In and Around the Bar Profile of 2014-15 CBA President
Charles F. Garcia—Let the Conversations Begin
About the Author
Alexa Drago is the communications and marketing manager for the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations—(303) 824-5313, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A strong work ethic and a sense of humor—these are the characteristics inherent in CBA President Charley Garcia. As he begins his year at the helm of the CBA, both qualities will be part and parcel of every effort Garcia will undertake. He also will tap into his public service experience (he is a retired public defender) and his pragmatic outlook (he began his professional life as an accountant). His love of the law will guide him as he confronts the burgeoning questions of what the future of the legal profession will look like, and how the CBA can best serve its members as the profession continues to evolve.
Garcia believes the future of the bar association and the legal profession is in the hands of its young lawyers. For this reason, during his year as CBA president, he plans to "focus on youth first." Then, because he has been firmly committed to equal access to the legal system, he also will devote his tenure to the topic of access to justice. According to Garcia, making access to justice a mainstay of the profession is going to require the participation of everyone. Garcia says: 'There is nothing we do in this profession that does not incorporate access to justice." He also believes that the legal profession and the CBA membership are complementary entities; serving one enhances the other.
Getting to Know Him—Personal History
Charles (Charley) F. Garcia was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. His All-American life was stable and predictable until the eleventh grade, when his parents divorced and moved to different parts of the country. Garcia spent the next two years making a new life with new friends, first living with his father in California, and then with his mother in the north country of Wisconsin, where he finished high school. In 1968, while attending college in Wisconsin, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Korea and then to El Paso, Texas, where he worked as a missile technician until 1971.
When his tour of duty ended, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin and studied accounting. Very much a product of the 1960s, after being released from the army, Garcia vowed never to cut his hair again—a promise kept until a job offer required him to cut off his pony tail. Still retaining an element of rebellion, he kept some of the length and went to work. The next day, he was back in the barber's chair. The barber said he knew Garcia would be back.
When he graduated in 1973 with a degree in accounting, Garcia joined Arthur Andersen, at the time one of the "Big Eight" accounting firms in the country. For the better part of a decade, his work with Arthur Andersen as a CPA specializing in International Tax moved him across the United States and Canada, eventually settling him in Denver. During this time, Garcia's "Perry Mason" side continued to nudge him toward becoming a lawyer. Once in Denver, he enrolled in the University of Denver College of Law's (Denver Law) evening program. During the day, he worked as a CPA with Price Waterhouse.
As an International Tax CPA, Garcia's first professional perception of the law and how it was used (or in some cases abused) was from a different vantage point than most attorneys. This experience helped shape his interpretation of the rule of law, which he believes relies on the adequacy and integrity of the courts.
After graduating from Denver Law in 1985, Garcia took a job with the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender (PD), where he practiced as a criminal defense trial attorney for twenty-two years, the last seven of which serving as Office Head of the Denver Trial Office.
Defining His Career—The Death Penalty
A significant event for any defense attorney presented itself to Garcia in 1997, when the Denver District Attorney sought the death penalty in the case of the accused Capitol Hill serial rapist, Jacques Richardson. Garcia knew that if he took the case, years of his life would be consumed by it. He asked his wife Anne what she thought about his taking the case. She surprised him with an entirely different perspective from his on the matter.
"I think it's very simple," she replied. 'There is one question you have to ask yourself: If you lose, and they kill your client, how will you deal with that?"
Confident he would be able to say to himself that he had done everything he could to save that man's life, he took the case. Two years later, Jacques Richardson was convicted in Denver of first-degree murder, and...