Published: Feb. 17, 2021

The University of Colorado Law School will celebrate eight alumni and friends at its 40th annual awards celebration on Thursday, June 17, 2021. The ceremony will be held virtually.

The Colorado Law Alumni Awards recognize distinguished alumni and friends for their contributions to the legal profession, service to their communities, and dedication to the law school. Proceeds from this year’s event benefit the Dean’s Fund for Excellence, which supports Colorado Law’s areas of strategic importance, including the Anti-Racism and Representation Initiative, and the Law Alumni Scholarship Fund, which supports scholarships awarded annually to students who have demonstrated academic achievement, financial need, and service to the law school community.

With the exception of the Dean’s Choice Awards, honorees were nominated by their peers and selected by the Law Alumni Board.

Registration for the virtual ceremony will open in March. Members of the media are invited to attend and should RSVP to Julia Roth at julia.roth@colorado.edu.

Learn more about the Colorado Law Alumni Awards Celebration, including details on sponsorship opportunities and ticket sales, at colorado.edu/law/awards or email jill.white@colorado.edu.

We are pleased to honor the following individuals this year:

William Lee Knous Award

Daniel A. Vigil ('82)

Daniel A. Vigil

Daniel A. Vigil graduated from the University of Colorado Law School in 1982. He clerked for a Denver District Court judge and then went into private practice. In 1984, he began teaching at the University of Colorado Law School. He later became an associate dean at the law school. Vigil has taught Criminal Law, Legal Method, Legal Writing, Appellate Advocacy, and Professional Responsibility at Colorado Law and Water Law and Legal Profession at DU Law. In 1998 he received the University of Colorado Law School’s Alumni Award for Distinguished Achievement in Education. In 2003 Vigil left the University of Colorado Law School and began teaching at the Sturm College of Law, where he currently holds the title of assistant dean emeritus.
 
Vigil is a member of the Colorado Supreme Court Advisory Committee, a former commissioner of the Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Commission on the Legal Profession, and a former trustee for the Colorado Supreme Court Attorney Fund for Client Protection. He was also a member of the Colorado Supreme Court Judicial Advisory Council. He is a past president of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and a former chairman of the Colorado Lottery Commission. He served many years as a member of the board of directors of Colorado Legal Services, 10 of those years as chairman. Vigil is a past president of the Boulder County Bar Foundation and a former chairman of the Legal Education and Admissions Committee of the Colorado Bar Association. Vigil has served two terms on the Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors, and one term on its executive committee. In 2007 Vigil was recognized by the Colorado Supreme Court for outstanding contribution and service to the citizens of Colorado, the legal profession, and the Colorado Supreme Court. In 2008 the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award, the association’s highest honor. Vigil was voted Outstanding Administrator of the Year in 2012 by DU Denver Law Students.
 
Vigil has presented numerous lectures, speeches, and continuing legal education programs throughout the state and nation.  
 
Vigil served in the U.S. Army in 1970-1971. He was honorably discharged and awarded the National Defense Medal. 

 

Distinguished Achievement—Public Sector

Jacki Cooper Melmed ('03)

Jacki Cooper Melmed

Jacki Cooper Melmed currently serves as chief legal counsel for Gov. Jared Polis. She held the same position for Gov. John Hickenlooper from 2015 through 2019. As a member of the governor’s executive management team, she works closely with the governor and other executive staff members to manage state government, plan the strategic direction of the administration, and design key initiatives. She also oversees the governor’s legal team, who advise the governor, senior staff, and cabinet on a number of legal issues. Cooper Melmed’s key responsibilities include managing litigation and other legal matters in partnership with the attorney general, serving as ethics counsel for the administration, overseeing judicial appointments, and representing the governor on matters ranging from labor relations to criminal justice reform to Indian affairs.   

Before working for state government, Cooper Melmed practiced law at Shoemaker Ghiselli + Schwartz in Boulder, Colorado, and Hogan & Hartson in Denver, Colorado, and served as a law clerk for Colorado Supreme Court Justice Michael Bender. She attended law school at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she was editor-in-chief of the Colorado Law Review.

Cooper Melmed also holds a master’s degree in English literature and film from the University of Chicago, and bachelor’s degrees in English and French from the University of Michigan.

Cooper Melmed is an avid hiker and skier and enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with her husband and, when allowed, two adult sons.  

 

Distinguished Achievement—Education

Whiting Dimock ('96)

Whiting Dimock

Whiting Dimock graduated from the University of Colorado Law School in 1996, and returned to the school to serve as senior assistant dean of students in 2010. In this role, Dimock has worked with students and colleagues on efforts to maximize student retention and success with a particular focus on traditionally underrepresented student populations. Her work includes service on the admissions committee to ensure that the holistic review of applications reflects current student experiences.

Dimock's previous experience includes practicing law and working in personnel management at large law firms in Washington, D.C., as well as serving as a career transition advisor for lawyers.

Following graduation from Colorado Law, Dimock worked for seven years as an associate at two major law firms in Washington, D.C. First, for Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, where she focused primarily on corporate and securities matters for clients in the financial services industry, and then at Dow Lohnes PLLC where she specialized in mergers and acquisitions in the communications and high tech industries. Dimock subsequently worked as a vice president at Trammell Crow Company, an international commercial real estate services firm, where she had transactional and personnel management responsibilities, and at Nixon Peabody LLP, where she was responsible for recruiting, integrating, training, coaching, evaluating, mentoring, advising, and facilitating departures of legal personnel.

Immediately prior to her appointment as the senior assistant dean of students, Dimock worked as a senior career advisor at Shannon & Manch, LLP, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, where she specialized in attorney career development and talent management issues, working intensively with attorneys and law students in career transition and also in a consultative role to law firms, advising members of firm leadership on issues that impact productivity, attorney evaluation processes and compensation systems.

Dimock holds a JD from the University of Colorado Law School, a BA from Williams College, and has completed coursework in the Organizational Counseling MS program at The Johns Hopkins University.

 

Distinguished Achievement—Private Practice

Carolyn Fairless ('98)

Carolyn Fairless

Carolyn Fairless is the co-managing partner of the national civil litigation firm, Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP. Fairless has been called "a lawyer's lawyer," as she has successfully defended some of the nation's leading law firms and lawyers in high-stakes legal malpractice matters throughout the country. A frequent presenter on topics involving legal ethics, Fairless has tried more than 20 trials and arbitrations to verdict or award, with outstanding results for her clients.

Rankings organizations and directories such as Chambers USA, Benchmark Litigation, and Colorado Super Lawyers have consistently recognized Fairless at the top of her field, based on input from clients, colleagues, and peers in the industry.

In 2019, Fairless was inducted as a Fellow into the American College of Trial Lawyers, an elite network of the top trial lawyers in the country.

Fairless earned her JD from the University of Colorado Law School in 1998. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science, with a minor in mathematics, from Tulane University. Prior to entering law, Fairless served as a computer analyst at IBM.


 

Distinguished Achievement—Small/Solo Practitioner

Tyrone Glover ('09)

Tyrone Glover

Tyrone Glover is a seasoned trial lawyer representing clients in civil rights, criminal defense, and employment matters. The son of parents and grandparents who fought hard for equality and justice long before these principles were universally guaranteed, Glover regularly handles high-stakes cases in both state and federal courts, achieving favorable outcomes for his clients.

A born fighter who became an internationally top-ranked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blackbelt and an undefeated professional mixed martial artist, he has taken his fight to the courts, protecting and defending the rights and interests of his clients. He is a strong advocate with an inherent ability to maintain focus and a sense of calm in chaotic situations.

Glover’s legal career began at the Colorado Public Defender’s Office, where he was a trial lawyer serving underprivileged people of Denver who were charged with crimes. He earned the prestigious “Bootcamp Lawyer of the Year” recognition in 2012. In 2015, he was recognized as the Sam Cary Bar Association Young Lawyer of the Year. Since then, Glover has been consistently recognized as a top lawyer in Colorado, securing many favorable outcomes for his clients, including a recent $4.5 million-dollar verdict. Since leaving the public defender’s office, Glover worked in private practice handling criminal defense and civil rights litigation. He has tried over 40 jury trials throughout the state. A leader amongst his peers, he is the 2021-22 Denver Bar Association president.

 

Distinguished Achievement—Special Recognition

Ryan Haygood ('01)

Ryan Haygood

Ryan P. Haygood is a nationally respected civil rights lawyer. As president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, he leads a majority-women of color team of racial justice advocates whose cutting-edge work – powered by grassroots organizing, research, writing, policy and legislative advocacy, and litigation – seeks to build reparative systems that create wealth, justice and power for Black, Latina/Latino, and other people of color in New Jersey. 

Under Haygood’s leadership, the institute’s advocacy led to the historic restoration of the vote to 83,000 people on parole and probation, a right New Jersey previously denied since 1844; automatic and online voter registration; ending prison-based gerrymandering for state legislative redistricting; a $15 minimum wage; the reporting of COVID-19 racial data; and New Jersey becoming the first state to test all of its incarcerated youth for COVID-19.

The institute’s advocacy also led to the historic announcement that two of New Jersey’s youth prisons would close; community engagement in the development of 15 policing reforms in Newark; an independent state prosecutor for cases involving police misconduct; and the introduction of the first-of-its-kind bill for a reparations task force in New Jersey.

Prior to leading the institute, Haygood served as deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), where he worked for more than a decade.

At LDF, Haygood litigated some of the most important civil rights cases of our time. In two of those cases, he defended a core provision of the Voting Rights Act, widely regarded as one of the nation’s greatest pieces of civil rights legislation, before the United States Supreme Court. Ryan also led a successful challenge to Texas’ racially discriminatory photo ID law, under which a voter could present a concealed-handgun license as a form of identification to vote at the polls but not a student ID. In the first ruling of its kind, a federal district court struck down Texas’ photo ID law as intentionally racially discriminatory, a violation of the Voting Rights Act and an unconstitutional poll tax.

A passionate advocate, Haygood speaks and writes regularly on issues concerning race, law, social justice, democracy, and power. He received his JD from the University of Colorado Law School and BA in American history and political science cum laude from Colorado College, where he was nominated for the Rhodes scholarship and earned academic and athletic All-American and hall of fame honors as a football player.

 

Dean's Choice Awards

Dean S. James Anaya will also present two Dean's Choice Awards, recognizing exceptional contributions to Colorado Law.

 

Richard Schaden Adopted Alumnus Award

John Echohawk

John Echohawk

John Echohawk, Pawnee, is the executive director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), which is headquartered in Boulder. He was the first graduate of the University of New Mexico’s special program to train Indian lawyers and was a founding member of the American Indian Law Students Association while in law school. He received both his JD and BA from the University of New Mexico. Echohawk has been with NARF since its inception in 1970, having served continuously as executive director since 1977.

He has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal and has received numerous service awards and other recognition for his leadership in the Indian law field.

He serves on the boards of the American Indian Resources Institute, the Association on American Indian Affairs, the Indigenous Language Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.

Echohawk has been a strong supporter of Colorado Law’s American Indian Law Program and the law school’s students and graduates who are interested in and practice Indian law throughout his years as the executive director of NARF.

 

Sonny Flowers Award

Hon. Gary M. Jackson ('70)

This is a new award that recognizes alumni who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion among the law school and legal profession, specifically including the advancement of individuals from underrepresented groups.

Hon. Gary Jackson

Gary M. Jackson, a native of Colorado, grew up in Denver and graduated with honors from George Washington High School. He received an academic scholarship to the University of Redlands in California and earned his undergraduate degree and Juris Doctor from the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder.

He began his legal career as a deputy district attorney with the Denver District Attorney’s Office in 1970. In 1974, he was assigned to the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado, where he received a special commendation from U.S. Attorney Edward Levi and FBI Director Clarence Kelley for his successful representation of the FBI in a multi-million dollar civil suit.

In 1976, Jackson entered private practice and became a partner in the law firm of DiManna, Eklund, Ciancio & Jackson. During his initial year in private practice, he was one of the co-founders of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. In 1982, Michael DiManna and Jackson formed the law firm of DiManna & Jackson, a partnership that continued until Jackson’s appointment by Mayor Michael Hancock to the Denver County Court bench in January 2013. Leading up to his taking the bench, other legal achievements included appointment to the 18th Judicial District Judicial Performance Commission, the 2nd Judicial Nominating Commission, and the U.S. District Court’s Nominating Commission for the selection of U.S. District Court judges and magistrates.

In 1971, Jackson was one of the founders of the Sam Cary Bar Association, an organization dedicated to promoting professionalism and the exchange of ideas among African-American lawyers and judges. He has had many roles within the organization including treasurer and president; in 2006 was honored with the King Trimble Lifetime Achievement Award.

Numerous other community organizations have benefitted from Jackson’s leadership and involvement, including the Northeast Denver Youth Services, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and the Denver Urban League. With his participation in the Sam Cary Scholarship Endowment Fund and the Delta Eta Boule Foundation (former chairman), these organization have awarded deserving African-American students more than a quarter million dollars in scholarships.

Jackson has generously shared his legal knowledge and experience through mentoring programs and instruction at colleges and law schools throughout Colorado. His active participation in the legal community has also meant serving on several boards including the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, the American College of Trial Lawyers, and the American Board of Trial Advocates (of which he is the former president). Jackson is currently one of the leaders of the Colorado Bar Association/Colorado Judicial Institute Coalition on Judicial Diversity, which has a two-year initiative to address the lack of diversity in the Colorado state judiciary.

With a celebrated legal career spanning five decades, Jackson has been recognized with many accolades and awards including the National Bar Association’s Wiley A. Branton Award (2001), the Order of the Coif from CU Law School (2003), Colorado Super Lawyer (2006 – 2012), the CU George Norlin Award (2008), the William Lee Knous Award from CU Law School (2010), the Colorado Bar Association’s Award of Merit (2011), the George Washington High School Inaugural Hall of Fame (2016), and the National Black District Attorney’s Association Norman Early Founder’s Award (2019).

Jackson, retired as of Dec. 30, 2020, presided in the Criminal and General Session Divisions of Denver County Court. In 2018 the Colorado Judicial Institute recognized him with its Judicial Excellence Award for County Court Judge of the year. Mayor Hancock presented Jackson with the Monte Pascoe Civic Leadership Award in 2018. This award recognized Jackson for his outstanding local and national service and leadership seeking social justice and commitment to finding financial support for students seeking to enter into the legal profession. In 2019, Law Week Colorado in its annual Barrister’s Magazine selected Jackson as trial judge of the year. In 2020, the Center for Legal Inclusiveness awarded Jackson the Hon. Wiley Daniel Lifetime Achievement Award. The Colorado County Court Judges’ Association awarded Jackson the Anthony Greco Award for his judicial excellence and leadership. In addition, the Colorado chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates awarded Jackson its Judicial Excellence Award.

Jackson is married to Regina Lee Jackson. They have two children and four grandchildren.