LAW WEEK COLORADO
Polsinelli Shareholder Richard Murray was recently reappointed to the Access to Justice Commission by Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia, having already served two three-year terms.
Murray said he continues to be inspired to promote access to justice in the civil justice system, just like when he was initially nominated to the commission. Through his leadership efforts with the Denver Bar Association and other bar organizations working to advance pro bono legal services and legal aid duties six years ago, he remains dedicated to serving.
“I thought it was a phenomenal opportunity to continue to give back to the state of Colorado and to promote equal justice under the law, and allow folks to have the ability to fairly and equitably get their disputes resolved in our court system,” Murray said.
In his upcoming term, Murray, who is presently serving as secretary to the commission, is confident new rule changes and cost-saving benefits, which were advocated by the commission, will improve access to the civil justice system by Coloradans. Enacted by the Colorado Supreme Court, the rules allow attorneys to provide services in an unbundled method to people who are in need of legal aid.
Murray’s reappointment to the 20-member board provided him the opportunity to highlight some of the group’s achievements, while looking forward at the goals ahead.
“My time on the commission has gone by quickly. I’m excited for the work that’s being done, especially the changes in technology and delivery of remote legal services,” Murray said. “I feel there’s a strong improvement over the past several years in Colorado with the resources we have available, not only in providing guidance from the commission level but also internally.
The ATJC hired its first executive director, Elisa Overall, also known as “Emo,” who has done a tremendous job in strategic planning, according to Murray. Working collectively with Overall, the commission administers and implements policy initiatives that expand access and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for all persons, Murray said.
Civil legal matters affect all aspects of daily life, such as housing, divorce, child custody, consumer rights, health care, insurance, debt collection, employment, government benefits, domestic violence, personal injury and more.
Life’s daily justice issues existed before Covid, but the pandemic has increased awareness of the problems for people trying to take part in a very complicated legal system, said Murray.
“Rule changes, technology and obviously the course of Covid has changed some of the access issues because of the access to physical courthouses, and access to one-on-one meetings with attorneys as well,” Murray said.
The organization’s role is to create solutions for those who lack the information, tools and services necessary to resolve their civil legal problems fairly, quickly and economically, said Murray.
“About 50% of all civil litigants in the state don’t have an attorney. And that’s particularly true in domestic cases where 75% or more of parties don’t have a lawyer,” Murray said.
Commissioners are appointed by representative organizations committed to the integrity and accessibility of the civil justice system, including the Colorado Governor’s Office, Colorado Attorney General’s Office, Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado Senate, Colorado House of Representatives, Colorado Bar Association and Colorado Legal Services.
“Our state ranks really low for funding of civil legal aid per capita, which is a fraction of the national average,” Murray said..
One of the biggest issues confronting the ATJC in the new year will be obtaining additional funds from a wide range of sources for legal aid programs, Murray added. “Equal justice under law is the cornerstone of the founding of our country.”
A commissioner is limited to serving a maximum of three terms or nine years. Following the completion of his final appointment, Murray will receive the commissioner emeritus role and plans to remain involved in expanding access to civil justice issues through committee participation.
Murray’s practice focuses on commercial and business disputes, and he has successfully defended against multi-million dollar claims at both the trial court and appellate court levels. He also assists with cases involving health care, real estate and construction litigation issues.
Murray, a graduate of the University of Colorado Law School, was a 2020 recipient of the Richard Marden Davis award presented by the Denver Bar Foundation, Davis Graham & Stubbs and the Davis family. The honor recognized him as an attorney under the age of 40 who “combines excellence as a lawyer with creative civic, cultural, educational, and charitable leadership” and exemplifies “the character and promise of Richard Marden Davis at that stage in his career.”
“My involvement on the commission makes me a better attorney, a better officer of the court and gives me an avenue to continue to give back to our community by way of my profession. It also allows me the opportunity to assist with taking on pro bono matters as well,” Murray said, adding that his time on the commission has made him a more well-rounded attorney.