Diversity at Denver Law

Diversity Updates

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April 5, 2019

The Pipeline Starts Early: Fifth Graders Visit Denver Law

On April 5, 2019, eleven fifth-grade students and their teachers from Stedman Elementary School (Denver Public Schools) visited the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. They attended Professor Catherine Smith's Torts class and asked questions during class. Allana Forté, Associate Vice Chancellor and Director of Admission at University of Denver, Kiah Ellis, a 2L law student, and Yvonne Cherena-Pacheco, Associate Director of Admissions at Denver Law spoke with the students.

April 5, 2019

April 4, 2019

April 1, 2019

February 27, 2019

Patty Powell discusses diversity and inclusion in the Denver and Colorado Bar on 9News

Patty Powell, Denver County Court Judge Gary Jackson and retired Denver County Court Judge Dianne Briscoe spoke about the experience of African Americans in the Denver and Colorado Bar on 9News. See the news segment here. We salute Patty Powell for the inclusion programming she brings to Denver Law.

February 26, 2019

February 19, 2019

Shriver Center seeks attorney to fill a new position

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law is hiring for a new position -- an attorney who will expand the Shriver Center's teaching and training for lawyers across the country working on economic and racial justice. The Shriver Center's core teaching areas are racial justice, community lawyering, affirmative advocacy, and leadership development.

February 13, 2019

February 10, 2019

Denver Law's Lexi Freeman is nominated for the 2019 Inclusiveness@Work Award

The Center for Legal Inclusiveness,dedicated to advancing diversity in the legal profession, has nominated Denver Law's Lexi Freeman, Associate Professor of the Practice and Director of Externships and Public Interest Initiatives, for its 2019 Inclusiveness@Work Award. The winner will be announced at CLI's "The Ball for All," held March 2, 2019. Good luck, Lexi!

February 8, 2019

Marbre Stahly-Butts, Executive Director of Law for Black Lives, speaks at Denver Law Tuesday, February 26

January 16, 2018

Kiah Ellis, BLSA President, to speak at MLK Day Marade Monday January 21

Monday, January 21, 2019 is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day in Denver and throughout the U.S. Denver celebrates with the “Marade.” Marchers meet at City Park. A pre-Marade program begins there at 9:30 a.m. Among featured speakers is Kiah Ellis (pictured below), Denver Law 2L and President of Denver Law’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA). Marade marchers depart City Park at 10:45 a.m. and walk 25 blocks along Colfax Avenue, arriving at Civic Center Park.

BLSA welcomes the Denver Law community to join the festivities.

For a bus ride to City Park, meet in the Forum at 8:15 a.m. Monday morning, January 21.

Or meet the group at City Park—at 9:15 you will find the DU Law group just south of the MLK monument in the Park.


November 9-10, 2018

November 6, 2018

"Being inclusive is healthy, for individuals and for organizations" -- Patty Powell

October 30, 2018

Rocky Mountain Collective on Race, Place, and Law (RPL) Calls for Recommitment to Civil Dialogue and Shared Values of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

            A message was sent to hundreds of members of the University of Denver community recently. The message was homophobic, racist, and misogynist and was designed to terrorize some of DU’s most vulnerable and marginalized communities.  It was a message also rooted in inflammatory rhetoric, like many such messages and speeches in the United States today, meant to mock, disregard, and divide us as a community and a nation about the importance of inclusion, diversity, and equity in our society.  We know such messages also have consequences and have led to violence, murder and terror in our nation.  Last week’s murder of two African Americans at a Kroger grocery store, the pipe bomb scare and the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue are merely the latest examples.  We condemn such messages and urge the University community to engage in respectful dialogue, even around the most divisive issues we may confront.
            Our nation is deeply divided over many issues. It is therefore more important than ever that universities fulfill their traditional role as venues in which respectful dialogue over our toughest and seemingly intractable challenges can be conducted. In order to have a productive dialogue, it is imperative that all be respected.  The interchange of ideas, and the resulting debate, cannot be productive if one’s sexual orientation, race, gender or other identities are maliciously attacked. Such speech does not fall within the protection of the concept of academic freedom.
            The courts have long recognized this fundamental principle. As with all other rights, the right to free speech is appropriately limited in very specific circumstances. The theoretical justification for free speech is that such speech will benefit society by producing a robust debate so that all can determine their views on the issue at hand. Hate-filled messages like the one sent out recently do not assist the public debate; they only harm members of our community.  We are in solidarity with those who were harmed by this most recent message. We encourage all members of the University community to recommit to civil dialogue and our shared values of diversity, inclusion, and equity.
On behalf of the staff and faculty of The Rocky Mountain Collective on Race, Place, and Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

October 9, 2018

October 5, 2018

Findings above are from a report issued by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.

October 2, 2018



September 28, 2018

Metro State Day at Denver Law

Friday, September 28 was Metro State Day at Denver Law. Thirty-four undergraduate students from Metro State attended a lecture by Denver Law professor Ian Farrel (above). Catherine Smith, Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Inclusiveness spoke with the students. They toured the building and learned about applying to law school from Admissions Counselor Noah Koester. At lunch, they sat and talked with Denver Law students, including Metro State graduates attending Denver Law.

September 27, 2018

September 21, 2018


Twenty-six KIPP students, from KIPP Collegiate High School and KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, spent a half-day at Denver Law on Friday, September 21, 2018. Law students led tours of the building for the students. Then they heard from Professor Beto Juárez (below, left), Associate Dean Catherine Smith, DU Associate Vice Chancellor and Director of Admission Allana Forté (below, right), and Denver Law Associate Director of Admissions Yvonne Cherena-Pacheco. The KIPP students attended a Torts class taught by Professor César García Hernández. Finally, they lunched with Denver Law students and professors in the Forum. KIPP counselors Lisa Gibbs and Hassan Casanova accompanied the KIPP students.

September 19, 2018

Colorado Diversity Scholarships provide support while studying for the bar exam

The Center for Legal Inclusiveness offers diversity scholarships to help students preparing for the Colorado Bar Exam. Deadline to apply is September 30. Info here. Find the application here.

September 12, 2018


Twenty high school rising juniors, diverse students from far and wide in Colorado, attended a Summer Law Camp at Denver Law, June 24 to 30, 2018. Journey to JD – J2JD – was designed and engineered by Karen Hester, Chief Executive Office of the Center for Legal Inclusiveness and Nora Passamaneck, of Wilmer Hale. Denver Law's Diversity Office recruited academic and other personnel, coordinated classroom space and provided financial support for this initiative.

J2JD kept the twenty high school students busy. They spent mornings in class with Denver Law professor Rebecca Aviel. Afternoons they took field trips to locales around Denver – the Colorado State Supreme Court and the Colorado State Legislature, Five Points, Sakura Square, Union Station and more. Evenings the students exercised at the DU Fitness Center and socialized in the Nagel Hall dormitory.

The purpose of J2JD, said Karen Hester, is to increase diversity in the legal profession. “If we can get young people who are interested in the law and show them what they can do and that they can do it, and they see people who are similar to them, they realize that it’s not impossible to do, then we are that much closer to our goal of having a much more diverse profession.”

Professor Aviel, who spent every morning teaching the students and the afternoons traveling about town with them, stressed the value to the students of looking forward and charting a future. “Being intentional about your educational path and your career trajectory,” she said, “is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.”

The DU Marketing and Communications Department produced an outstanding J2JD video. Watch it here.

Read more about J2JD here.


September 7, 2018

Learn Your Rights in Colorado

LYRIC is Learn Your Rights in Colorado. LYRIC’s mission is to teach youth about their Constitutional rights. LYRIC trains practicing attorneys and law students, then sends them to meet with youths – in school classrooms, foster homes, community centers and youth detention facilities.  In 2017-18, LYRIC volunteers spoke with 67 groups. On Friday, September 7, 2018, LYRIC conducted its training for the 2018-19 school year at Denver Law. Professor Ian Farrell (pictured above), a LYRIC Board Member, spoke at the training session. Interested in joining LYRIC? Information here.

July 24, 2018


"Law school can be intense, and it might feel lonely sometimes, but we are never alone."

By Yasmin Perez Ortiz

Colorado Women's College graduate and Vermont Law School student


There is no doubt that DU Women’s College gave me the tools I needed to succeed in law school.  My first year in law school was like a never-ending roller-coaster trip.  I am a rising 2L at Vermont Law School where I am pursuing a career in environmental law.  One of the skills that I developed at DU Women’s College and that I have found useful is critical thinking.  In law school, we learn how the law works and how to apply it but it takes critical thinking to question what has been established.  Moving from Puerto Rico to Colorado, I learned to question the values, the moral, and the worldview of the people around me.  I learned that questioning is a way of understanding that allows you to have effective communication with those who do not agree with you.  At times, it is expected of us to accept something as “the truth.”  But as Justice Sotomayor stated in her Trump v. Hawaii dissent: “Deference is different from unquestioning acceptance.”  However, to be successful with these inquiries it is imperative to be respectful.  It is only by respecting our peers' opinions that we can have constructive arguments promoting change.  Moreover, showing respect to those with a different point of views means that they will respect you as well.

On September 2017, hurricane María hit Puerto Rico.  I had no communication with my family, I felt alone, stressed out, and did not know if I was going to be able to finish my first semester.  The experience showed me that little actions like acknowledging my peers, listening to them, and being respectful, contributed to developing a community of people that were there for me when I needed it the most. Without expecting it, in law school I found a new family.  It was this sense of community that moved me to give back.  Today, I served as Chair of the Latino Law Student Association in Vermont Law School, I am a Student Ambassador, and I am proud to say that I was elected to be a Staff Editor at the Vermont Environmental Journal of Law.  Lastly, I have the honor to be a part of the Sonia and Celina Sotomayor Internship Program during the Summer of 2018.

Law school can be intense, and it might feel lonely sometimes, but we are never alone.  If you made it to law school it means that there was a battery of people pushing you to be better, to become a version of yourself that you could never imagine.  Often, I have the impostor’s syndrome and I wonder how I made it here.  English is not my first language, I have experienced financial hardship, and my family is far from me.  But the things that make me feel insecure about myself are also what motivates me to work harder.  Growing up, I looked up to women in power but most of them did not look like me.  Yesterday, I looked up to the eyes of Justice Sonia Sotomayor and thanked her for her kind words during the internship’s reception and for once again, making me feel like I was not alone.  Yesterday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor told me “You are not alone mija.” I couldn't have a better way to finish my first year!    

April 25, 2018

Speaking out in Denver about the Muslim travel ban case

President Trump’s travel ban, issued shortly after he took office, faced legal challenges from the start. Yesterday (4/24), the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the matter, as the Justices review “whether President Trump’s travel ban is a necessary step to protect the country from terrorism or an illegal and unconstitutional fulfillment of campaign promises to ban Muslim immigrants.” (See Washington Post article here) The case is heard on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, where a three-judge panel had disallowed the ban from taking effect. In a similar case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, that court also struck down the ban. Last December, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the ban prior to consideration whether to let it stand or not.

Early this morning a small group of demonstrators took up position outside the Tenth Circuit U.S. Appeals Court building in downtown Denver, members standing behind banners and holding signs that urged the Court to strike down the ban, which bars travelers from six Muslim countries (Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad and Somalia) and North Korea and Venezuela. 

Access a recording of the oral arguments here.

Expect a final ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

April 12, 2018

Denver Law Professor Annecoos Wiersema visits International Law class at Metro State University

On Thursday, April 12, 2018 Denver Law Professor Annecoos Wiersema was a guest lecturer at Metro State University. Professor Wiersema met with students from Metro Professor Amy Eckert's International Law class, speaking about response to Syria, especially the use of force as outlined in doctrines of international law, in light of recent events there. A lively discussion ensued. Professor Eckert (third from the left above) is a Denver Law alumna. See below (November 3, 2017) for more news about Metro State University students.

April 4, 2018

Call for Papers: "The Trump Administration and the War on Diversity"

March 29, 2018

Promoting diversity in the legal profession: Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP establishes the Michael D. Nosler Scholarship

The Nosler Scholarship provides $10,000 toward law school tuition upon completion of a paid clerkship with Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie during the first semester of the recipient's second year of law school. Applications are due April 20, 2018. See details below:

November 26, 2017

Denver Law Prof César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández writes in NY Times Op-Ed that courthouse arrests by ICE "threaten the very operation of our judicial system"

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, associate professor at Denver Law, criticizes a tactic employed by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents - arresting undocumented immigrants at U.S. courthouses when they appear on matters unrelated to their immigration status, for example, domestic violence cases. In a New York Times Op-Ed piece, Professor García Hernández calls this "a deeply worrisome trend because arrests at courthouses don't just derail the lives of unsuspecting people who are detained, they threaten the very operation of our judicial system." He urges local and state officials to push back on this federal practice. "Fear and uncertainty caused by this type of courthouse arrest," he writes, "are already keeping people away from the halls of justice." See the full text of the article here. Professor García Hernández is the author of the Crimmigration Blog.

November 21, 2017

One reason Denver Law partners with Denver Urban Debate League: See these stats on college enrollment of high school debaters

The Denver Law/DUDL (Denver Urban Debate League) partnership creates the opportunity for hundreds of students from metro area high schools to develop their analytic and presentation skills while sparring with their peers over issues and questions that profoundly affect our world. DUDL's offices are in the law school, our building is home to two major tournaments each year, and DUDL's founders include Denver Law professor Roberto Corrada and Denver Law alum Rico Munn. We are proud of this connection, and we recognize the accomplishments of the high school debaters who participate in DUDL. For example, a recent news item posted on the NAUDL (National Association for Urban Debate Leagues) webpage states the finding that urban debaters are more likely than their non-debating peers to attend college. In Denver, 76% of urban debaters in the class of 2016 enrolled in college compared to 52% of graduating seniors from the same schools. And the same advantage holds in other cities where urban debate is sited. Want to get involved in urban debate? DUDL invites community members to become judges for its debate tournaments. Please email Diversity@law.du.edu if you are interested.



November 16, 2017

Catherine Smith participates in ABA webinar examining law school diversity initiatives

Catherine Smith, Denver Law associate dean for diversity and inclusion, took part in today's webinar entitled Best and Worst Practices in Law School Diversity Initiatives. Speakers:

  • Catherine Smith, Associate Dean of Institutional Diversity and Inclusiveness, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • Susan Kuo, Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion, University of South Carolina
  • Troy Riddle, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, The John Marshall Law School
  • Moderator: Daiquiri Steele, Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Assistant Professor of Law in Residence, The University of Alabama School of Law

Dean Smith addressed the importance of strategic partnerships Denver Law has formed with Denver Urban Debate League (DUDL) and with CampusPrep.org, a supplier of low-cost LSAT prep courses (at 38:00 in the webinar). She characterized diversity efforts as "a work in progress" (43:50) and described Denver Law pipeline programs that "level the playing field" for diverse students - middle school, high school and undergraduate - aiming to attend law school (56:00).

The webinar was presented and sponsored by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

November 13, 2017

Denver Law Professor Catherine Smith weighs in on the Rights and Interests of Children at issue in Masterpiece Cakeshop

In 2012, a Colorado cakemaker turned away a couple wishing to order a cake for their upcoming marriage. The couple was composed of two men. In the cakemaker's view, supplying a cake to celebrate a same sex marriage would violate his religious beliefs. The couple complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and that agency ordered the baker to fill the order, citing Colorado’s public accommodations law, which bars businesses selling to the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation. The cakemaker brought suit, claiming in the case Masterpiece Cakeshop LTD, et al v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that to compel him to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple unconstitutionally violates his free speech and free exercise rights. A Colorado court ruling sided with the couple. The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal, with oral arguments scheduled for December 5, 2017.

Denver Law professor Catherine Smith sees in this dispute another example how the children of LGBT people bear the brunt of exclusionary practices in the public marketplace because of social animus directed against their parents. She points out other examples: in Michigan, a pediatrician refused to treat an infant based solely on the fact that the child had lesbian mothers; in Kentucky, a judge refused to hear adoption cases of children involving LGBT adoptive-parents-to-be; in Tennessee, a nondenominational private school rejected enrollment for a pre-kindergartener and his 8-month-old sister after discovering that the children had two dads.

Professor Smith and four co-authors have submitted an amici curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, supporting the same sex couple and advocating for the rights and interests of children of LGBT parents. They argue “an expressive or religious exemption to sexual orientation discrimination prohibitions will deny children of LGBT parents equal access to the public sphere, inflict upon them psychological harm, and interfere with the integrity and closeness of their families — contrary to the aims of public accommodation and anti-discrimination law, and LGBT equality principles advanced in United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges.” See the full text of their amici brief here.

November 3, 2017

Thirty-five Metro State students visited Denver Law on Friday, November 3, 2017. They toured the building and met with Catherine Smith, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusiveness. Next, Professor Sam Kamin engaged the students in a discussion about death penalty jurisprudence. The students got a chance to ask questions about law school preparation and the application process. Nine Denver Law students, including five Metro State University grads, joined the students for lunch. Thanks to the students for attending and to faculty and staff at MSU for promoting this event. Special thanks to Professors Robert Hazan and Barbara Koehler at Metro for supporting this pipeline initiative. 

October 16, 2017

Friday November 3 is "Metro State Day at Denver Law"

September 28, 2017

High School Students Argue Moot Court Issues at Denver Law

On September 27, 2017, six teams composed of students from William Smith High School in Aurora argued cases bearing on constitutional law topics. They met in the William S. Hoffman Courtroom at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law before a judicial tribunal of Dave Davis and John Kearney, teachers at Wm. Smith H.S., and Denver Law's Randy Wagner. The students, 10th to 12th graders, are members of Kearney's 4-week all-day Constitutional Law class. They were well prepared and argued the cases in excellent fashion.

September 6, 2017

William Smith H.S. Students Visit Denver Law

Today 20 students from William Smith High School, 10th to 12th grade, visited Denver Law. Wm. Smith H.S. is an expeditionary learning school* in Aurora, CO. The students first met with Professor Tom Romero then attended a Torts class taught by Professor Catherine Smith. They shared lunch with law students Jessica Cordera and Gideon Irving and Associate Director of Admissions Yvonne Cherena-Pacheco. During a tour of the law building, the Wm. Smith students met law student Kiah Ellis. Teacher John Kearney and Assistant Principal Kristin Wiedmaier accompanied the group.



* "Dedicated to providing a diverse student body with outstanding academic and character education through engaging project-based work, the school enjoys a 90% graduation rate with alumni attending colleges and universities, technical schools, and the workforce. Projects integrate fieldwork, guest experts, and authentic audiences, bringing curriculum to life. Hands-on work reflects a workplace environment in order to prepare students for their future. Students develop products and presentations that demonstrate the knowledge and technical tools of professionals. At William Smith, students learn to create the lives they want to lead." (https://wshs.exloer.com/about)

September 6, 2017

DACA Resources at DU

In her statement addressed to the DU community, Chancellor Rebecca Chopp wrote:

The University of Denver continues to support DACA, along with over 600 other colleges and universities, and we hope that our national leaders will find a way to continue policies that allow these bright and dedicated students, faculty members and staff to thrive in the DU community and the country.

Click here for a full accounting of "DACA Resources at DU."

September 5, 2017

Denver Law Faculty and Staff Statement on DACA

September 5, 2017

To Our Students and Our Community:

As faculty and staff of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, we write to express our wholehearted disagreement with the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In tandem with other recent policies and programs designed to break up families, cause fear and panic in our communities, and directly harm those who have dared to dream that America would not turn its back on them, this decision is antithetical to our shared work of diversity and inclusion.

Like most institutions of higher learning, DREAMers and undocumented individuals are integral to our community at the University of Denver. DREAMers have graduated from our law school and university. Many have become leaders in their fields, including the Colorado bar. Many have worked selflessly to serve underserved communities throughout the state and the country. Whatever their paths, we cherish the DREAMers in our community. They inspire us with their commitment to our institution and contribute immeasurably to the diversity of views and experiences that are integral to our broader educational mission.

For this reason, we wish to reiterate our absolute, unequivocal, and unwavering support for our DREAMer and undocumented students. We will continue to support you regardless of what transpires in the coming weeks and months. DREAMers are an integral part of our community, and in our view the announcement today does not change that in the slightest.

We know that this is an anxious time for many of you. As always, we hope that you will seek us out if we can be of help to you, and that you will also take advantage of the other law school and university resources available to you.

With solidarity and respect:

Anne Aguirre     Ryan Allen     Rachel Arnow-Richman     Rebecca Aviel     Debra S. Austin     Tanya Bartholomew

Mohammed Bellifa     Eric Bono     Stacey Bowers     Diane Burkhardt     Stefanie M. Carroll     Alan Chen    

Yvonne Cherena-Pacheco     Roberto Corrada     Patience A. Crowder     Susan D. Daggett     Laura Dean

Catherine M. Dunn     K.K. DuVivier     Nancy Ehrenreich     Christopher Engle-Newman     Ian Farrell

Casey Faucon     Kalyani Fernando     Alexi Freeman     Samantha Galvin     César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández

Nicole B. Godfrey     Rashmi Goel     Felicia Ho     Jessica R. Hogan     Meghan Howes     Mark Hughes

Danielle C. Jefferis     Beto Juárez     Sam Kamin     Michael Kovaka     Margaret Kwoka     C.J. Larkin

Christopher N. Lasch     Nancy Leong     Justin Marceau     Patti Marks     Lucy Marsh

Kristian McDaniel-Miccio     John D. McKee     Amy B. McLellan     Lauri Mlinar     Viva Moffat

Rachel Moran     Suzanna Moran     Ved Nanda     Steve Pepper     May Piatek     Justin Pidot

Randolph A. Robinson II     Tom Romero     Laura Rovner     Tom Russell     Tanya Z. Salih

Laurie Saraceno     Colleen T. Scarola     Kari L. Shafenberg     Michael R. Siebecker     Catherine Smith

Don C. Smith     Michael D. Sousa     Erin H. Stearns     Judith C. Stein     Robin Walker Sterling

Kate Stoker     Celia Taylor     David I. C. Thomson     Ann S. Vessels     Randy Wagner     Lindsey Webb

Annecoos Wiersema     Amanda Williams     Jeanne Zokovitch

October 21, 2016

KIPP Students Visit Denver Law

On Friday October 21, 2016, eleven students from Denver Collegiate High School and Counselor Lisa Gibbs visited Denver Law. They sat in on a Criminal Law class for 1Ls taught by Professor Rashmi Goel. 3L Laura Lopez led a tour of the law school. They lunched on the patio outside the Forum, speaking there with Professor Beto Juárez. KIPP comprises 200 schools located in 20 states and serves 80,000 students. KIPP’s mission is to help “students from educationally underserved communities develop the knowledge, skills, character and habits needed to succeed in college and the competitive world beyond.” That’s great pipeline work! Read about the KIPP Through College Program here.

Sturm College of Law
University of Denver
2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208