There are no Republican lawyers in the Colorado House of Representatives for the first time in at least a half century. House Minority Leader Joe Stengel has graduated from the University of Denver law school but if he took the Supreme Court bar exam, the results won't be known until April 29, a week before the session ends.
Lawyers, bless their hearts, once ruled the legislature, not as lobbyists, but as lawyers. I was sworn in as a legislator forty years ago, one of thirty attorneys. There were 12 of us out of 35 in the Senate, and 18 out of 65 in the House.
At the opening of the General Assembly in January, 2005, only 14 legislators were attorneys. Two others, both Democrats, are still in law school, and Rep. Stengel may become a lawyer at the start of May.
Of the 14 in 2005, only three were Republicans, all in the Senate: John Evans, Doug Lamborn, and Shawn Mitchell. The most glaring difference between 1965 and 2005 is on the Republican side. They have gone from 12 lawyer members to three.
In 1965, the House Judiciary Committee had 13 members, and the Senate had eleven members. Of of the 24 in 1965, 19 were attorneys and eight of the 19 were Republicans.
IN 2005, there are 11 members of House Judiciary Committee and seven on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Of the 18 Judiciary Committee members, only seven are attorneys, and only one is a Republican.
What does that mean in terms of debate in committees and during extended debate on the House and Senate floor? Well, it means you had better make up in quality what you once had in quantity. No matter what type of practice, lawyers do learn how bills become laws, and how one law affects a dozen other laws.
There are subtleties in definitions, even in where comas and semi-colons are placed. You don't have to be a lawyer to be a legislator, but when you face hundreds of bills, it sure helps.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)
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