Email letters, February 27, 2014

R-5 team deserves congrats for mock trial performance

Attorneys Stephanie Fairbanks and Megan Marlatt from the Office of the Colorado Public Defender and I would like to extend our congratulations to the R-5 High School mock trial team who competed at the Regional Mock Trial Tournament in Glenwood Springs last weekend.

Over the course of nearly four months, the students learned legal procedure, the rules of evidence and trial practice and took a full-fledged civil fact pattern - Cook v. Ortiz - to trial.

The student attorneys, witnesses and timekeepers gathered materials from affidavits, photo exhibits, expert witness reports and the applicable law. The student attorneys assembled an entire trial plan: opening statements, direct and cross examinations, objections and closing statements, just like real attorneys.

The student witnesses mastered their story and gave testimony, including withstanding cross-examination, fully in character. And the student timekeepers made sure that everyone had their facts straight, the applicable rules were followed and the trial plan stayed within the allowed time limits in the heat of the moment.

We three attorney-coaches want to express our respect and admiration for what each of the R-5 students was able to do during our time together. Their hard work culminated in a fantastic, professional performance over a grueling two-day competition schedule last weekend.

We also would like to commend the students’ coach, Al Kreinberg, in particular. An English teacher at R-5, he has also coached the mock trial team for many years. What he is able to accomplish with his students is remarkable. They not only gain specific legal skills, but life skills that transcend the classroom and the courtroom.

That R-5 is the only high school in the area that participates in Mock Trial speaks volumes about Kreinberg’s commitment and dedication to the students of R-5. Congratulations to all!

SEAN GOODBODY

Withers Seidman Rice & Mueller P.C.
STEPHANIE FAIRBANKS
Deputy Public Defender
MEGAN MARLATT
Deputy Public Defender
Grand Junction

Locals, not BLM, must decide how to best use public lands

It appears as though our liberal-leftist friend, Bill Grant, has joined the discussion over BLM lands in his latest article. After reading numerous columns by Grant, I have to say I am not shocked at his big-government resolution to our public land management. However, as usual, he has totally missed the target again.

The RS 2477 issue is based on the premise that the states that have public lands maintain their right to decide what lands will be closed to access and those that won’t be closed. We have numerous recreational groups in our state that have interests how our public lands will be used. The BLM has been able to manipulate these groups against each other to accomplish its main goal of closing 67 percent of the land access in this latest plan, and thereby circumventing the state’s legal rights.

There are thousands and thousands of acres of public lands within Colorado. If we can’t unite to take control of our public lands as local residents, then we will be subjected to fanatical extremists taking actions on both sides. It is time for the commissioners in all Western Slope counties to unite and send the message to the BLM that we will make the decisions on our public land use, not the politically influenced federal government.

If we have to use RS 2477 to do that, then so be it.

JAMES O’MALLEY
Grand Junction

Tamarisk removal leaves unsightly wasteland by river

As a daily user of state parks and the river trail system, I have seen the results of the removal efforts and, for the most part, it is an ugly sight.

What is left are stumps, piles of wood chips, dirt, alkali and weeds. I invite anyone to walk the trail from the Junior Service parking to the city shops or west to the river bridge to see what I mean.

The tamarisk killers are long on removal but short on effective long-range restoration. The invasive plants are not going away, so the resultant restoration effort will be to essentially farm the land using irrigation water, planting, herbicides, lots of manpower and funding.

Please slow down and concentrate on developing a long-term, working, affordable restoration plan before creating more wasteland.

GREGORY A. DILLON

Grand Junction

Remain reasonable, flexible in deciding use of public land

In Colorado we are fortunate to be surrounded by public lands that are there for the use and enjoyment of all.  Being a native of Mesa County, I remember how our public lands were utilized in the past.  A large percentage was used by ranchers, farmers, hunters and miners.  They generally accessed the land by truck or horseback or on foot.  Roads were few and far between, and most of the maintenance was left to the user.  When we went for picnics or helped my uncle with his cattle, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.

Now we are faced with different circumstances that were not present years ago.  First of all, our local population base has greatly increased, and we now have more visitors from out of the immediate area using public lands.  We also have the benefit of a greater variety of off-road transportation with ATV’s, motorcycles and mountain bikes.  Our public lands now have many routes that were created by these new groups of motorized and non-motorized users. 

So, when you look at the maps of public lands, they reflect all of these newly made routes and/or tracks in addition to county roads and historical roads and trails.  The bottom line is that letting anyone and everyone make the routes because they decided to go “off road” is not a responsible approach to the long-term use and care of our public lands. 

We therefore need to come to the table with the goal of what is best for present and future users and for the preservation of our public lands.  If we are to succeed, neither position can be unreasonable or inflexible. 

These are public lands and are there for all to enjoy – now and in the future. 

KATIE STEELE

Grand Junction

Even conservatives may become addicted to MJ tax revenues

I understand there’s considerable debate as to whether the use of marijuana results in psychological or chemical dependency, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that the stream of tax revenues generated by its sale is destined to become extremely addictive.

Funny, isn’t it, how the prospect of an easy buck here or there can entice even staunchly conservative communities to re-examine their principles?

HANK SCHOCH
Fruita

Arizona brouhaha shows pseudo-christian “conservatives” continue to use religion as sword

The “Religious Freedom Protection Act” (SB 1062) vetoed Wednesday by Arizona’s Republican Gov. Jan Brewer represents but the “tip of the iceberg” as to ongoing efforts by pseudo-christian “conservatives” to use religion as a sword, not just a shield.

 
As in Arizona, legislation is still pending in other “red” states to empower businesses engaged in “public accommodations” to discriminate against LGBT would-be patrons based on owners’ purported “religious beliefs.”

 
Meanwhile, our Supreme Court will soon announce its decision in Greece v. Galloway as to whether the Town of Greece violated the constitutional exception for non-sectarian “legislative prayer” —  carved out in Marsh v. Chambers (1983) — by abandoning its long-standing practice of opening public meetings with “a moment of silence” and reverting to Jesus-laden (and therefore sectarian) prayers. That ruling will have direct applicability to current practices in Grand Junction and Mesa County.


 
In March the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, to decide whether the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” of  1993 allows businesses to discriminate against women by “opting out” of compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer-provided health insurance plans cover contraception — based on owners’ purported “religious objections.”

 
RFRA prohibits the federal government from “substantially burdening” the “exercise of religion” (even if that “burden” arises incidentally from “a law of general applicability”), unless to further a compelling governmental interest in the least restrictive way.

 
There are some 30 major and 300+ minor religions in the U.S., each with its own litany of presumably “sincerely held religious beliefs” being professed in 350,000+ religious congregations and aggressively injected into law in some of our 50 state legislatures.

 
Arguably, allowing federal laws to be trumped by purported “religious beliefs” – which began with “conscientous objector” exemption from the draft – is a recipe for anarchy.

BILL HUGENBERG
Grand Junction

 

 

 

 


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