my motions. Take a moment and consider my thoughts at the time: I was literally "high" and thrilled, and it felt as though I had achieved an entire courthouse (not just one courtroom) victory. I wanted to go back down the ladders slowly and ask my favorite judges whether they had ever touched the eagle. For those judges and attorneys who are picking up the phone to call me and beg to touch the eagle, please don’t. We must avoid the appearance of impropriety and unauthorized OSHA risk.

Seriously, each of us should take every opportunity to stop and smell the roses. This may include touching an eagle when the opportunity arises. Denver is so full of beautiful buildings, parks, and amenities, but we often overlook them while going about our busy day-to-day activities. Slow down. Enjoy Denver. Smell the roses and touch the eagles. D


Joseph A. Murr has practiced law in Colorado since 1984, with an emphasis in real estate, commercial litigation, business transactions, and lender collection/bankruptcy law. Since 1992, he has been the President of Bloom Murr & Accomazzo, P.C.


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