Iris focuses her practice on high-profile criminal defense litigation, with a special emphasis on cases that involve homicide, assault, sexual offenses and mental health issues. She handles criminal cases in all of Colorado's judicial districts and often represents students in University disciplinary hearings.
Iris is listed as a “Top 100 Trial Lawyer” by the highly selective American Trial Lawyers Association and a “2008 Top Woman Lawyer” by Law Week Colorado. She was selected for inclusion on the 2012 and 2013 Top 50 Women list in Colorado Super Lawyers® and has been recognized by this publication seven times since 2006. Since 2011, Iris has been selected by her peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® in the specialty of Criminal Defense: Non-White Collar.
Prior to joining the firm, Iris was a Deputy State Public Defender and a senior attorney for the Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People. She also was a lawyer with the Disability Rights Advocates firm in San Francisco. Prior to attending law school, she worked in a variety of mental health facilities -- an experience that sensitized her to the unique legal issues faced by those with mental health issues and motivated her to attend law school to pursue justice in their defense.
Due to her focus on sexual offenses and the criminalization of the mentally ill, Iris is often asked to consult with other attorneys, judges and experts on cases involving these issues. She lectures before the Colorado Judicial Conference and other groups of criminal defense lawyers, and she vigorously advocates at the Colorado State Legislature.
Because of the nature of criminal defense practice, Iris prefers to keep confidential the names of her clients. However, the following cases demonstrate how she continues to advocate for systemic change:
- In Legal Center v. Bicha, et al., obtained a landmark settlement with the State of Colorado as co-lead counsel in a federal lawsuit over provision of competency evaluations to pre-trial detainees. In 2013, the Colorado Lawyers Committee recognized her work in this matter and gave her an Award of Special Recognition.
- With seven other attorneys, Iris created a task force to defend individuals at the State Hospital in Pueblo who pled Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. For this role in 2004, she and her colleagues were awarded the Colorado Lawyers Committee “Community Contribution Award.” She chairs the Committee’s State Mental Health Task Force.
- In People v. Eugene Zuniga, the court in 2007 determined that Colorado failed to provide timely court-ordered competency hearings and evaluations for 81 county-jail inmates whose competency to stand trial was in question. As a special prosecutor for the case, Iris forced the State to properly fund the programs and facilities needed for those inmates to get proper care. Following this decision, she was appointed as special counsel to the court – reporting on the treatment of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.
- In People v. Tyler Sanchez, Iris successfully convinced the prosecution to dismiss Mr. Sanchez’ case after three years of protracted and complex litigation. Mr. Sanchez is a developmentally disabled young man, who was wrongly accused of committing a serious crime, and who falsely confessed to the crime, after being interrogated by multiple police officers over a two day period in which he was in custody and not permitted to contact his parents.
- Iris Eytan was named to the group tasked with researching and rewriting Colorado’s Competency Statute, HB 08-1392, which directs how and when mental incompetency is raised and evaluated. The bill became law in 2008. The group remains active, pursuing additional changes to the statute.
Iris' blog, Criminal Defense: Insanity, Incompetency, and Mental Impairment, can be found at: http://www.criminaldefensementalhealth.com
“When it comes to justice for the disadvantaged -- and especially for those charged with criminal offenses -- I have a no-nonsense attitude. Often, when I say that something is ’not fair,’ my idealism is mistaken for naïveté. But I think it’s naïve to give up on fairness and transparency when people’s lives or rights are in the balance. Every time, I will fight for what’s right.”
| Practice Areas|
- University of San Diego, J.D.
- University of Arizona, B.A., with honors, Psychology
| || Bar & Court Admissions|
- U.S. District Court for Colorado
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
| || Leadership|
- Co-Chair, National Criminal Defense Forum on Forensic Mental Health & the Law (2013)
- Member, Board of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar (2013-2015 Term)
- Secretary/Treasurer, Colorado Lawyers Committee
- Chair, Colorado Lawyers Committee Mental Health Task Force
- Board Member, Capitol Hill Community Services
- Legal Co-Chair, 18th Judicial District Mental Health Court Project (2008)
- Task Force Member, Department of Human Services Competency Committee (2006)
- Chair of Law and Policy, Arapahoe County Mental Health Court
| || Recognition|
- Award of Special Recognition from the Colorado Lawyers Committee (2013)
- Listed in The Best Lawyers in America® in the area of Criminal Defense: Non-White Collar (2011-present)
- "Top 50 Women Lawyers" by Colorado Super Lawyers® (2012, 2013)
- Listed in Colorado Super Lawyers® (seven times since 2006)
- “Top 100 Trial Lawyer” by the American Trial Lawyers Association
- “Top Woman Lawyer” by Law Week Colorado (2008)
- AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell®
- Awarded the Colorado Lawyers Committee “Community Contribution Award” (2005)
| || Presentations & Publications|
- “Celebrity Court Radio Show,” Elizabeth Kelly Blog Talk Radio, November 2013
- “A Case of False Confession and Incompetence to Waive Miranda: Language and Learning Disabilities in Criminal Defense,” Presentation for Grand Rounds, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine with and on behalf of Dr. Richard Martinez, MD, MH – Director, Forensic Psychiatry, Denver Health Medical Center and Director, Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship, UCDSM, Dept. of Psychiatry, November 2013
- “Police & Doctors & Judges Oh My! Representing Clients with Mental Impairments,” Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Conference, November 2013
- “Street Law: In Re Gault,” East High School, Oct 2013
- “Opening Remarks and Introductions,” National Criminal Defense Forum and Forensic Mental Health and the Law,” National Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), September 2013
- “Trial Tactics: Openings and Closings of Trial,” University of Colorado School of Law, 2013
- “Mental Health Defenses,” Metropolitan State University of Denver, 2013
- “Sex, Drugs, and the Law," Kent Denver School, May 2013
- “The Insanity Defense with Joe Scarborough,” MSNBC, 2012
- “Insanity Defense Looks Likely in Holmes Case,” USA Today, 2012
- “Trial Tactics: Theory,” University of Colorado School of Law, 2012
- “What I’ve Learned From Representing the Incompetent in an Incompetent System,” Colorado Public Defender Annual Fall Conference, 2012
- “Pro Bono Practice at Law Firm,” University of Denver Sturm College of Law, 2012
- “Sex, Drugs, and the Law," Kent Denver School, May 2012
- “Demonstrative Evidence,” National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), Winter Conference, 2009
- “Competency Statutes Post Zuniga,” Colorado Judicial Conference, 2009
- “Competently Representing the Incompetent,” Colorado Criminal Defense Bar (CCDB), 2008
- “Competency Statutes,” Probate Court Panel, 2000
| || Professional Memberships|
- Colorado Criminal Defense Bar
- Colorado Lawyers Committee
| || Media|