Barrister's Best 2018

by Law Week

Each year, Law Week publishes its annual Barrister’s Best list with input from our readers to help track down the most prominent, highest performing and well established lawyers across dozens of practice areas. Below, you’ll find the “People’s Choice,” built off of reader votes, and our “Barrister’s Choice,” selected by Law Week with input from readers as well as our editorial staff.

Best State Supreme Court judge
People’s Choice: Justice Richard Gabriel
Justice Gabriel is one of the state Supreme Court’s more vocal justices, but remains even-keeled and thoughtful in his questioning. This time last year, he was still the newest Supreme Court justice, having been appointed in 2015. But he’s not the new judge on the block anymore with Justices Melissa Hart and Carlos Samour joining the bench. 

Barrister’s Choice: Justice Nathan Coats
Justice Coats has a new job title for his business card: Chief Justice. It’s a crowning achievement for someone who applied 12 times before getting his black robes, so we’d say it’s a good thing he didn’t give up after application number 11.

Best Court of Appeals Judge
People’s Choice: Judge Alan Loeb
This recognition is a cap on Chief Judge Loeb’s time on the Court of Appeals, since he’ll retire in December after 15 years on the bench. Loeb sat on the three-judge panel that heard Craig and Mullins v. Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2015, but is squirrelly about singling out his most important rulings as a judge. He’s told Law Week in the past that every case is “just as important as the next one.”

Barrister’s Choice: Judge Ted Tow
Judge Tow is a relative newcomer to the Court of Appeals, having been appointed in December 2017. Before his appointment to Colorado’s second-highest court, he worked in nearly every facet of the legal profession: civil and criminal litigation as a private attorney, as a prosecutor and as a trial judge in the 17th Judicial District.

Best State Trial Judge
People’s Choice: Diego Hunt, 1st Judicial District
Judge Hunt spent more than a decade with Holland & Hart before joining the 1st Judicial District bench in 2016. He has remained active in the Latinx community, such as with the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado and the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association. In 2015, Hunt received the CHBA’s Chris Miranda Award.

Barrister’s Choice: Morris Hoffman, 2nd Judicial District
Judge Hoffman has gained a reputation for his colorful writings since he joined the 2nd Judicial District bench in 1990. One of his memorable orders came last November when he awarded attorneys’ fees to the Castle Law Group in a lawsuit brought by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Hoffman didn’t mince words when he called the suit  “substantially groundless and substantially frivolous.”

Best Arbitrator
People’s Choice: Sandy Brook, Judicial Arbiter Group
Former Judge Brook joined JAG in 2004, but he has roots far beyond Colorado. He spent 12 years as a trial judge in South Bend, Indiana, and four on the state’s Court of Appeals. Brook has also taught trial advocacy internationally in Canada, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Thailand and China with the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.

Barrister’s Choice: David Tenner, Ridley McGreevy & Winocur
Tenner is a regular on our list in the arbitration category. His experience as a trial attorney, arbitrator and court-appointed special master have convinced his peers of his worthiness as People’s Choice, and now they’ve persuaded us as well. 

Best Mediator
People’s Choice: Steve Mains, Mains Mediation
With over 2,000 cases in his pocket, Mains’ mediation expertise isn’t limited to one area. The cases he’s overseen range almost literally from A to Z, from ADA disability to wrongful death.

Barrister’s Choice: Robbie Barr, Barr ADR
Barr is another adept mediator whose skill set comes from time on both sides of the bench. She has a complex civil litigation background in private practice, and became a judge on Miami-Dade County’s Circuit Court in 1991. Barr has also been a mainstay on the Super Lawyers list since 2015, and is on the faculty for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.

Best Overall Litigator
People’s Choice: Michael Hearn, Hearn & Fleener
Hearn has been a heavyweight in construction defect litigation for more than 30 years in both Colorado and California. He previously earned Barrister’s Best honors as people’s choice for plaintiffs’ construction defects lawyer in 2016 for obtaining a $6 million jury verdict for his client Vallagio North Association.

Barrister’s Choice: Jim Kilroy, Snell & Wilmer
Kilroy is a regular on the Best Lawyers and Colorado’s Top 100 Super Lawyers lists for his commercial and labor and employment litigation. One major verdict on his résumé is a $41.6 million award in Nevada for a client then-called Pacific Coast Steel, now known as Gerdau Reinforcing Steel.

Best Commercial Litigator
People’s Choice: John McDermott, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
Back when we interviewed him as one of our 2017 Top Litigators, McDermott said his main priority in trying his securities cases is to own the courtroom — both with case facts and demeanor. The legal community seems to get that impression from him, voting him as a People’s Choice again for a litigation category.

Barrister’s Choice: Jim Lyons, Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie
Jim Lyons’ clients run the gamut from municipalities to corporations to school districts. He also has experience as an arbitrator and court-appointed mediator, and with such a rounded portfolio of clients and perspectives, it’s no wonder he’s Barrister’s Choice for commercial litigation.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the October 8, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.