Poverty & Public Benefits

denver legal night

Co-sponsored by the Legal Night Task Force, the Denver Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and the Denver Access to Justice Committee, two monthly legal clinics are held on the first and third Wednesday of every month from 5:30 to 7 pm at Centro San Juan Diego.

We provide legal information and referrals around consumer problems, immigration, employment, housing and family law to individuals and families who can’t afford legal services. No substantive expertise is required, and we welcome all lawyers and Spanish-speaking interpreters.

greeley legal night

Held quarterly from 5:45 to 8:30 pm at Our Lady of Peace Church in Greeley, to provide basic legal information and referrals to individuals and families living in Weld County.

We provide legal information and referrals around consumer problems, immigration, employment, housing and family law to individuals and families who can’t afford legal services. No substantive expertise is required, and we welcome all lawyers and Spanish-speaking interpreters.

Joint ID Task Force

There are major barriers in Colorado to obtaining a state-issued identification card (ID), particularly for those with limited resources. Since 2006, the Colorado Lawyers Committee has worked to address the barriers facing homeless and other individuals in obtaining Colorado IDs, without which they are unable to secure housing, employment, and other critical services. In early 2013, at the request of the Colorado Lawyers Committee, Governor Hickenlooper’s office created a Joint ID Task Force, which still meets monthly to address individual issues and systemic barriers to obtaining IDs. Most recently, the Task Force supported efforts by the Department of Revenue to modify its regulations to issue IDs and licenses with a gender neutral designation (e.g., Male, Female, and X).

project homeless connect

This annual one-day event, sponsored by the City of Denver, connects homeless individuals to services, including public benefits, medical care, housing and employment opportunities and legal assistance. Volunteers provide legal information and referrals to homeless participants, and represent individuals with outstanding municipal warrants before a Denver County Court judge in Homeless Court.

Medicaid Special Needs Trust Task Force

Examines the legality of Colorado’s efforts to prematurely terminate special needs trusts when recipients move out of state so the state can then collect the balances in the trusts to reimburse recipients for Medicaid expenditures. The Task Force believes the regulation is a violation of federal law, the 14th Amendment and the right to travel and is exploring litigation to challenge the regulation. 

Federal Pro Se Clinic

The Judges in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado recently approved a two-year pilot program to create a clinic, operated by the Colorado Bar Association, for pro se litigants in the federal courthouse. The Lawyers Committee was involved in the planning of the clinic for over a year. 

The Executive Director of the Colorado Lawyers Committee serves on the Clinic’s Advisory Board.


Poverty and Public Benefits historical HIGHLIGHTS


CLC volunteers educate Center, Colorado residents on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), to counter the chilling effect on the community of an IRS raid to seize 190 tax returns where the EITC is claimed.


The State Finance Task Force studies TABOR and related fiscal restraints and recommends the CLC Committee endorse two 2006 state ballot issues to avert a fiscal crisis in Colorado (Referenda C and D) and assure continued funding of essential State programs.

The Family Futures Task Force, in partnership with the Legal Aid Society of Metro Denver and 19 other community organizations, helps 100 single-parent families in Northeast Denver get off welfare and become self-sufficient.

Public Benefits

CLC challenges the State’s failure to provide continuing benefits (Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc.), when a timely appeal is filed, as required by federal law. The task force’s efforts result in significant changes in State procedures, guaranteeing due process for benefit recipients.

CLC challenges the State’s reduction of Medicaid benefits for more than 1,000 developmentally disabled individuals, with inadequate notice and limited appeal rights to the benefit recipients. The State agrees to clarify the criteria for determining benefit levels and creates a process for assuring community input into future decisions to safeguard benefit recipients’ rights.

CLC challenges the delay in processing Food Stamp applications in certain Colorado counties. As a result, Denver County completely overhauls its procedures for processing food stamp applications, and improves its compliance rate with federally mandated timelines from 60% to over 90%.

Hawthorne-Bey v. Reinertson challenges the failure of the State’s newly implemented Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS) which improperly denies or delays essential public benefits to tens of thousands of individuals and families. The parties eventually settle the lawsuit and volunteers continue to monitor the State’s progress until the State fully complies in 2017.

CLC successfully challenges improper reductions in Colorado Medicaid payments to pediatricians, with the result that children have access to a primary care physician and a “medical home.”

Volunteer lawyers negotiate a $17.2 million settlement (Tatum v. Rizzuto) on behalf of 44,000 families inadvertently denied Medicaid benefits from 1997 to 2000. The lawsuit results from a computer-generated problem that left many children without medical care.

Volunteers represent welfare recipients (Weston v. Hammons) whose benefits were terminated or reduced without proper notice; in a landmark decision, $2.1 million was restored to 1,600 families.

The Welfare Reform Task Force conducts fact finding to assess the impact of the new federal legislation on existing welfare agencies and programs and monitors the enactment of the Colorado Works Program, including providing legislators with neutral principles to guide the implementation of welfare reform in Colorado.

Health Care

CLC explores indigent health care and the decreasing availability of non-emergency medical services for the uninsured.

CLC advocates to maximize the benefit to the public from the conversion of Colorado Blue Cross and Blue Shield from a nonprofit to a for-profit corporation. Subsequent proceedings establish that the Colorado Insurance Commissioner may award attorneys’ fees to pro bono counsel who create or increase a fund for the common good (Hawes v. Colorado Division of Insurance).

Bowie v. Denver General Hospital
challenges the billing and collection practices of Denver General Hospital; the settlement requires the elimination of abusive collection tactics and reprogramming of the hospital’s computer system to incorporate a sliding fee scale for indigent patients.

Access to IDs

CLC supports two bills that expand DMV’s ability to help individuals who don’t have access to standard documents needed to get IDs.

At CLC’s request, Governor Hickenlooper’s office establishes the Joint ID Task Force (with CLC, CO Dept. of Revenue, Colorado Legal Services, and others) which continues to meet frequently to address systemic barriers to obtaining IDs.

CLC supports HB10-006 which permits felons to change their names to get IDs (so they can access jobs & housing).

25 volunteers represent individuals who can’t get IDs and spend 40 hours per client.

Volunteers sue the DMV (Hill v. Cooke) to require due process and clear standards for obtaining ID’s and licenses.