Students get their day in court
May 2, 2002
Attorney Roger Castle of Denver was cheered by students at Glenwood Springs High School on Wednesday.
He had just finished telling an auditorium full of young people that he had not been paid “10 cents” to represent Eddie Bueno of Denver in a case seeking damages against the Rocky Mountain News.
“It struck a chord with me emotionally,” Castle said of the day seven years ago when Bueno came into his office and tearfully said he had been portrayed in a false light by the Denver newspaper.
The paper had run a large article on Bueno’s family, which the News labeled “Denver’s Biggest Crime Family.”
Bueno, who Castle called “a prince” of a man, claimed to have taken great pains to distance himself from his younger brothers, most of whom had been convicted of crimes.
But Bueno said, the Rocky Mountain News had portrayed him as being like his brothers, when, in fact, he was not.
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“I said, ‘Here is a man I can fight for,'” Castle told the students, who burst into applause.
The moment, probably rare in any attorney’s career, came during a special educational session of the Colorado Supreme Court, which twice a year leaves its usual courtroom and holds a real hearing at a Colorado high school.
On Wednesday, the court heard oral arguments in both the Bueno case and the ski accident case of David Cooper versus John McBride, Jr. (see related story). After the arguments were over, students from high schools throughout the 9th Judicial District were invited to ask the attorneys questions about their cases.
Castle, a solo practioner, was asked why he took Bueno’s case, which led to his inspirational explanation.
After Castle had won over the students, Rocky Mountain News Editor John Temple told them that was an example of how effective Castle had been in convincing a jury to rule against the News, which then appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
The News argues that it accurately portrayed Bueno and, if anything, put him in a more positive light than they could have by leaving out some information about him.
After both cases had been heard, Marco Solomon, a junior at Glenwood Springs High, said, “It’s a good experience to have the Supreme Court here so we can see how they operate.”
Solomon was a member of the Glenwood High team that won the state championship this year in mock court competition, where students argue mock cases before a real judge.
Twice during the day, the sharply dressed Solomon stood up and asked the attorneys pointed questions.
At the end of the half-day session, Justice Nancy E. Rice told the students that they had asked good questions that showed they understood the judicial process.
By comparison, she said, last year at a high school in Brighton, one student asked the justices what kind of car they each drove.
That drew some laughs, and an inevitable reposing of the question.
For the record, Justice Rice drives a Subaru and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey drives a Pontiac Grand Prix.
But the kids from Western Colorado ruled in favor of Justice Gregory Hobbs.
He disclosed, to applause and cheers, that he drives a 1986 Jeep.