DU Water Law Review Spring 2015 Symposium


Denver, Colorado        April 10, 2015

Keynote Address

The 2015 University of Denver Water Law Review Annual Symposium was a celebration and commemoration of Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr.’s contributions to Colorado water law, in light of his coming retirement. The event began with a welcome by Sturm College of Law’s Dean Marty Katz, followed by an opening presentation from Justice Allison Eid and Chief Justice Nancy Rice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Justice Eid began by sharing how the idea for the symposium stemmed from her sadness that one of her closest friends, her “bench mate,” would be leaving the Court. The symposium was a way to memorialize Justice Hobbs’s contributions to the Colorado Supreme Court and the whole state of Colorado in a permanent, thoughtful way.

Justice Eid then recited Charles Wilkinson’s charge: “We need to develop an ethic of place. It is premised on a sense of place, the recognition that our species thrives on the subtle, intangible, but soul-deep mix of landscape, smells, sounds, history, neighbors and friends that constitute a place, a homeland.” To Justice Eid, this quote aptly captured Justice Hobbs’s life’s work. It was Wilkinson’s “ethic of place” that drew Justice Hobbs to water law in the first place. And as the “Great Water Justice,” his love of Colorado’s landscapes, history, and communities manifested throughout his numerous water court opinions.

Following this introduction, Justice Eid shared some stories exemplifying Justice Hobbs’s commitment to land and water. She described his famous tours of the Colorado Supreme Court, which always begin with a detailed presentation of his prized map collection—a collection he has now generously donated to the Court. She described attending a water conference in Eugene, Oregon where Justice Hobbs seemed to risk life and limb just to climb out on the precipice of a dam they were touring.

Justice Eid shared how Justice Hobbs’s ethic of place includes not only a passion for both the land and water in Colorado, but also for the state’s rich history. She spoke of Justice Hobbs’s passion for history, and his knack for writing opinions that gave the reader a true sense of the history and value of the location in question. To Justice Hobbs, context was always of critical importance. In all of Justice Hobbs’s work, the deep history of the land and people in question, the profound sense of that place, was the necessary foundation for understanding the questions at hand.

Finally, she described Justice Hobbs’s love of neighbors, friends, and family, and his commitment to a diverse and inclusive community in Colorado. She revealed that the Court’s recognition of law firms committed to pro bono work was Justice Hobbs’s brainchild. She also talked about how Justice Hobbs recently took his grandson on a college tour, and is currently taking a creative writing class with his granddaughter. To Justice Hobbs, the ethic of place is rooted in the land, and integrates a profound appreciation of family and friends.

Justice Eid closed by observing that Justice Hobbs is an accomplished author, traveler, historian, and poet. Although he will be retiring from his position on the bench, he will doubtlessly continue in his other “jobs,” tirelessly committed to history, community, and his ethic of place.

Following Justice Eid, Chief Justice Nancy Rice shared her thoughts and reflections on nearly two decades of working with Justice Hobbs. As Supreme Court Justices, the seven members of the Court spend a great deal of time together, often sitting, talking, and waiting for things to happen. To Chief Justice Rice, Justice Hobbs represents one-seventh of her life, her conversation, and her work; and she will greatly miss his camaraderie and friendship.

Of special importance to Chief Justice Rice is the learning center at the Ralph Carr Judicial Center. She described how a committee, which included Justice Hobbs, met regularly for two years in order to create the center, and she believes that the learning center represents one of Justice Hobbs’s greatest legacies.

The Chief Justice’s final story involved Justice Hobbs convincing the other justices to perform a play in commemoration of the founding father John Adams and his wife Abigail. Justice Hobbs played John Adams, and Chief Justice Rice played Abigail Adams. To the delight of the crowd, Chief Justice Rice brought pieces from her costume to share, and reenacted a particular scene where she threw her bonnet in frustration at John Adams’s failure to give women the right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. The play is one of her favorite memories of her time with Justice Hobbs, a representation of the fun, humor, and intellectual curiosity that he brought to the Court.

Chief Justice Rice finished by thanking Justice Hobbs for his friendship, his many contributions to the Court, and his many contributions to the state of Colorado.