University of Denver

Honor Becky

Honor a Lifetime in Service of Justice
Honor Rebecca Love Kourlis

For Becky Kourlis, justice for all isn’t simply a phrase we repeat as Americans. It is a calling to a higher principle of our democracy that must be preserved and protected. By giving to IAALS, you can help IAALS continue to work toward ensuring access to justice for all who need it and honor Becky’s lifetime of service.

After completing a distinguished, 30-year career as a lawyer in private practice, a judge riding circuit in Northeastern Colorado, and finally a Colorado Supreme Court Justice, Becky opted to turn her dedication into a different kind of advocacy. More than 13 years ago, she helped to establish IAALS, which she has built into a driving force for positive, practical change in the civil justice system. Before she retires as Executive Director in September 2019, we look back on her amazing legacy.

Today, IAALS stands as a nationally recognized “think and do” tank, where diverse and divergent groups come together and reach consensus on solutions to some of the legal system’s most complex and persistent problems—which IAALS can then implement. Under Becky’s leadership, IAALS has:

  • Built consensus around the scope and sources of problems in our nation’s civil justice system and built further support for reform among attorneys, judges, and courts.
  • Championed new state and federal civil case processes to increase efficiency and access, and seen them implemented across the nation.
  • Developed new tools to help courts, lawyers, and judges evolve to meet the needs and expectations of 21st Century court users.
  • Given real people who need and use our legal system a true voice in the reform process.
  • Pushed for more effective and meaningful judicial performance evaluation.
  • Spearheaded a national effort to identify the characteristics and competencies that lawyers need to succeed in the practice of law and worked with law schools to incorporate them into the curriculum so that graduates are better prepared to meet their clients’ needs.
  • Championed the development of a better way for family courts to function, particularly around divorce, with a deeper focus on non-adversarial problem solving and the health of the family.

Your gift in Becky’s honor can ensure that IAALS will continue to work for fair, impartial, and practical reforms and improvements within the legal system.

When you click below to make your gift online, please leave us a note in the comments section telling us why IAALS and Becky’s work has been important to you, important to our legal system, and important to our country. And, let us know how to reach you should you wish to share a story or testimonial.

Questions? Contact Carol Miller, Director of Strategic Partnerships, at carol.miller@du.edu or 303-871-6613.


Colleagues and Partners Share Stories in Honor of Becky and IAALS

In the early 2000s, a national movement was ignited to instigate reform of civil procedure and trial court management. The effort to bring more accessible, affordable justice to the courts and the citizens they serve is still growing—both state-by-state and in the federal courts. Our collective effort has kept that fire burning, but it was Becky Kourlis and her then-new organization, IAALS, that first lit that match.

My relationship with IAALS started with an opinion piece I wrote in 2005 for the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL). In it, I was passing along the wisdom of my law school dean, a staunch advocate of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. I noted that procedural rules were merely tools that may periodically need to be changed as times change. Becky read that piece and saw a natural alignment between my comment and her goals, and I was recruited for the organization she was creating.

Anyone who knows Becky, knows her hands-on approach. She will, without a moment’s hesitation, jump on a plane to meet in person—so before officially asking me to join the Board of Advisors, Becky, being Becky, came to Charlotte to check me out. Soon after, I visited IAALS in Denver. In a borrowed office, I found a small reception area and two rooms, one populated by six staffers, the other by Becky. On her wall was a framed photo of her as a child, sitting on her Colorado governor father's lap. 

Becky explained that the problem she saw was a growing barrier universally described as "the vanishing civil trial." She had heard what others had also heard, that the Advisory Committee of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure was unlikely to take the lead on change and that change must thus begin in the state courts.  

Soon thereafter, she participated in a national ACTL program, where she spoke and heard this same opinion. In true Becky fashion, she listened and formed a thoughtful strategic plan to bring about change.  

She approached the ACTL, asking about the possibility of a joint task force that would combine IAALS' research and staffing experience with the knowledge and practical experience of a group of civil trial lawyers from the American College. The College accepted the challenge and a joint task force resulted. 

From the beginning, this effort included members who ranged from smaller local firms to mid-sized regional firms to major metropolitan ones. It included both a federal trial judge from the United States and an appellate judge from Canada, a fortunate choice, since the task force quickly found that discovery was not the only problem. Too many judges had become "docket managers" instead of trial judges, contributing to the growing barrier.  

As time went on, the task force found gaps, such as the need to add plaintiff-oriented trial lawyers and those from emerging specialties. In a few years, the federal rule-makers themselves took notice and began cautiously to get on board.  

Monitored pilot projects were implemented, testing the task forces’s original principles outlined. The results were then used to tweak and improve the work and recommendations. In the end, ten years from its beginning, the task force put forward and saw adopted—by both IAALS and the ACTL—necessary reforms of the existing civil rules. It then built support for those reforms among lawyers, judges, and courts across the nation, advancing the implementation of these much-needed changes.  

The task force's work over that first ten years to reform civil procedure and provide reasonable, proportionate access to justice for all civil litigants began a national movement that continues to grow, even expanding to other related problems.

And it was Becky Kourlis who first created the idea, first lit the match, and first joined the appropriate forces to ignite real change. And it is Becky who has kept it going to this very day.