ACCESS TO JUSTICE
BY LOREN FAYE
The Colorado Lawyers Committee (CLC), a nonpartisan consortium of 80 Colorado law firms, recently celebrated 40 years of pro bono legal advocacy for children and the underserved. Formed in 1978, the CLC unites lawyers from all-sized firms to collaborate on major public policies and systemic issues. At any given time, the nonprofit has about 25 active projects in the areas of poverty and public benefits, civil rights and criminal Law, children’s rights and education, community development, and immigration. Over the past four decades, the CLC and more than 10,000 volunteers have served more than 44,000 community members, and have been at the core of some of the state’s most significant cases.
One of only seven other similar organizations in the country, the CLC does its work through task forces, where attorneys from different firms, with different levels of experience and expertise, work together. If the project is politically sensitive, every effort is made to ensure a bipartisan approach. This model of collaboration allows lawyers to be active on cases when they are available, and less active when they can’t be. Additionally, newer lawyers gain hands-on experience working side-by-side with more experienced attorneys.
“Oftentimes, it can be challenging to be able to dedicate the time and resources to large pro bono cases,” says CLC Board Chair Peter Schwartz (Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP). “When the CLC takes on an issue, attorneys from several firms, and various practices and industries, come together to problem solve, which gives a broader range of opportunities for lawyers to donate their time and expertise in a significant way.”
Some of the CLC’s significant recent accomplishments are highlighted below.
Protecting the Rights of Individuals with Mental Illness (Jail Wait Litigation)
For more than 10 years, volunteers have worked to ensure that mentally ill individuals in jails receive competency evaluations and treatment within a reasonable amount of time. The current litigation (Center for Legal Advocacy v. Bicha) resulted in a 2016 settlement that requires the State to evaluate individuals held in the county jail for competency within 24 or 28 days and, if...