Remembering Carrie

Two white-appearing women with cameras and other photo gear. Carrie, on the left, in a denim skirt and black t-shirt using a wheelchair. Amy, on the right, standing, wearing a beige fleece, vest, and jeans. My friend — and multi-talented attorney, activist, and mother — passed last February.  We celebrated her life on Saturday.  These were my words.


When I sat down to write these words, I knew I would be able to plagiarize a lot of my own previous words. I’ve had the privilege of introducing Carrie at various events and presenting awards to her on a number of occasions.

So I did what any nerd would do: searched my computer for documents mentioning Carrie.

As I anticipated, I found the words I had said introducing her for a Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition award, and later an award from our organization, the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, as well as the words I said to introduce her as a candidate for Windsor town board. I’ll reuse some of them in a sec.

But I also found a long list of other documents that show the central role Carrie played in my personal and professional life for the past 20 years.  For example:

  • Lucas v. Iliff – the case on which my husband, Tim Fox, and I first represented Carrie and got to know her, asking her divinity school for accommodations.
  • Lucas v. Kmart – and our tribute to her when that case was recognized by the Impact Fund as the largest disability public accommodations case to date (and possibly through the present), making Kmart stores nationwide accessible to people using wheelchairs.
  • I also found the photos we took for the Impact Fund’s event. Sadly, they didn’t use the one of Carrie, Tim, Kevin Williams, and me all playing poker around our conference table.
  • Lucas v. DU and Lucas v. DU. Or in the words of one of Carrie’s best press releases, “Oops, they did it again!”
  • Carrie’s adoption reference.
  • Carrie’s dumpling sauce.
  • A spreadsheet called “Carrie Lucas Internship Timesheet” – when she interned at our law firm as a law student, prepared court-ready pleadings, and of course taught us more than we taught her.
  • Lucas v. Colorado Rockies: now you can buy accessible seats behind home plate without buying season tickets.
  • Carrie’s EJW photo. After she was awarded the prestigious Equal Justice Works fellowship, I had the privilege of taking the official photo, while she was wearing – of all things – a hat my mother made her.
  • Her first case in federal court, for which we drafted an amicus brief. (Amicus means friend in Latin – never was it truer than on briefs we wrote to support Carrie’s cases.) I also found the brief from the case last year in which she supported us as an amicus, along with Julie Farrar, who just spoke, and Corbett, who is online.
  • The published case of Kerr v. Heather Gardens, setting an obscure but important ADA precedent. Every time I cite it, I recognize how Carrie still helps us and so many other lawyers in so many fields.
  • Lucas v. City and County of Denver: now you can buy accessible tickets to Red Rocks that don’t cost $5,000 on StubHub.
  • The many cases on which we co-counseled, including two in a row against the City of Denver for accommodations for Deaf detainees. (Oops, they did it again!)
  • A long messaging discussion – which I saved, God knows why – about why it is OK to have breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast, but NOT to mix breakfast food and dinner food, reaching the consensus that ketchup on eggs was a desecration.
  • A downloaded copy of “15 Theses – A Protest to Challenge the Church on Disability,” Carrie’s blog post on Reformation Day, in which she set forth 15 specific, biblically-sourced ways in which the Church needed to become more welcoming to disabled people. (She adds:  “I sketched these out during worship last week, but give me time, I could come up with 95.”)  I highly recommend this post to people of all faiths or none.

Carrie (purple dress; short hair; wheelchair) playing with a young golden retriever who has his paws on her knees.

Carrie was the get-shit-donest person I know. We lawyers can be a cautious bunch — always arguing this side and that.  I can recall many occasions when — confronting injustice or simply something that needed doing — while the rest of us were still pondering, planning, and arguing about the best route forward, we would discover that Carrie had already acted.

She saw something that needed to be done and she did it.  One of the best examples of this is when she found out her niece faced the possibility of foster care:  she moved immediately to adopt her.

Then realizing the obstacles she faced as a disabled woman trying to adopt, she made the rights of parents with disabilities the focus of her legal education and career.

When Carrie started her nonprofit, Disabled Parents’ Rights, the number of lawyers in the country who were addressing these issues was in the low- to mid-single-digits.  She quickly became an expert in this crucial area, and was a sought-after speaker and teacher for other lawyers, advocates, and even judges.

You’ll hear a lot about all of her many roles:  mother, lawyer, advocate, arrestee, photographer, cook.  She was all these things.  Then we’d be chatting and she’d say something like, “we’re going to see Hamilton, so I’m making Hamilton skirts for myself and my daughters.”  Or “I have some time over Christmas break — I’ve decided to learn the hammer dulcimer.”

She was the person I always turned to when I need an answer:  What’s the right case to cite?  Who should I vote for?  What does the trinity mean? How do I format a document in Word without throwing my laptop out the window?  She answered these and so many others.

When we gave her the CREEC award a few years ago, we summed up Carrie’s intersectional work and identities by saying: “she may be the only wheelchair-using Latina with a bumper sticker that reads ‘just another disabled lesbian for Christ,’ dressed in camo, driving her trak-chair into the wilderness for the perfect photo.

Carrie was our client, intern, colleague, and co-counsel, but most important to me, she was my dear friend.  She had just the right combination of wisdom, compassion, sarcasm, and love, and I miss her profoundly.

Cartoon drawing of Carrie as a superhero, with an orange cape.

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