Derek V. Garcia
On September 20, 2010, Derek Garcia became the first attorney in his family. The date did not mark the end of a long journey, but rather, just the beginning of a developing story. With an eye toward helping to make his home state of New Mexico a more just place for all, Derek began accepting his first civil rights cases, only two days after being sworn into the New Mexico bar. The occasion, however, did not come without struggle and sacrifice.
Before and during law school, Derek worked for some of the most successful plaintiff?s civil rights firms in New Mexico, including as a runner for Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom, and Schoenburg, and Bienvenu LLP; a law clerk for Freedman, Boyd, Hollander, Goldberg, Ives, P.A.; a clerk for McGinn, Carpenter, Montoya & Love, P.A.; and a law clerk for the Kennedy Law Firm. His service included numerous, smaller research stints and assignments for sole practitioners and other small firms, along the way. While in Boston, he worked for the National Lawyers? Guild, and returned to help rejuvenate the struggling organization as Co-President at the University of New Mexico in 2009. In 2007, he worked as a law-student extern for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in the Chambers of now-retired Magistrate Judge Patricia Hemann. There, he conducted an independent research assignment on the lack of diversity in federal jury pools and their resulting venires. Derek held numerous other, odd-jobs during law school (including time as a cashier for the Trader Joes grocery store chain in Boston), working his way through law school.
Over time, Derek became deeply aware of the countless numbers of citizens who slept on their rights because they were unable to afford representation. He witnessed numerous individuals whose Constitutional rights may have been violated, but for reasons beyond their control, were unable to achieve justice. Some could not afford the services of an attorney because they had lost their jobs, homes, and even families, as a direct consequence of a wrongful arrest or false imprisonment. Others could find no hope of piecing their lives together again, after the bills for the emotional distress and consequential damages of their experiences, became fully due. Some had been falsely accused, arrested without probable cause, or in some cases the recipients of unchecked police brutality. While taking his oath, he promised he would work to change the paradigm in favor of the oppressed and those without power.
Upon graduation, he opened for business as a tenant in the Kennedy Law Firm, in order to maximize his flexibility to practice different areas of law.
Derek completed his undergraduate coursework at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. There, in 2004, he received his Bachelor?s degree in Government (concentration in International Relations) and English. In college, Derek was involved in activism surrounding several areas of social justice. In one example, he was arrested while allegedly blocking the entry to the William R. Cotter federal building (IRS) in Hartford, CT, to prevent any taxes from being collected there for the day, and as a protest to the invasion and bombing of Iraq in 2003. He spent one evening in jail with representatives of several religious organizations, including a Catholic Priest, a Jewish scholar, and representatives of the Unitarian Universalist Church, all of whom were non-violent objectors to unprovoked aggression, and willing to place their personal freedom on the line, in defense of the Constitution. He was arrested as part of a large group of over 100 protesters, represented by civil rights attorneys en masse. Despite never being sure of his charges, and unable to locate any court records from the incident, he agreed to pick up trash on the highway as a form of community service (7 hours), successfully completed between April and May, 2003. Despite feeling like his 1st Amendment rights had been violated, Derek simply liked the idea of picking up trash, in service to his country. In his mind, humor was the only remedy to sorrow. Every other avenue for service to his country, at that time, was prohibited by law (See 10 U.S.C. § 654; Brief in Support of Respondent United States Navy [writing sample link]).
Derek continued to pursue his dream to become an attorney, completing his first year of law school at Northeastern School of Law in Boston, MA. There, he helped a team of law students to complete a research and writing project for the Victim Rights Law Center, dedicated to assisting the victims of sexual abuse and assault, with a focus on policies and procedures in a school-related context. From there, Derek transferred to the University of New Mexico, where he continued to work for causes he believed in, including the campaign of a Justice for the New Mexico Supreme Court. In 2009, as an inaugural member of UNM's Williams Institute Moot Court team, he competed at UCLA law school on issues involving Constitutional rights and discriminatory policies in the military. He also completed his final writing requirement on the topic of Criminal Defense of Individuals With Aspergers Syndrome and Other Forms of High-functioning Autism, finding inspiration in his brother and clinical law practice clients. Derek graduated from law school, in his home of Albuquerque, and coincidentally enough on his birthday: May 15, 2010. He marked the occasion by helping to organize a relief effort and graduation party in conjunction with Hands of the Caribbean, Inc., a New Mexico non-profit, with proceeds benefiting the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti.
Despite the challenges along the way, Derek informs his practice with an unrelenting conviction that true justice will prevail. He attempts to treat each and every case with balanced care and equal attention to detail, despite knowing that the odds are stacked against many, even before their claims are heard in court. Derek knows that truth can always be found, but only through free expression, due process, patience, and courage.
Derek's practice includes dedication to plaintiff's civil rights, family law, criminal defense, prisoners' civil rights, juvenile defense, entertainment law, and advocacy for people with disabilities. In his limited free time, he enjoys studying Taekwondo and martial arts, playing bass guitar, chess, video games, and spending time with his 'power animal' and pet box turtle, Michelangelo II.