Jean Dubofsky on Public Policy Groups that Matter

dubofsky.jpgJean Dubofsky knows supreme courts. She became the first female justice on the Colorado Supreme Court in 1979, and, as an appellate lawyer, was lead counsel for the plaintiffs in overturning the Amendment 2 case (Romer v. Evans) before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996. In the latest issue of Colorado Super Lawyers & Rising Stars magazine, in a Q&A entitled "Lone Ranger," we talk with Ms. Dubofsky about her extensive career, the difficulty of being a judge, and how much longer she'll practice law.

What follows is the first of two blog-exclusive excerpts from that interview.

You're a member of a lot of bar associations and legal organizations. Is there one that's been particularly helpful or useful to you?
I've really been unhappy with myself sometimes. I've never been very involved in bar association activities. I belong. But I've never really been involved. Mostly because of time. I've been on boards of other organizations, and some of them I've been more involved in than others.

Such as?
There are a couple of public policy groups in Denver--one called the Bell Policy Center, of which I was one of the founding members. It was designed to develop policies that were more progressive for state legislators and local government in the state. They're still doing it.

Through what means?
They do an annual report, and then they work on a lot of legislation and draft a lot of legislation. They did the payday lending restrictions here last year in the legislature. They've worked very hard in trying to get more financing for community colleges, for example, and scholarships for schools where low and middle income people are more likely to go. And they've worked on health care reform.

The other group is the Center on Law and Policy, and it was an outgrowth of the legal services work that I had done before the legislature--taking clients to the legislature and trying to get bills passed. We put together a national organization that did that--California and Colorado were the two leading states that did the legislative effort--[but] when Congress said that Legal Services could not do cases involving abortion and other topics that were politically controversial, it also said Legal Services programs could not be involved in lobbying legislatures or administrative agencies. And the administrative agency part of it was really important for Legal Services, because most of what poor people get comes through state agencies--whether it's food stamps or health care or welfare payments.

So this organization as a nonprofit started doing that. Over the years they've become better and better at it. Now they get quite a bit of foundation support.

TOMORROW: Advice to young lawyers....