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People v. Lopez.

2024 CO 50. No. 22SC759. Right to Counsel—Conflict of Interest.

June 24, 2024

In this case, the Supreme Court considered whether a defendant who argues for the first time on appeal that his constitutional right to conflict-free counsel was violated by the simultaneous prosecution of both him and his counsel by the same prosecutor must prove that an actual conflict of interest adversely affected his representation.

To answer this question, the Court had to decide whether to adopt the division’s analysis in People v. Edebohls, 944 P.2d 552, 556–57 (Colo.App. 1996), in which the division concluded that pending criminal charges against defense counsel in the same district in which counsel was representing a defendant created an actual conflict of interest that, absent a valid waiver, required reversal.

The Court concluded that Edebohls has been superseded by subsequent case law, which has limited the categories of errors deemed to mandate reversal without a showing of prejudice (i.e., structural errors). Accordingly, the Court concluded that the proper framework for analyzing a conflict like that at issue here is the framework set forth in its decision in West v. People, 2015 CO 5, ¶ 65, 341 P.3d 520, 534, which requires a court to determine whether the case falls within one of the few scenarios that the Supreme Court has said support a presumption of prejudice and, if not, whether the defendant has shown both a conflict of interest and an adverse effect resulting from that conflict.

Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the division below and remanded this case for findings in accordance with the standards set forth in this opinion.

The full opinion is available at

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

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