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Joyce Seelen, JD, Biography

Joyce Seelen, JD, received her BA in journalism from the University of Minnesota and her JD from the University of Denver School of Law. She practiced in Denver as a Colorado state public defender, beginning in 1980, where she defended indigent people charged with crimes.

In 1982, she successfully defended a poor person charged with first-degree murder, after which she began a private practice that emphasizes representation of the victims of abuse by people in positions of trust. An active litigator, she has tried several civil cases to jury verdicts in excess of $1 million each. In two of her cases, Moses v. the Diocese (1993) and The Bear Valley Church of Christ v. DeBose (1996), the Colorado supreme court became the leading court in the country in extending civil protection to people harmed by the negligence of religious institutions.

In 1995, her peers in the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association created a special award of merit for her “in recognition of her zealous advocacy of victims while advancing public understanding of the civil justice system. ”

In another of her cases, Bohrer v. Church Mutual, for the first time in the state’s history, in 1998 the Colorado supreme court ordered an insurance company to pay for damages caused by negligent counseling, despite the fact that the counsellee individual being counseled had been sexually abused by the insured minister and the policy had excluded coverage for sexual abuse. Ms. Seelen generally restricts her practice to the representation of personal injury plaintiffs who are often denied access to the civil justice system because of the prejudices within that system concerning “emotional damages.” In addition, she prosecutes a mix of large and small cases because of her belief that plaintiffs in smaller cases are often denied effective access to the civil justice system.

In 2003, Seelen moved to the Big Island of Hawaii, and began combining an active long-distance law practice in Denver with a new real estate career in Hawaii. What began as an effort by Seelen to “slow down” has generated a series of opportunities. In 2004, she successfully represented a child in Denver in ground-breaking civil litigation against Children’s Hospital, currently on appeal at Liggett v. Nelligan and The Children’s Hospital Association, Case No. 04CA2262, Colorado Court of Appeals. The psychological damages verdict, which is nearly a $1 million dollars, is on appeal. In the same year, the Kobe Bryant criminal prosecution team called on Seelen and her special expertise to assist them in picking a jury in the difficult Eagle, Colorado, case, People v. Bryant, (03CR204, Eagle County, Colorado), which was dismissed at the end of the first week.

She is co-author of The MMPI, MMPI-2, & MMPI-A in Court: A Practical Guide for Expert Witnesses & Attorneys, 3rd Edition (by K.S. Pope, J.N. Butcher, & J. Seelen; published by the American Psychological Association).


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