Legal Representation, Advocacy, Education & Training and Legislative Analysis since 1976...
Established in 1976, The Legal Center’s mission is to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities and older people in Colorado through direct legal representation, advocacy, education and legislative analysis.
Governor Lamm designated The Legal Center in June 1977 following a public hearing process and pressure from the disability community. He had wanted the funding for the Protection and Advocacy System to go to his Office of Consumer Advocacy. But The Legal Center had already established a track record as an effective advocacy organization and was well-known to those working in the state services system for people with developmental disabilities.
The organization was founded by attorneys Steve Zimmerman and Joe Epstein. Bruce Bernstein became Executive Director in 1977, and current director of legal services, Randy Chapman, joined the organization in 1977 as well. Mary Anne Harvey has been the executive director since 1980.
Since its designation as the P&A System, The Legal Center has represented at least 17,500 people with disabilities. It has provided information and technical assistance to 85,000 people and reached more than 100,000 Coloradans through education programs and publications.
Early in its history, the organization represented parents of school-age children at Wheat Ridge State Home and Training School and was successful in requiring school districts where the parents resided to pay for their children’s education in public schools. This lawsuit resulted in children with severe disabilities attending public schools in the Denver area for the first time, and subsequently throughout Colorado.
Other groundbreaking legal work prevented sterilization of people with mental retardation and prevented discrimination of people with disabilities in employment. Through its efforts in uncovering the deaths of two individuals at a nursing home in Loveland, the state closed the facility. The Legal Center was among the first organizations in the country to provide legal assistance to people with HIV/AIDS.