Alex C. Tejada, a longtime criminal defense lawyer in Durango who took on countless pro bono cases, died Saturday in Boulder. He was 61.
The cause was complications from diabetes, said his wife, Beth Crane, who also practices law and lives in Durango.
Friends and colleagues on Monday described Tejada as a tireless advocate for clients, a champion of fairness and a supporter of local charities.
He was active in criminal defense until his death.
“He was an outstanding lawyer who always worked ferociously on behalf of his clients with good success,” said District Judge Gregory Lyman, who oversees the 6th Judicial District. “He went to bat for everyone who hired him, regardless of how big or small the case was.”
Tejada moved to Durango in 1981 to work as a public defender. He eventually moved into private practice.
He lectured fellow lawyers on the importance of providing free legal services, said Durango defense lawyer William Herringer.
“He cared about people and wanted to see that they had good counsel,” he said.
In the courtroom, Tejada could be “colorful” and “passionate,” but he was always respectful toward colleagues, Herringer said.
“Alex had a personality where he could do things in the courtroom where nobody else could get away with it and pull it off,” Herringer said. “He was the most relentless advocate for his client that I have ever met.”
Tejada enjoyed “raising some hell” with the District Attorney’s Office, said former public defender Tom Williamson.
Williamson said he used to stay in the courtroom to hear Tejada argue a case.
“He was pretty aggressive, and he was not shy about letting people know about it in court when he hit the podium,” Williamson said.
Durango defense lawyer David Greenberg said Tejada cared about people above anything else.
Greenberg recalled a client of Tejada’s who was found guilty in the 1980s. The defendant’s mother asked Tejada what happened.
“He said, ‘Sometimes I do good and sometimes I don’t do so good, and this was one of those times,’” Greenberg said. “I know that she understood that he gave his heart and soul, and it just didn’t come out as well as it could have, and he accepted the responsibility.”
Tejada was one of eight children raised in a low-income family in south Texas. His father was a welder and served in the Air Force. His mother was a teacher and a civil-rights worker in her community.
“He inherited that passion of equal rights for all people and helping people who are less fortunate than you,” his wife said.
He had two sons and two step-sons.
Son Clayton Tejada said his father would trade services with clients to settle a debt.
“If they didn’t have money, that didn’t mean they shouldn’t get a fair shake,” Clayton Tejada said.
Tejada donated regularly to charitable organizations.
He kept pictures on his office wall in the east 500 block of College Drive showing 4-H members from whom he had bought steer or sheep.
He also gave regularly to candidates who shared his liberal ideals.
“It was another resource for him to try to make a better life for those around him,” Clayton Tejada said.