It is with deep appreciation that I accept the honor of serving as President of CTLA for the 2014-2015 year. As we begin this year, I want to share with you why CTLA is important to me and why I believe in CTLA’s mission. At 1,200 members, CTLA is one of the smaller professional organizations in the State of Colorado. However, what we do has an outsized impact for good on the lives of our clients and fellow citizens. As trial lawyers, we are often the only advocates standing in-between our clients and those individuals and companies who would exploit, bully and intimidate and try to avoid accountability for careless behavior or outright misconduct.
Our Public Perception. Trial lawyers may be more disliked than any time in modern history. Many members of the American public actively dislike us or, at least, are indifferent to what we do. People dislike us or are indifferent until they or their loved ones are injured, their property destroyed, or their rights violated, and then they very much care about what we do. Many members of the American public don’t know our history. They don’t know how we have forced manufacturers to make safer products. The public doesn’t know how we have forced changes in the practice of medicine to reduce unnecessary medical errors. The public doesn’t know the role that we have played in protecting small businesses by challenging fraud, self-dealing and unfair trade practices. The public doesn’t know about our role in protecting their legal and constitutional rights. What we in CTLA do is critical to the rule of law, to our society’s sense of justice for all and, indeed, critical to the smooth functioning of our economy.
Our Public Needs Us. Ironically, the American people probably need us more now than in any time since the civil rights movement. However, whether the public likes us or dislikes us is irrelevant to our mission. We are not moved by polls, like some of our brothers and sisters in politics. Rather, we are moved by justice and the rule of law. We understand that in our striving to uphold the rule of law, we will not always be popular; popularity is not our reward. Our professional and moral archetype is Atticus Finch, a fictional trial lawyer who valued justice and the rule of law so much that he was willing to do the right thing, despite the great cost to himself and his family. It is on the shoulders of great trial lawyers inspired by Atticus Finch that we fulfill CTLA’s mission.
Tip of the Spear. Trial lawyers are the Tip of the Spear of those who advocate for the rights of ordinary Americans and small businesses. Most of our clients are hardworking people trying to do the right thing by their families and their communities. They want to support their families, educate their children and save for retirement, and live the American Dream. All too often, our clients’ hopes, dreams and plans are interrupted by the negligence or, even, predatory behavior of wrongdoers who break the law or the rules of their professions, but who don’t want to be held accountable for the human misery and financial losses caused by their actions. We are soldiers in a war to hold those wrongdoers accountable.
Our members include trial lawyers like Beth Klein and Carrie Frank, who work to bring justice to victims of human trafficking, like Frank Azar and Joe Mellon, who forced one of the largest employers in America to pay its employees for the work those employees actually performed, and like Mari Newman and her partners, who represent among the most despised people in the world, the detainees at Guantánamo Bay. Most of us are not handling such glamorous or exotic cases. Rather, most of us are handling the unglamorous, routine cases, but cases that for our clients are the most important cases in the world.
Being the Tip of the Spear has its costs – not only costs that each of us bear personally in terms of stress and demands on our time, but costs borne by our families, colleagues and staff. None of us do this work alone. To be the Tip of the Spear, we must have an army of families and staff behind us who support what we do. We need this support so that we can do this wonderful work that we have been called to do. I know that I could not do my job, or serve as your president, without the love and support of my wife and children, the guidance of my parents, or the loyalty and hard work of those lawyers and staff with whom I work every day.
Our Mission. As we face those powerful interests who wish to bar ordinary citizens from the courtroom, who want to engage in careless or predatory behavior with no accountability, and want to grasp power for the privileged few, we will not retreat. We will not surrender. We will continue to fight in the courtrooms across this great state. We will continue to fight the efforts of the powerful who wish to use legislation to bar our clients from the courtroom. We will continue to fight for the rights of consumers to buy safe, high-quality products. We will continue to advocate for small businesses so that they can compete effectively against the behemoths that rule our economy. We will continue to be the Tip of the Spear in our advocacy for ordinary Americans. Our reward will be the good that we do.