Denver Bar Association
May 2013
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2013 DBA Award Winners: Four Attorneys Recognized for Service to Legal Community

by Alexa Drago

Hear More from the Honorees

Click here to watch short interviews with this year’s award winners.


he Denver Bar Association’s annual awards honor those who have made extraordinary contributions to the community. Meet this year’s honorees:


Award of Merit: Charles "Charley" Garcia

After working as a CPA for 10 years, Charley Garcia changed course and ventured into law. He graduated from the University of Denver College of Law in 1985 and joined the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, where he was a public defender for 25 years. He retired in 2007 as the Denver office head.

"Public service is always what has drawn me," Garcia said.

In 2011, he served as Denver’s Manager of Safety. In that role, he oversaw its police, sheriff, and fire departments. He is special counsel to the governor, first serving under Gov. Bill Ritter and continuing under Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Garcia has been involved with the bar associations since the early ’90s, when he joined the executive council of the Colorado Bar Association’s Criminal Law Section. As a former CPA, the Budget Committee was the next natural step, followed by a position as the CBA’s treasurer, which he holds today.

"The key to really enjoying being a member of the bar is being a part of your community," Garcia said.

He also is active on the Access to Justice Commission and was recently named the CBA’s president-elect. He will start his term as president July 1, 2014.

Garcia has volunteered with programs such as We the People, speaking about the Constitution and law with high school students. Additionally, he is a member of the DBA’s Access to Justice and Democracy Education committees.

"The [volunteer opportunities] that I really care the most about are the ones that I hope have an impact on our community first," Garcia said.

Law is not so much a profession, but an honor, he said. Garcia works to pass on that message to younger attorneys by serving as a mentor in the DBA Mentoring Program, which connects new and established attorneys, and as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Garcia said receiving the Award of Merit, the DBA’s highest honor, it is not for him as an individual, but is a reminder to all attorneys of the qualities that make law such an honorable profession.


Volunteer of the Year: Karen Spaulding

For Karen Spaulding, volunteering is about giving people the opportunity to do their best.

Since 1995, she has been a member of the Community Action Network (formerly the Community Concerns Committee).

Initially, the committee focused on individual volunteer jobs, such as helping inmates obtain their GEDs or teaching kids how to read. Spaulding co-chaired the committee from 2007 to 2009 and remains active with the group.

CAN hosts yearly drives — namely to collect dental hygiene necessities, school supplies, food, toys, and books for children in need — and events that raise money. CAN has supported organizations including Children’s Outreach Project, Metro CareRing, Kids in Need of Dentistry, and Project Angel Heart.

It is humbling for Spaulding to see the results of volunteers’ work.

"It’s really rewarding to me when I can go to the end product of, say, the back-to-school drive at the Denver Zoo, where we hand out these backpacks full of school supplies to kids, and to see the expressions on their faces," she said.

Spaulding first became involved with the DBA in 1993 as a volunteer for Lawline 9, a weekly ask-an-attorney call-in program sponsored by the DBA and 9News, and continues to volunteer today.

Outside the DBA, she is involved in Work Options for Women, which teaches culinary and life skills to women, aimed at helping them get off of welfare. Spaulding sat on its board of directors from 2002 to 2008 and was the chair from 2005 to 2007. Recently, she became a guardian ad litem for the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center.

Spaulding’s legal career at Beatty & Wozniak focuses on litigation involving oil, gas, and energy, as well as employment matters.

Spaulding said there are many DBA members who volunteer in the community and hopes to inspire more to get involved: "Let’s pay it forward, DBA attorneys!"


Young Lawyer of the Year: Jaclyn Casey

Community involvement is an outlet for Jaclyn Casey — something different from what she does every day as a commercial and complex civil litigator at Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons.

"There’s conflict in most of my days, and it’s refreshing and fulfilling on different levels to be involved in community organizations," she said.

Casey got involved with the Barristers Benefit Ball Committee after responding to a call for volunteers. She has co-chaired the event for the past two years. She also is a DBA representative on the Colorado Bar Association’s Board of Governors, and come July, she will sit on the DBA’s Board of Trustees.

Community involvement is invaluable, Casey said, adding that lawyers have an obligation to be active outside their offices.

"I think people look to us as leaders of the community," she said. "I think we should wear that mantle and be responsible and involved in our communities."

Casey also volunteers with the Curious Theatre Company and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Casey said she believes these outlets make her a better attorney and well-rounded person.

"I’m as fulfilled personally as much as the organization is by the work that I do for them; I think it’s an incredible give and take," she said.

On receiving the Young Lawyer of the Year Award, Casey said she was at a loss for words.

"I’m incredibly honored, and anyone who knows me knows I rarely lack for words," she said. "To be mentioned in the same breath as [past recipients] is really incredible. They’ve gone on to do amazing things, and they’re great lawyers and terrific people. I just hope I can honor that legacy."


Judicial Excellence: Alex Martinez

Alex Martinez decided to pursue a career in law after watching his mother struggle with bureaucracy while trying to support the family and secure the medical care for his father. Aware of her frustration and the difficulty, he had the overwhelming feeling that the organizations set up to support and serve people weren’t working well. He became interested in how institutions work and wondered, wasn’t there a better way?

Inspired by the civil rights movement, Martinez entered into public defense in the hopes of serving his community by helping people through the legal system.

"At the end of this life, my life will have been better if I have done something to make someone else’s in some small way better as well," Martinez said.

He began his legal career as a deputy state public defender in 1976 in Denver. In 1979, he went to Pueblo to supervise its public defender office. He was appointed as a Pueblo County Court judge in 1983, then named to the 10th Judicial District Court in 1988.

In 1996, Martinez became a justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, where he served for 15 years. He has been Denver’s Manager of Safety since 2011.

Martinez has been a volunteer with the Colorado Bar Association’s high school mock trial program — most notably serving as the presiding judge at the state tournament’s final round for the past 12 years.

When people say "your honor," Martinez said it is a reminder to the judge of how important that role is, and not a personal recognition. After working in public service for 37 years, he is gratified by this honor and the value others have found in his work.

"The importance of that work and how it affects people has always been foremost in my mind," he said. D


Alexa Drago is the Communications and Marketing Department manager for the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations. She may be reached at

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