Jerry Kopel

Dolores Kopel Biography

 

All of her life, Dolores Kopel was a pioneer for other women who  followed her in the practice of  law.  She was also a leader in her educational and political and civic duties.

Dolores Blanche Blanke was on January 8, 1931 at Emmetsburg, Iowa.  She was the only child of Cornelius Blanke and Bess Blanche Blanke.  Cornelius’ ancestors came from the Netherlands in 1847. They settled on a farm between Pella and New Sharon, Iowa.

She attended a one room schoolhouse from first through 8th grades.   Her report cards were filled with 90’s and 100’s and a few 80’s.

The family moved to Colorado Springs in 1945.  Dolores attended Colorado Springs High School for her junior and senior years. She was a member of the National Honor Society.

She enrolled at the University of Colorado in 1948 at age 17. Dolores embarked on  a 6 year program which was comprised of three years undergraduate classes, followed by three years  of law school. 

Jerry and Dolores met at the University of Colorado .  He was city editor of the Silver and Gold, the college paper. She was a reporter Her most noteworthy  story was her interview of Alben Barkley, vice president of the United States.   Barkley was ahead of his time on the issue of women’s rights.  He said “…women who are properly trained are just as capable in public life as men,  and they furnish a great contribution to government.”

Dolores  entered the University of Denver in the fall of 1951.  There were three women in her law school class. She received the Daniel Lee Webb scholarship in her second and third years.  She was the first woman in Denver University Law School history to receive the Jaffa Memorial Prize for having the highest grade point average in the freshman and junior years of law school.  She graduated cum laude and was a member of the Order of St. Ives, an organization of honor graduates.

At the end of her freshman year, she and Jerry were married.

Dolores took the bar exam in 1954 and passed.  Of the 67 law school graduates, three, including Dolores, were women.

No law firm would hire her due to discrimination against women lawyers. She opened her own spartan office and took whatever work came her way.

Jerry entered law school in January 1955, and he was awarded the Webb scholarship.  He graduated cum laude in 1958.  They set up their law partnership, Kopel and Kopel.

They also organized a bar refresher course for students preparing to take the Colorado bar exam.  Dolores played a major role in the operation of the bar refresher, especially during the years when Jerry was serving in the state legislature.

In 1960 a Denver Post reporter did a story about Jerry and Dolores.  The question was asked about how they managed to share a professional relationship.  Jerry told her it took a special combination of people to be able to get along together all day…and all evening.    “ It worked for us, but we would not recommend it for everyone.”

Dolores wrote articles for the Colorado Lawyer, the Colorado Bar Association magazine.  She lectured locally and nationally, on subjects ranging from economics to bankruptcy to workmen’s compensation.

In 1972 she organized a seven week seminar at the University of Denver College of Law called Women in the Law.

She was president of the University of Denver Metro Law Alumni in 1976-8 and also served on the board for several years.  She continues to be invited to the law school Business Law Society annual dinners  where she can interact with students.

In 1978 the Colorado Women’s Bar Association published a  list of women lawyers in Colorado still living who had been admitted between 1924 and 1954.  Dolores was one of the 32 on the list.

The Denver Bar Association frequently held meetings at the Denver   Athletic Club.  In 1980 Dolores and Judge Zita Weinshienk lobbied the bar association to move their meetings to other venues because the DAC discriminated against women in membership and service.  Their efforts were successful.

She served several terms on the Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors.  At one time, she and Jerry were the only husband and wife serving on the board at the same time.  Her most recent term was in 2006-8.

She served as treasurer and first vice president of the Denver Bar Association.  

She was chairman of the Uniform Laws Committee of the Colorado Bar Association.

Dolores was also active in the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association and served in various offices.

She began her practice in bankruptcy law when Judge Benjamin Hilliard appointed her to serve on a panel of 10 bankruptcy trustees in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.   She was the only woman.  She served until 1975.

Congress passed the New Bankruptcy Reform Act in 1979.  The Attorney General of the United States appointed 10 United States Trustees to serve in 10 pilot districts.  Dolores was the only woman.  Her jurisdiction was the State of Colorado and the State of Kansas.

The purpose of the act was to separate judicial and administrative functions.  Bankruptcy Judges were to resolve  contested issues.  The administrative functions were assigned to the United States Trustees.   Their job was to appoint and supervise trustees, the operation of business reorganizations, the wage earner plans, and to litigate when deemed necessary.

Dolores was the U.S.Trustee when Storage Tek  filed chapter 11 in Denver.  At the time it was the biggest bankruptcy filing in the U.S.

She resigned in May 1986 and returned to private practice.  She continued to be sought after for lecturing on bankruptcy issues nationally and in Colorado.  She also testified before the House Judiciary Committee  in Congress.

While practicing law was her main professional activity, she also served in other capacities.  Governor Richard Lamm appointed her to be the public member of the Real Estate Commission.  She later served as a hearing officer for the Commission.  Governor Roy Romer appointed her as the public member on the Collection Agency Board.

Dolores was an active volunteer in the Park Hill Action Committee, which was formed in 1960 to combat discrimination in housing.

She was a volunteer in the Democratic Party beginning as a student at CU.  Most recently she worked for Barack Obama and Mark Udall.

Dolores and Jerry had two children, David and Stephen.  Stephen died in 1987.  David is a lawyer, living in Boulder.  He and his wife Deirdre have three children.

Dolores’ law practice covered 50 years and included solo practice, medium size firm, large law firm, and the federal government. She received recognition for her 50 years of practice in 2004 from the Denver Bar Association.

After retiring from active practice, Dolores resumed her study of French, which had begun at CU as an undergraduate.  She took courses in the Modern Language Department at the University of Colorado at Denver.  Her proficiency enhanced  enjoyment of  annual trips to Europe, and especially France. She now meets weekly with a group who speak French for an hour.


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