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People v. Garcia.

2024 CO 41. No. 22SC633. Criminal Law—Waiver—Disqualification of a Judge.

June 11, 2024

After a jury convicted him of first degree motor vehicle theft, Garcia argued for the first time on appeal that the judge who presided over his case was statutorily disqualified because, when she was a managing public defender, she had covered for his lawyer in a brief pretrial proceeding. Garcia asserted this amounted to structural error requiring automatic reversal. A split division of the court of appeals agreed and reversed Garcia’s conviction.

The Supreme Court agreed with the division majority that the judge was statutorily disqualified but concluded that when a defendant who is aware of potential grounds to disqualify a judge fails to object, the defendant waives their claim that the judge was statutorily disqualified. The Court further determined that the specific facts and circumstances of this case support a reasonable inference that Garcia’s attorneys were aware that the judge was statutorily disqualified. The Court, accordingly, concluded that their failure to object amounts to the intentional relinquishment of a known right, and thus, Garcia’s claim of judicial disqualification was waived.

Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the division below.

The full opinion is available at

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

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