Scott Bales, executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, announced earlier this month that he will step down from the position effective July 31. With his resignation, IAALS announced the beginning of a nationwide search for the next director.
Bales, a former chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, said he was honored to lead the organization over the past year, according to an IAALS press release. He noted that IAALS would benefit from having an executive director who lived in Denver, which is not an option for him due to family circumstances. Over the past year, Bales has been commuting to the IAALS office at the DU campus from his home in Arizona.
“Working with the tremendous team at IAALS to improve our legal system has been a wonderful experience,” Bales stated in the press release. “We have accomplished much together, and I look forward to continuing to support those efforts — and the next executive director — in new ways from Arizona.”
Sam Walker, chair of the IAALS Board of Advisors and Executive-in-Residence for Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, was appointed by the organization’s executive committee to serve as interim executive director. Walker said that he will not be a candidate for the position and will leave the position of interim executive director once a new director is found.
“We were very luck to recruit [Bales] to be our executive director last year,” Walker said. “He’s a wonderful and incredibly accomplished man.”
COVID-19 itself had highlighted the difficulty on Bales of commuting between Arizona and Colorado, Walker said. Once Bales had determined he would be unable to move to Colorado, it was decided that the time had come for a transition. Walker added that he supported Bales’s decision based on his family circumstances.
“I’m very excited about a nationwide search, in which we will reach creatively, especially into paths and avenues to find superb diverse candidates,” Walker said. He feels confident that the pool of candidates will be great.
At this time, there has been no formal decision on whether a search firm would be used in the search for a new director, and if so, which firm would be used, Walker said. He added he expected some possible direction in the within the next week.
Walker previously served as chief legal executive for Molson Coors Brewing Company and has been involved in many searches. The IAALS network involved many people, and Walker felt that if the network were engaged, there would be a possibility of development of candidates.
He said often in these situations, the candidate is found based on who the organization already knows. Search firms can be helpful in testing that thought, Walker said.
At the beginning of such searches, Walker noted that if a search firm is used, they must clearly understand what the assignment is. Those details would be decided by the IAALS Executive Committee working with DU.
He noted that Bales served as head of IAALS when launching initiatives “in a year of unprecedented challenges” such as the US Justice Needs survey, assessing the justice needs of people and businesses nationwide, and the Unlocking Legal Regulation project, aiming to promote access and innovation in legal service delivery.
“We have seen this in the righteous requirements of racial justice,” Walker said. He pointed to the Colorado legislature’s bipartisan work relative to the rights of those arrested. “That’s incredible, that’s evidence of the apparent inequities that we face in our society.”
Walker said that IAALS members, including Bales, are looking forward to the role that IAALS can play at this moment because of their convening of all types of individuals to speak in a way that is respected and bipartisan. Walker feels that this is a “plastic moment” in history, meaning a time in which attitudes can change very quickly.
“We really feel like we have something to offer in an extraordinary time for our country.”