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July 19, 2023

Water rights, artificial intelligence, wildfire resiliency among highlights at American Bar Association meeting Aug. 3-8 in Denver

CHICAGO, July 19, 2023 — Battle for water rights on the Colorado River, guardrails for AI usage and wildfire resiliency for western U.S. states are chief among issues of local relevance that will be explored at the 2023 American Bar Association Annual Meeting Aug. 3-8 in Denver.

Noteworthy speakers at this premier gathering of legal professionals include: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (Aug. 7, time: TBD a.m.); Native American Rights Fund Executive Director John Echohawk (Aug. 6, 7 p.m.) honored for career achievements; Colorado Attorney General Philip Weiser (Aug. 4, noon), luncheon keynote speaker; Colorado Solicitor General Emeritus Eric Olsen (Aug. 5, 9 a.m.) on 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis; Assistant Attorney General Kurt Morrison of Denver (Aug. 5, 9 a.m.) on city gun control; Colorado District Court Judge Adam Espinoza (Aug. 3, 1 p.m.) on legal misconduct; Casey Family Programs Senior Director Sheldon Spotted Elk (Aug. 4, 9 a.m.) on the legacy of Indigenous boarding schools; and high-profile trial judges Clifton Newman of South Carolina v. Richard Alexander Murdaugh and Eric Davis of Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News (Aug. 3, 10 a.m.) (All times are Mountain Daylight Time.)

In addition, the 597-member ABA House of Delegates — the association’s policymaking body — will meet at 9 a.m. on Aug. 7-8 at the Colorado Convention Center (Mile High Rooms 1-3). For details on the proposals for debate and vote during the two-day session, click here

For reporter access, contact Media Relations and Strategic Communications at [email protected] with proof of credentials. Access code for online registration will follow ABA approval.

Programs of note include:

Thursday, Aug. 3

“The Art of Handling Key Complexities in High Profile Cases” Two of the nation’s top state trial judges — South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman of South Carolina v. Richard Alexander Murdaugh and Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis of Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News Network share personal experiences of those trials, including managing security, media and the jury, and the emotional tolls on them, their staff and families.

10-11:15 a.m., Hyatt Regency Denver, Mineral Hall D/E

Responding to Judicial and Lawyer Misconduct Top jurists — including Colorado District Court Judge Adam Espinosa, Nevada Supreme Court Justice Linda Bell and Executive Director Marla Greenstein of the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct — explore the ethical obligation to report misdeeds by judges and attorneys, discussing when reporting is required, as well as the tools for managing observed misconduct.

1-2:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency Denver, Mineral Hall B/C


Water Rights and Water Wars Stakeholders describe the water rights of citizens, the relevant policies of state and local governments that guide distribution and the conflicts that arise among jurisdictions, especially those concerning the Colorado River.

2:30-3:30 p.m., Colorado Convention Center, 502

Friday, Aug. 4


From Cradleboard to Shallow Grave: Boarding Schools, ICWA, and Missing & Murdered Indigenous Persons Tribal leaders describe the devastation from the historic U.S. policies and programs forced upon Indigenous persons by the U.S. government between the mid-17th to early-20th centuries and share what is being done to assist those impacted by the trauma, which has been significantly underreported, under-investigated and whose perpetrators have largely gone unpunished.

9-10:30 a.m., Colorado Convention Center, 201/203

Wildfire Resiliency Stakeholders spotlight concerns about wildfires in the western United States and advocate for solutions that create more resilient buildings, protect citizens and policy-driven legislation on wildfire resiliency.

9:15-10:15 a.m., Colorado Convention Center, 502

Extending Justice 3: They Don’t Look Like Extremists or Terrorists Pete Simi of Chapman University will offer insight on his study of more than 400 federal criminal indictments related to terrorism and the growing threat of extremism on elected officials and those in law enforcement, heath care and education. Editors of “Extending Justice: Strategies to Increase Inclusion and Reduce Bias” will join Simi to propose ways to prepare for and combat the violence.

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Grand Hyatt Denver, Mt. Columbia Room

Reception: Colorado Attorney General” – Colorado Attorney General Philip J. Weiser keynotes ABA’s Jefferson B. Fordham Awards to honor the accomplishments of practitioners and institutions active in state and local government law. U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke will also provide remarks.

Noon-1:30 p.m., Maggiano’s Little Italy, 500 16th St.

Autism Awareness: How Courts Can Improve Access to Justice for a Vulnerable and Neuro-Diverse Population A multidimensional look into the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder in the court system will delve into the many issues that legal professionals typically encounter with those clients, such as adverse mental behavior, bullying, poverty, parental substance misuse, domestic violence and child abuse, as well as introduce innovative state initiatives that ensure the legal rights of citizens with the neurological disability.

2-3:30 p.m., Colorado Convention Center, 201/203

The Ethics of Simultaneous Representation: Navigating Pool Counsel Waters Seasoned practitioners, including Denver Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Surratt, explore the growing trend of pool counsel — in which one lawyer represents multiple witnesses in the same investigation — and offer the ethical pitfalls to mind as well as what can happen if such representation is challenged in court.

2-3:30 p.m., Grand Hyatt Denver, Mt. Columbia Room

Annual Survey of Supreme Court Decisions -- Criminal Cases — Colorado legal experts examine the hottest cases that came before the high court during the current term. Constitutional cases, evidentiary issues and habeas cases will be addressed. 

4-5:30 p.m., Grand Hyatt Denver, Mt. Columbia Room, 3rd Floor

Saturday, Aug. 5

Gun Safety Policy in 2023: Where Does it Stand and Where is it Going? Community leaders — including Assistant Attorney General Kurt Morrison of Denver, Assistant District Attorney Amber Goodwin of Austin, Texas and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul — will offer viable solutions to keep our communities safe from gun violence, covering possible mitigating measures, such as safer gun storage and broader “red flag” laws.

9-10:30 a.m ., Colorado Convention Center, 502

Bar-b-q, Wedding Cakes and Websites: The First Amendment vs. Anti-Discrimination Laws— Civil rights advocates — including Solicitor General Emeritus Eric Olson of the Colorado Attorney General Office, Chief Legal Officer Jenny Pizer of Lambda Legal and Legal Director Sunu Chandy of National Women's Law Center — will discuss the implications of the Supreme Court case of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, in which a Colorado-based website designer asserts that the state’s anti-discrimination law violates her religious liberty and free speech rights by mandating service to LGBTQ+ clients. How does the court's decision impact free-speech rights in commercial settings and the enforceability of public accommodation nondiscrimination laws?

9-10:30 a.m., Colorado Convention Center, 201/203

The AI Trap: The Missing Guardrails for Lawyers Technology experts in law will explore the ethical landmines as well as the professional risks and responsibilities of embracing artificial intelligence. What must lawyers know to protect themselves, their firms, their clients and the wider public from negative outcomes?

10:30 a.m.-noon Colorado Convention Center, 205-207

“Is There a Penalty? Parenthood and Child Caregiving and Its Impact on Gender Equality in the Legal Profession” Researchers release the findings of their new national study on the impact of caregiver bias on legal professionals. Beyond sharing insights on the data, researchers will offer evidence-based solutions for creating more equitable workplaces for attorneys.

2-3:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom B

General Assembly: Fred Gray The ABA’s highest honor, the ABA Medal, will be presented to civil rights leader Fred Gray, assembly keynote speaker.

4:30-6 p.m., Colorado Convention Center, Mile High 1-3

Award Reception: John E. Echohawk Native American Rights Fund Executive Director John E. Echohawk, a member of the Pawnee Indian tribe, will be recognized for 50 years at the helm of the nonprofit advocacy organization based in Boulder, Colorado.

7:30-10 p.m., Hyatt Regency Denver, Capitol Ballroom

NOTE: ABA Annual Meeting programming is available to news reporters according to the ABA Open Meeting policy. Media credentials include free access to fee-based association events, including the award receptions. For general assistance regarding the Annual Meeting, contact [email protected] or 202-662-1090. Stay up to date on conference developments at the Annual Meeting 2023 Reporter Resources webpage.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.