Open Letter to so Many Friends, Supporters, Co-Workers and Others that Helped Me Keep Gideon’s Promise
In June of 1981, a young kid loaded up everything he owned in the back of a 1972 Buick Skylark and embarked on the journey that would define him as a person. When I drove from Cincinnati to Denver that June, I was 25 years old, full of piss and vinegar; wonderment and fear; but mostly pride that I had been hired by Mr. Gregory Walta to be a lawyer. A lawyer. What a grand and humbling profession. But not just any lawyer, a lawyer in the best Public Defender System in the Country. I thought I knew everything; yet I knew little about representing human beings in the throes of some of their worst times. Always poor; often addicted; many times with a mental health condition, but all with a desperate need for their lawyer to help. Some were difficult, some were appreciative, some were non-responsive and some had not bathed in a while, but all, every one of them, deserved my best, and I tried to give it every day.
I have spent almost 37 years practicing law. Over 30 of those years as a proud member of the Office of the State Public Defender; over 20 of those years defending what society flippantly calls the worst of the worst-capital defendants; 17 years in the wonderful community of Pueblo, as a line-lawyer or office head; and last, but not least, almost 12 years as the State Public Defender, leading the most compassionate, hard-working and amazing people I have ever met.
For that career, I have so many to thank and as I write this, I gratefully do so. When I was appointed to lead the system in 2006, I made three commitments. The first was to end capital punishment in Colorado. It has not happened, but we continue to stop the death machine whenever we can through the amazing work of so many. I also said we would decrease caseloads and increase resources. While many of you were not around in 2006, I am proud that we have been able to address some of the workload and resource issues by adding 455 new employees and 58 million dollars in those 12 legislative sessions. For that we owe a lot to dedicated people at the state office, especially Karen Porter, who has always been at my side helping to ensure that you received the resources that you and your clients needed.
Not only did we impact system resources, we also participated in and helped develop legislative policies that impacted our clients. From Rothgery to bail reform to juvenile social workers to redirecting those with mental health conditions from the jails and the criminal court system, we have been at the forefront of significant policy changes.
I am not going to thank everyone that deserves it as I will surely miss someone that made me a better person, attorney and State Public Defender. I will thank those folks that I can privately over the next few months. Some are no longer with us; some are retired; some are still fighting the fight-but please remember wherever you are, I could not have done this without you, your support and counsel.
So Fellow Fighters for and Defenders of Human and Constitutional Rights, I write this letter to let you know that I have informed the Colorado Public Defender Commission that I am retiring effective June 30, 2018.
Thank you for everything. I will miss you and I will miss our clients. I loved this job and you as well.