The judge assigned to hear a lawsuit about Denver’s homeless sweeps has connections to downtown law firms

The lawyer representing homeless defendants who lost their possessions in Denver’s homeless sweeps wants the judge assigned to the case to recuse himself.

In a motion filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, attorney Jason Flores-Williams said the judge’s close connections to law firms that work with the Downtown Denver Partnership make it inappropriate for him to preside over the case, for which Flores-Williams is seeking class action status.

“Honorable Judge Craig B. Shaffer is an outstanding judge, but as a private attorney has partnered with law firms and attorneys in Downtown Denver who have strongly advocated for the positions of the Defendants and, more importantly, whose relationships with Defendants are foreseeable and relevant subjects of discovery, so that recusal, at this early date, is warranted,” Flores-Williams wrote in the motion.

Shaffer is a former partner in the law firm Moye, Giles, OKeefe, Vermeire & Gorrell, which has been involved in downtown development. Flores-Williams said his lawsuit will seek to discover connections between the economic interests in downtown and the city’s homeless policies, which makes Shaffer’s connections to a law firm involved in downtown development relevant and problematic.

“It is reasonably foreseeable that Judge Shaffer’s former law partner could be called to testify in this cause,” Flores-Williams wrote.

Flores-Williams is representing a number of homeless defendants who lost their possessions in the city’s “sweeps” of homeless encampments. He says the sweeps and the way the city handled the belongings of homeless people violates their constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, or @meltzere.