September 17, 2014

Colorado Supreme Court: City of Englewood v. Burlington Ditch, Reservoir and Land Co.

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Concerning the Application for Water Rights of Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company: City of Englewood v. Burlington Ditch, Reservoir and Land Co. on June 21, 2010.

No-Call Agreements—Subordination Agreements—Presumption of Injury—Proof of Injury.

In 1999, Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (FRICO); Burlington Ditch, Reservoir and Land Company; and Henrylyn Irrigation District (collectively, the Companies) entered into a settlement agreement (agreement) with the City and County of Denver, acting by and through its Board of Water Commissioners (Denver), to resolve various water rights issues. Among other things, the agreement provided that the Companies would not place a call on their 1885 Oasis storage right, which is the most senior storage right on the South Platte River and consists of reservoir priorities Nos. 1 and 2 for filling Barr and Oasis Reservoirs. The City of Englewood challenged this agreement before the water court, Division 1, in an action to resolve applications by the Companies and others for changes in water rights, alternate points of diversion, an appropriative right of exchange, a new junior water right, and a plan for augmentation.

In a pretrial order, the water court found that: (1) the agreement was a valid no-call agreement; (2) the agreement did not constitute a change of water right or subordination agreement; (3) Englewood did not have a right to maintenance of stream conditions created by the placement of a call; (4) there is no legally cognizable claim of injury from a no-call agreement unless it violates public policy; and (5) Englewood’s claims are not entitled to a presumption of injury, and Englewood has the burden of proof of injury. After a two-day trial, the water court further ruled that Englewood failed to present evidence that the agreement violated either public policy or the one-fill rule. Englewood appealed these determinations by the water court and further argued that the water court erred in its rulings regarding proof of injury.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the water court and held that the agreement is a valid no-call agreement. Additionally, the Court rejected Englewood’s claims that the water court erred by not allowing it to rely on a presumption of injury, by prohibiting the introduction of certain evidence of injury at trial, by ignoring other evidence of injury in its ruling, and by determining that a stipulation at trial protected junior appropriators from injury.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: People v. Null

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Null on June 21, 2010.

Custodial Interrogation—Miranda—Express Consent Statute—Extraordinary Circumstances Exception.

The Supreme Court held that the police violated the defendant’s Miranda rights when they subjected him to custodial interrogation without first advising him of his rights. Before interrogation, defendant was detained on the side of the road for a relatively lengthy period; he was not free to leave; and he failed several roadside sobriety tests, giving the officers reasonable grounds for arrest. Two officers then surrounded defendant and interrogated him without advising him of his rights. The Court affirmed the trial court’s order to suppress defendant’s incriminating statements.

The Court also affirmed the trial court’s determination that defendant’s rights were violated under Colorado’s express consent statute, CRS § 42-4-1301.1. Under that statute, a driver may choose either a blood test or a breath test to determine blood alcohol content. Absent extraordinary circumstances, law enforcement must provide the driver with the chosen test. Defendant chose a blood test, but the ambulance service refused to respond to law enforcement’s request for a blood test. The prosecution presented no evidence that extraordinary circumstances prevented the ambulance service from performing the blood test. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court’s finding that no extraordinary circumstances existed to justify law enforcement’s violation of defendant’s statutory right to receive a blood test. Under these circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it suppressed defendant’s refusal to take a breath test and dismissed the charge of driving under the influence.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Earnest v. Gorman

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2009–2010 #45: Earnest v. Gorman on June 21, 2010.

Ballot Title—Single Subject—Fair and Accurate Titles—No Catch Phrase.

Registered electors of the State of Colorado and organizations whose members include registered electors of the State of Colorado challenged the action of the Title Board in setting the title and ballot title and submission clause for Proposed Initiative 2009–2010 #45. Initiative #45 proposes an amendment to the Colorado Constitution establishing a right to health-care choice, implemented by prohibiting state law from requiring individuals to participate in any health insurance plan. The petitioners argue that Initiative #45 contains more than one subject, that the title is inaccurate and misleading, and that the title contains an impermissible “catch phrase.”

The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the Title Board that Initiative #45 contains only one subject: preserving individuals’ rights to choose their own health care arrangements. The Court also determined that the title and ballot title and submission clause are fair and accurate, and that the title does not contain an impermissible catch phrase.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: City of Manassa v. Ruff

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in City of Manassa v. Ruff on June 21, 2010.

Workers’ Compensation—Conflict of Interest—Quasi-Judicial Actions.

In this workers’ compensation action for disability benefits, the appellant, claimant Dale Ruff, and the appellees, the City of Manassa and Pinnacol Assurance, petitioned for review of various aspects of the court of appeals’ judgment. See Ruff v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, 218 P.3d 1109 (Colo.App. 2009). The Industrial Claim Appeals Office had affirmed the refusal of an administrative law judge (ALJ) to disqualify an independent medical examiner (IME) due to an apparent or actual conflict of interest. The court of appeals remanded for reconsideration of whether there was an appearance of conflict, relying on its own interpretation of applicable workers’ compensation rules of procedure to find that the ALJ gave insufficient consideration to the IME’s relationship with the insurer; however, it rejected claimant’s assertion that an IME functions in a quasi-judicial capacity, with the same obligations of disclosure and disqualification as are applicable to judicial officers.

Because the court of appeals erred in finding that the ALJ gave inadequate consideration to the relationship between the IME and Pinnacol Assurance, the Supreme Court reversed its order remanding for reconsideration. Because the IME would not be governed by the ethical obligations of judges, even if his determination could reasonably be characterized as a quasi-judicial action, the Court affirmed that portion of the court of appeals’ judgment declining to impose on him judicial ethical obligations of disclosure and disqualification. The judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Misenhelter v. People

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Misenhelter v. People on June 21, 2010.

Criminal Sentencing—Apprendi–Blakely Line of Cases—Prior Conviction Exception.

The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s use of defendant’s aggravated incest conviction to aggravate his sentence for negligent child abuse beyond the presumptive range. The Court held that when a defendant pleads guilty to two or more charges and convictions are entered on them, the entered convictions can be used to aggravate penalties during sentencing without offending Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 302-10 (2004), and its progeny. Similarly, the facts substantiating the prior conviction can be Blakely-compliant if the defendant effectuates a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: In re People v. Spykstra

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re People v. Spykstra on June 21, 2010.

Crim.P. 17(c)—Pretrial Subpoenas Duces Tecum—District Attorney Standing to Move to Quash or Modify—Compliance With Crim.P. 17(c)—Unreasonable or Oppressive Subpoenas.

In this child sexual assault case, the Supreme Court found that the district attorney has standing to challenge the defendant’s Crim.P. 17(c) pretrial subpoenas duces tecum served on the victim’s parents. The Court also held that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering enforcement of defendant’s subpoenas by (1) converting the subpoenas into the functional equivalent of a search warrant when it ordered the parents to allow defendant’s expert into their home to search their computer for e-mails written by the victim, and (2) failing to require defendant to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the e-mails existed and were relevant and evidentiary.

In keeping with its limited purposes, Crim.P. 17(c) expressly contemplates production of evidence by a subpoenaed witness in court, not search and seizure of the witness’s property by a defendant or the defendant’s representative. Addressing the limitation against unreasonable or oppressive subpoenas set forth in Crim.P. 17(c), the Court adopted a test substantially similar to that employed in United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 699-700 (1974). Because defendant failed to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the e-mails she sought existed on the parents’ computer and were relevant and evidentiary, the trial court erred in denying the motion to quash. The Court made absolute the rule to show cause and directed the trial court to quash the subpoenas duces tecum served on the victim’s parents.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: V Bar Ranch LLC v. Cotton, Division Engineer for Water Division No. 3

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in V Bar Ranch LLC v. Cotton, Division Engineer for Water Division No. 3 on June 21, 2010.

Water Rights—Well Permits—Administrative Procedure Act—Appropriation—State Engineer—Equitable Estoppel.

In this appeal from the District Court for Water Division Number 3, the Supreme Court affirmed the water court’s decision affirming the State Engineer’s modification of appellant’s replacement well permit. The Supreme Court held that the State Engineer has the authority to modify previously issued well permits. Additionally, the Court held that when a decree adjudicating a groundwater right is silent as to the location of use, use of the water right is defined by the beneficial use to which the water was put at the time of appropriation. Therefore, water that, when appropriated, was applied to one parcel cannot be additionally applied to a new parcel without a water court decree allowing the change of use. Finally, the Court held that the doctrine of equitable estoppel is inapplicable to this case.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: People v. Holt

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Holt on June 21, 2010.

Custodial Interrogation—Miranda.

The Supreme Court held that the police violated defendant’s Miranda rights when they subjected him to custodial interrogation without advising him of his rights. Under the totality of the circumstances, defendant was in custody during interrogation. The police used a degree of force typically associated with arrest when they entered defendant’s apartment with their weapons drawn and handcuffed him. Defendant was handcuffed when he consented to being questioned. He was removed from the apartment, isolated from his fiancée, and interrogated inside a police vehicle for twenty-five minutes. None of the officers told defendant that he was free to leave or that he could refuse to answer questions. Defendant had every reason to believe he would be arrested following interrogation. The Court therefore held that defendant’s incriminating statements were obtained in violation of his Miranda rights and affirmed the trial court’s order to suppress the defendant’s statements.

Summary and full case available here.