L. Duane Woodard came from a pioneer Colorado family that had homesteaded in the Greeley area. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri on January 12, 1938, because of his Army officer father’s assignment to Fort Riley, Kansas; his mother returned to Greeley thirteen days later. Woodard lived in Casper and Cheyenne, Wyoming because of his father’s military assignments. Woodard himself served in the Marine Corps in Japan and the Philippines. He attended the University of Wyoming and graduated in 1963. Thinking he wanted to be an oil and gas lawyer, he attended the University of Oklahoma Law School and graduated in 1967. He worked for two years for Sinclair Oil in Denver before taking a job as the first full-time Deputy District Attorney for the Eighth Judicial District based in Fort Collins.
After a stint in private practice, Woodard was elected in 1976 to the State Senate from Fort Collins where he served as the assistant majority leader. In March of 1980 he was appointed by Governor Lamm to the Public Utilities Commission. He served on the Commission until August of 1982 when he resigned to campaign for Attorney General. Woodard won the 1982 general election race as the Republican nominee, running on a platform that entailed less government regulation, greater public safety, and protection of Colorado’s water. “Colorado’s water is Colorado’s future” he declared.
When he took office in January of 1983, Ben Coates was named head of the Criminal Appeals Section to be followed by John Dailey. Coates is now on the Colorado Supreme Court and Dailey is on the Court of Appeals. Garth Lucero headed the Consumer Protection Section. Garth had joined the office out of law school in 1977 and remained there for 28 years. By the end of Woodard’s tenure the office had more than 140 Assistant Attorneys General.
In 1982 Exxon shut down its oil shale operations in western Colorado and the economic stability of the region was adversely impacted. On the other hand, major growth of technological industries was beginning to occur in Colorado.
In December of 1983, the Attorney General’s Office filed seven cases on behalf of Colorado seeking the cleanup of significant hazardous waste sites in the state. The actions were brought under a federal statute called CERCLA and called for both the cleanup of the superfund sites and the recovery of damages for permanent injury to the environment. Attorney General Woodard rejected Governor Lamm’s request to farm the CERCLA cases out to private firms. Instead, a CERCLA Section was formed in the office under Assistant Attorney General Howard Kennison. The work of the section would not only consume the next eight years but the next three decades. But multi-billion dollar cleanups were court ordered and the office collected millions of dollars for Colorado for the damages caused at the sites.
That same year, the Attorney General’s Office initiated discussions with leaders of the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribes, leading to the reauthorization of the Animas La Plata water project, which had been de-listed by the Carter Administration. The successful negotiations resolved contentious water issues and eventually resulted in the construction of the project in southwest Colorado. Also in 1983, Kansas sued Colorado, again over the Arkansas River. The claim was for over $300 million. The case would be fought for decades and it was not until 2005 that Kansas was awarded $29 million in damages by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1984, based on his experience as a PUC Commissioner, Woodard drafted legislation that created within the Attorney General’s Office an Office of Consumer Counsel to represent the interests of residential and agricultural rate payers before the utilities commission. Corporate and institutional interests were well represented but someone needed to represent “the little guy.” In 1995 the Office of Consumer Counsel would be transferred to the Department of Regulatory Agencies, but is still represented by the Attorney General’s Office.
In 1985 the Colorado legislature created the Office of Risk Management and allowed the state to be self-insured. That necessitated the creation of a Tort Litigation Section in the Attorney General’s Office. The first major case the section handled was a defense of the Colorado Tramway Safety Board arising out of a ski lift accident at Keystone in which several people were killed or injured. A State Claims Board consisting of the Attorney General, Treasurer, and Director of Personnel and Administration was created to approve large settlements and decide indemnification issues. As the litigation caseload grew, the Tort Litigation Section expanded in response.
In the mid-eighties a huge highway bid rigging scandal rocked the western United States and Colorado. Highway contractors were determined to have rigged jobs in Colorado ranging from the U.S. Air Force Academy to the Eisenhower Tunnel. While criminal cases were handled federally, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office collected millions of dollars in civil anti-trust awards.
Among the formal opinions issued by the Attorney General’s Office during Woodard’s tenure was one clarifying that Colorado State Patrol officers may make arrests for non-traffic offenses where probable cause for the arrest arises during the course of their statutory duties. Another opined that sobriety checkpoints were lawful and a third said the Governor could veto headnotes or footnotes in the annual appropriation bills that were legislative intrusions on the executive power. That opinion would reignite the battle between the legislature and the Governor that would continue for decades.
In 1986, Woodard cruised to reelection over Democrat Thomas Bastien. But in 1987 Woodard announced he was switching political parties in response to what he perceived as unfair treatment in the budgeting process. As a new member of the Democratic Party, Woodard lost to Republican Gale Norton in the 1990 election.
Duane Woodard remained in Denver, primarily practicing law and serving on various community boards and commissions. In 1996 he served as General Counsel to U.S. Senator Hank Brown. Woodard presently lives in Arvada.