Marcia Krieger ('79)

Alum of the Month May '13

Even as a young girl, Marcia Krieger assumed that she was destined for the legal profession. A third-generation Coloradan, Krieger was born in Denver and remembers playing under the kitchen table where her father’s law school study group met in the evenings. After graduating from Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Krieger headed to Oregon, where she pursued a degree in international relations at Lewis and Clark College and graduated in just three years. She then attended the Ludwig Maximillian Planck Institute at the University of Munich, where she studied German law for a year as a graduate fellow. At the end of her graduate studies, Krieger returned to Colorado and enrolled at Colorado Law, earning her JD in 1979.

Krieger had a number of employment offers after law school, particularly from district attorney offices, but chose a small civil litigation firm named Mason Reuler & Peek, where she had clerked during law school. From there, Krieger’s career jumped on the fast track. During law school, Krieger had taken a course on bankruptcy and creditor/debtor law—the first one to be offered after major changes to the bankruptcy code. Consequently, Krieger had a much better understanding of what was going on when she attended the first section 341 meeting to be held in Colorado under the new code, and other attorneys took notice. She had only been in practice less than four months when the chief judge of the bankruptcy court called and asked her to teach a CLE on the new bankruptcy code–the first one offered in Colorado. The CLE was attended by 500-600 lawyers, and almost immediately Krieger—a first-year associate—began getting referrals from attorneys seeking bankruptcy assistance. This promising start grew into a specialty commercial and bankruptcy litigation practice.

After six years at Mason Reuler & Peek, Krieger accepted an offer from a boutique commercial litigation firm. Shortly after joining the firm, a partner named Sidney Brooks left and invited Krieger to come with him, and together they formed Brooks & Krieger, P.C. Krieger practiced with Brooks until his appointment to the bankruptcy court in 1988, at which time she became “of counsel” to Wood, Ris, & Hames for two years before forming her own firm focused on bankruptcy and commercial litigation. In 1994 Krieger became both the second woman and the youngest judge to serve on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the same year that her father, Donald P. Smith, Jr., retired from the Colorado Court of Appeals. Krieger was still the youngest judge on the bankruptcy court when she was appointed chief judge in 2000. After eight years on the bankruptcy court, Krieger was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on September 10, 2001 and confirmed in January, 2002. Krieger’s greatest judicial resource was her father—a man with more than 25 years of experience on the bench.

Krieger’s contributions extend well beyond the courtroom. She is involved with numerous state and federal bench and bar associations, and is a board member of the Kenyan Children Foundation. Most important, Krieger is a co-founder of “Our Courts,” an adult civic educational program that provides impartial information about how the legal system works. Krieger developed the idea for “Our Courts” with Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Russell Carparelli. Since 2007, trained speakers have delivered nearly 400 presentations about the Federal and Colorado court systems to more than 12,000 adults. Krieger exemplifies the qualities that Colorado Law values most, and is a worthy example for lawyers and law students everywhere.

Five Questions for Chief Judge Marcia Krieger

What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?

Sitting on the lawn outside of Fleming Law with my classmates debating issues like “Is it ethical for a lawyer to break the law?”

What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?

That class rank and grades ultimately do not matter. I was the person at the top of either the bottom third or bottom fourth of my class after my first semester of law school.

What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?

First, what is important about law school is learning how to learn the law, because it will change many times over the course of a career. Second, we are the stewards of the law. For the public to have confidence in the Rule of Law, we have to profess our belief in it. That means we must demonstrate that nobody is above the law.

Who was the biggest influence on your career?

My father and the many judges that I have known and learned from.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

I would say the success of “Our Courts.” Due to the work and interest of many people, it has exceeded our wildest expectations.