October 18, 2017

Colorado Supreme Court: Hospital Has No Private Right of Action Against Police Department for Cost of Treatment

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in City of Arvada ex rel. Arvada Police Department v. Denver Health & Hospital Authority on Monday, October 9, 2017.

Prisons—Costs of Incarceration.

Arvada police arrested a severely injured man and sent him to Denver Health Medical Center. Denver Health and Hospital Authority (Denver Health) sued Arvada for the cost of care, claiming that C.R.S. § 16-3-401, which says that persons in custody “shall be . . . provided . . . medical treatment,” required Arvada to pay the hospital for the detainee’s care. Here, the Colorado Supreme Court clarified that (1) whether a statute provides a private right of action is a question of standing, and (2) the same test for a private right of action under Allstate Insurance Co. v. Parfrey, 830 P.2d 905 (Colo. 1992), applies for claims against both governmental and non-governmental defendants. Applying Parfrey to Denver Health’s statutory claim, the court held that C.R.S. § 16-3-401 does not provide hospitals a private right of action to sue police departments for the cost of providing healthcare to persons in custody. Accordingly, it concluded that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment to Denver Health on the statutory claim. The court remanded the case for consideration of Denver Health’s unjust enrichment claim based on Arvada’s statutory duty to provide care for persons in custody.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Colorado Human Smuggling Statute Preempted by Federal Immigration & Nationality Act

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Fuentes-Espinoza v. People on Monday, October 9, 2017.

Alien Smuggling—Field Preemption—Conflict Preemption.

This case required the Colorado Supreme Court to determine whether Colorado’s human smuggling statute, C.R.S. § 18-13-128, is preempted by the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101–1537 (2017) (INA). The court concluded that the INA preempts C.R.S. § 18-13-128 under the doctrines of both field and conflict preemption. In reaching this conclusion, the court agreed with a number of federal circuit courts that have reviewed the same INA provisions at issue here and have determined that those provisions create a comprehensive framework to penalize the transportation, concealment, and inducement of unlawfully present aliens and thus evince a congressional intent to occupy the field criminalizing such conduct. In addition, applying the analyses set forth in those federal decisions, the court concluded that C.R.S. § 18-13-128, like the state human smuggling statutes at issue in the federal cases, stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of Congress’s purposes and objectives in enacting its comprehensive framework. Accordingly, the court reversed petitioner’s judgment of conviction under C.R.S. § 18-13-128.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Payments for Vendor Tables at Republican Convention Were Not Political Contributions

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Campaign Integrity Watchdog v. Colorado Republican Committee on Thursday, October 5, 2017.

Administrative Law Judge—Campaign Contributions—Value of Services—Reportable—C.R.S. §§ 1-45-108(1)(a)(I) and -103(6)(b).

An administrative law judge (ALJ) held a hearing and determined that the Colorado Republican Committee (CRC) improperly failed to report three payments for vendor tables at its 2016 Republican Party assembly and convention. The CRC was fined and sanctioned for failing to report contributions.

On appeal, CRC contended that the ALJ erred in determining that the three payments for vendor tables at the convention were reportable contributions under state law and not properly reported by CRC. C.R.S. § 1-45-108(1)(a)(I) requires political committees to report receipt of contributions of $20 or more and to report expenditures and obligations. C.R.S. § 1-45-103(6)(b), which defines “contribution,” applies to all contributions “for which the contributor receives compensation or consideration,” and thus applies to the payments at issue here. Under the plain language of this section, political parties are required to report only that portion of payments for services that exceeds the value of the services rendered. Here, Campaign Integrity Watchdog provided no evidence that the value of the vendor tables was actually less than the $350 CRC charged. Therefore, the ALJ erred in finding that the payments at issue were reportable contributions under state law.

The part of the order imposing a fine and sanctions against CRC for failing to disclose the relevant payments was reversed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Dying Declaration Admissible Regardless of Whether Testimonial or Non-Testimonial

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Cockrell on Thursday, October 5, 2017.

Dying Declarations Statute—Evidence—Confrontation Clause.

The victim was shot 11 times and was found by bystanders, who asked him questions. The victim answered their questions but did not provide the shooter’s name. On the way to the hospital, the victim identified Cockrell as the shooter to an officer who rode in the ambulance. The victim died soon thereafter during surgery. No DNA, fingerprint, or other forensic evidence tied Cockrell to the victim’s murder. The primary evidence against him was the victim’s dying declaration identifying Cockrell as the shooter and a bystander’s statement that he saw a car leaving the area around the same time the victim was found that matched the description of the car Cockrell drove. The trial court denied Cockrell’s motion to suppress the dying declaration and to find C.R.S. § 13-25-119 unconstitutional. Cockrell was found guilty of first degree murder and two crime of violence sentence enhancers.

On appeal, Cockrell contended that C.R.S. § 13-25-119, the dying declaration statute, is unconstitutional on its face because it violates the Confrontation Clause. Dying declarations are an exception to the hearsay rule because of their guarantee of trustworthiness, and precluding their admission would in many cases result in a failure of justice. The court of appeals held that dying declarations are an exception to the Confrontation Clause and the dying declaration statute is constitutional.

Cockrell also contended that the victim’s statement did not satisfy the statutory requirements for admission of dying declarations. The first statutory requirement was satisfied because the parties agreed that the victim believed he was going to die; he had 11 gunshot wounds and death was imminent, and he made statements indicating he feared he was going to die. As to the other three requirements, Cockrell argued that (1) the statements were not voluntary; (2) the statements were made in response to questions calculated to lead the deceased to make the particular statement; and (3) the victim was not of sound mind when he made the statements. However, the record supports the trial court’s finding that (1) the victim’s statements were voluntarily made; (2) the questions asked of the victim were designed to gather facts with no apparent pretense; and (3) although the victim was in a great deal of pain and had trouble breathing, he was conscious and alert and answered questions appropriately, and thus was of sound mind when he identified Cockrell as his shooter.

Lastly, Cockrell contended that there was insufficient evidence to support his first degree murder conviction. Based on the evidence presented, it was rational for the jury to have found Cockrell guilty as charged.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Predicate Offense Must Be Felony at Time of Current Offense for Habitual Offender Designation

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Kadell on Thursday, October 5, 2017.

Habitual Criminal—Sufficiency of Evidence—Prior Felony Conviction—Collateral Attack—Excusable Neglect—Extended Proportionality Review.

A jury convicted Kadell of six counts of robbery and one count of aggravated motor vehicle theft, each of which is a class 4 felony. The prosecution filed habitual criminal counts, and Kadell moved to suppress his prior felony convictions as a way to collaterally attack those convictions. The motion was untimely, but Kadell argued that his failure to timely file was the result of excusable neglect. The trial court did not rule on the excusable neglect claim. Before sentencing, the trial court adjudicated Kadell a habitual criminal based on three prior felony convictions, including, as relevant here, one in 1997 for attempted cultivation of marijuana. In accordance with the habitual criminal statute, the trial court imposed a 24-year sentence in the custody of the Department of Corrections, four times the presumptive maximum sentence for a class 4 felony.

On appeal, Kadell contended that the trial court erred in imposing a sentence under the habitual criminal statute because there was insufficient evidence that he was convicted of three qualifying felonies before his current convictions. He argued that his 1997 conviction for attempted cultivation of marijuana did not count as a felony under the habitual criminal statute because when he committed his offenses in this case, attempted cultivation of marijuana was no longer a felony in Colorado unless the defendant possessed more than six plants, and the trial court had no evidence of how many plants were involved in the 1997 conviction. As a matter of first impression, the Colorado Court of Appeals concluded that for a prior drug felony conviction to qualify as a predicate offense under the habitual criminal statute, the prosecution must prove that the prior offense of conviction remained a felony under Colorado law at the time the defendant committed the new offense, even when the prior conviction was entered in Colorado. The prosecution did not present sufficient evidence of this fact at Kadell’s sentencing hearing.

Kadell next argued that the trial court erred by finding that his failure to timely file a collateral attack on his prior convictions was not the result of excusable neglect. The issue of excusable neglect is a question of fact to be resolved first by the trial court. The record does not reflect that the trial court ruled on Kadell’s excusable neglect claim.

Kadell further sought an extended proportionality review of his sentence. This argument is moot at this juncture.

The sentence was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Claim Arose Prior to Filing Bankruptcy Petition and Therefore was Dischargeable

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Hardegger v. Clark on Monday, October 2, 2017.

Contribution—Bankruptcy Discharge—Tax Withholding Liability—26 U.S.C. § 6672(d).

This case required the supreme court to determine when the right of contribution provided in 26 U.S.C. § 6672(d) (2012) gives rise to a “claim” under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Applying the “conduct test,” under which a claim arises for bankruptcy purposes at the time the debtor committed the conduct on which the claim is based, the court concluded that petitioner’s claim for contribution arose when the parties’ jointly owned company incurred federal tax withholding liability, rendering the parties potentially responsible for that debt. Because this conduct occurred before respondents filed their bankruptcy petition, the court concluded that petitioner’s claim constituted a pre-petition debt that was subject to discharge. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: District Court May Collect Unpaid Restitution After Completion of Deferred Sentence

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Pineda-Liberato v. People on Monday, October 2, 2017.

Sentencing—Deferred Sentences—Restitution—Court Costs and Fees.

This case required the supreme court to determine whether the district court had the authority to continue to collect unpaid restitution, court costs, and fees ordered as conditions of petitioner’s deferred sentence after the completion of that deferred sentence. The court concluded that the district court may collect any unpaid restitution from petitioner after the completion of her deferred sentence, until the restitution has been paid in full. With respect to the unpaid fees and costs, however, the court concluded that the district court lacked the authority to collect such unpaid amounts after it terminated petitioner’s deferred sentence, withdrew her guilty plea, and dismissed her case with prejudice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s orders in part and reversed in part.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Amendment to Rule 26 Does Not Mandate Exclusion of Non-disclosed Expert Testimony

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado v. Earl Swensson Associates, Inc. on Monday, October 2, 2017.

Expert Testimony—Discovery Sanctions.

In this case, the Colorado Supreme Court considered whether an amendment to Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) providing that expert testimony “shall be limited to matters disclosed in detail in the [expert] report” mandates the exclusion of expert testimony as a sanction when the underlying report fails to meet the requirements of Rule 26. The court concluded this amendment did not create mandatory exclusion of expert testimony and that instead, the harm and proportionality analysis under Rule 37(c) remains the proper framework for determining sanctions for discovery violations. Accordingly, the court made its rule to show cause absolute and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

 

Colorado Supreme Court: Engagement Agreement Authorized Award of Post-Settlement Collection Costs

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Laleh v. Johnson on Monday, October 2, 2017.

Contracts—Fees and Costs.

The supreme court reviewed the court of appeals’ opinion affirming a trial court’s order requiring a pair of litigants to pay a court-appointed accounting expert’s post-settlement collection costs. The trial court appointed the expert to help resolve the litigants’ complex accounting claims, and the litigants signed an engagement agreement with the expert setting forth the scope of his services and payment. After the expert commenced work, the litigants settled the case and the trial court dismissed the suit. The expert then informed the trial court that the litigants refused to pay both his outstanding fees and his costs incurred post-settlement in attempting to collect the outstanding fees. Relying on a provision in the engagement agreement stating that the litigants were responsible for payment of “all fees and expenses” to the expert, the trial court held that the expert was entitled to the post-settlement costs he incurred while trying to collect his outstanding fees. The court of appeals disagreed with the trial court’s interpretation of the engagement agreement, holding that the agreement was silent as to the expert’s post-settlement collection costs, but it nevertheless affirmed the trial court’s award of the expert’s post-settlement collection costs on the ground that the trial court had inherent authority to require the litigants to pay such costs. The court held that a separate provision of the engagement agreement not previously considered by the trial court or the court of appeals authorized the trial court’s award of the disputed post-settlement collection costs. The court therefore affirmed the award of these costs to the expert, albeit on different grounds.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Translated Miranda Warning Adequately Conveyed Intent of Warning

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Nguyen on Monday, October 2, 2017.

Miranda Warnings.

The Colorado Supreme Court held that a translated Miranda warning stating that if the suspect waived his right to be silent, “[a]ll you say will and may be used as evidence in court,” reasonably conveyed to defendant that anything he said could be used against him in court. By informing him that his statements could be used in court, the translation included the concept that the statements could be used against him (as well as for him) in court. The court also held that a Miranda warning stating that “if you do not have money to hire an attorney the court will instruct you, will appoint a person to you at no cost to represent you before asking questions” adequately conveyed the right to an appointed attorney.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Presentence Confinement Credit Only To Be Given for Charge Being Sentenced

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Torrez on Monday, October 2, 2017.

Criminal Law—Sentencing—Presentence Confinement Credit.

The Colorado Supreme Court reviewed the Colorado Court of Appeals’ opinion crediting defendant for a confinement period after a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict on an unrelated  charge. Under C.R.S. § 18-1.3-405, credit is to be given only where the presentence confinement is caused by the charge on which the defendant is being sentenced. Considering Massey v. People, 736 P.2d 19 (Colo. 1987), and People v. Freeman, 735 P.2d 879 (Colo. 1987), the court concluded that defendant was not entitled to presentence confinement credit for her confinement before or after the not guilty by reason of insanity verdict. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals in part and reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Trial Court Did Not Err in Denying Defense’s Requested Continuance

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Ahuero on Monday, October 2, 2017.

Criminal Law—Continuances.

This case required the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether a trial court abused its discretion in denying a continuance that defense counsel requested seeking more time to prepare for trial. At the time the continuance was requested, the trial court considered the following factors: (1) defense counsel would have three weeks to prepare for a two- or three-day trial involving eight witnesses and no physical evidence, but defense counsel refused to make specific arguments on why the additional time was needed; (2) the trial court would have had to rearrange its docket and possibly hand off the case to a different judge; (3) priority is given to cases involving the sexual assault of a child; and (4) the victim’s family wanted to resolve the case promptly.

The supreme court concluded that, under these circumstances, the trial court’s decision to deny a continuance was not so manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, or unfair to constitute an abuse of discretion. Therefore, the court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.