Former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs Jr. died Tuesday after suffering a pulmonary embolism.
The 76-year-old retired justice spent decades working in water law, authored several books and wrote poetry. He died two weeks before his 77th birthday with his family at his side, they said in a statement Wednesday sent out by Water Education Colorado, a nonprofit organization he helped found in 2002 that is dedicated to teaching Coloradans about the state’s water issues.
“Justice Hobbs was a master of water law, a mentor to many Coloradans in the water community who relied on his expertise, and the impact of his work will continue to be felt across our state for years to come,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement Thursday.
After beginning his career as a sixth-grade teacher, Hobbs worked as an environmental law and water rights attorney for years in Colorado, with stops at the Environmental Protection Agency and the natural resources section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
He had a “huge appreciate” for Western culture and often wore bolo ties and turquoise jewelry, said Jayla Poppleton, executive director of Water Education Colorado.
“Often he was probably the most knowledgeable person in the room, but he would defer to listening first, and really genuinely wanted to know what other people thought and what they cared about,” she said. “But he would inject just the right thing at the right time to help steer the conversation, or to help us think about things from a very valuable and needed point of view.”
Hobbs became a partner with Davis Graham and Stubbs in 1979 and served as principal counsel for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the family’s statement said. In 1992, he founded the law firm Hobbs, Trout and Raley.
Hobbs took the bench of the state’s highest court in 1996. He authored more than 250 majority opinions for the Colorado Supreme Court, many of them on water law, the family’s statement said. He served until 2015, then continued to work in the courts as a senior water judge after retiring.
“Justice Hobbs was a unique person who was passionate about law, poetry, photography, and the history and landscape of Colorado,” Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright said in a statement Thursday. “His affinity for the outdoors and his love for exploration were unmatched, as was his desire to inspire others.”
Hobbs was enthusiastic and generous, Poppleton said. Every time the nonprofit organization produced a new issue of its publications, he’d declare that issue “the best one yet,” she said.
“He meant so much to so many and was really the ultimate public servant,” she said. “It’s impossible to overstate the impact Justice Hobbs had on the state of Colorado and Colorado water.”
Hobbs “shared his joy for life with everyone around him,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said Thursday. In 2008, Hobbs published a collection of poetry in the University of Baltimore Law Review.
“I find the poetical is another way of describing the experience of a truth by analogy,” he wrote then.
Hobbs is survived by his wife, Bobbie, and two children, Dan and Emily.
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