April 25, 2017

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 4/17/2017

On Monday, April 17, 2017, the Colorado Supreme Court issued five published opinions.

Forest City Stapleton, Inc. v. Rogers

People v. Hyde

People v. Simpson

Fitzgerald v. People

Clean Energy Collective, LLC v. Borrego Solar Systems, Inc.

Summaries of these cases are forthcoming.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Speedy Trial Deadlines Not Violated by Prosecution’s Requested Continuance

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Mosley v. People on Monday, April 10, 2017.

Criminal Trials—Speedy Trial—Continuances.

The Colorado Supreme Court reviewed the Colorado Court of Appeals’ construction of Colorado’s speedy trial statute, C.R.S. § 18-1-405. The court rejected Mosley’s contention that the exclusions of time listed in subsection (6) of the statute apply only to the speedy trial calculation for an initial trial, and not for a new trial following reversal of a conviction on appeal under subsection (2). The court concluded that subsection (1) of the statute establishes the basic right to a speedy trial, and that subsection (2) clarifies that right by identifying the trial court’s receipt of the mandate as the event that triggers the six-month speedy trial period for a new trial following reversal of a conviction on appeal. Because a defendant’s speedy trial right—whether in an initial trial or on retrial—derives from subsection (1), the exclusions of time listed in subsection (6) apply to both an initial trial and a new trial following reversal of a conviction on appeal.

The court further rejected Mosley’s contention that the trial court erred in granting a continuance and extending the speedy trial deadline in this case. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Trial Court’s Grant of Continuance Did Not Violate Speedy Trial Act

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Delacruz v. People on Monday, April 10, 2017.

Criminal Trials—Speedy Trial—Continuances.

The Colorado Supreme Court reviewed the Colorado Court of Appeals’ construction of Colorado’s speedy trial statute, C.R.S. § 18-1-405. Following Mosley v. People, 2017 15 CO 20, the court rejected Delacruz’s contention that the exclusions of time listed in subsection (6) of the statute apply only to the speedy trial calculation for an initial trial, and not for a new trial following reversal of a conviction on appeal. The court concluded that subsection (1) of the statute establishes the basic right to a speedy trial, and that subsection (2) clarifies that right by identifying the trial court’s receipt of the mandate as the event that triggers the six-month speedy trial period for a new trial following reversal of a conviction on appeal. Because a defendant’s speedy trial right—whether in an initial trial or on retrial—derives from subsection (1), the exclusions of time listed in subsection (6) apply to both an initial trial and a new trial following reversal of a conviction on appeal.

The court further rejected Delacruz’s contention that the trial court erred in granting a continuance and extending the speedy trial deadline in this case. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Membership Interest of Non-Colorado LLC Member Located in Colorado for Charging Order Purposes

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. McClure on Monday, April 10, 2017.

Limited Liability Companies—Membership Interests—Charging Orders—Priority.

This case concerns the relative priority of competing charging orders filed by multiple judgment creditors against a foreign judgment debtor’s membership interests in several Colorado limited liability companies (LLCs). The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that for purposes of determining the enforceability of a charging order, a membership interest of a non-Colorado citizen in a Colorado LLC is located in Colorado, where the LLC was formed. The court further concluded that when, as here, a judgment creditor obtains a foreign charging order that compels certain action by a Colorado LLC, the charging order is ineffective as against the LLC until the creditor has taken sufficient steps to obligate the company to comply with that order. Although the authorities are not uniform as to the steps to be taken, under any of the applicable scenarios, the charging orders obtained by the petitioner did not become effective until after the respondents had obtained and served their competing charging orders. Accordingly, the court concluded that respondents’ charging orders are entitled to priority over petitioner’s competing charging orders and therefore affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Announcement Sheet, 4/13/2017

On Thursday, April 13, 2017, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and 34 unpublished opinions.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 4/14/2017

On Friday, April 14, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and five unpublished opinions.

United States v. Eden

United States v. Gilkey

Hill v. Corrections Corp. of America

United States v. Winegar

Schwers v. Berry

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, some published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Neighbors’ Due Process Rights Not Violated During Rezoning Hearing

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Whitelaw v. Denver City Council on Thursday, April 6, 2017.

C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) —Rezoning Decision—Due Process—Spot Zoning.

Plaintiffs Whitelaw, III and various neighbors sought judicial review of the rezoning decision of defendant Denver City Council. Cedar Metropolitan LLC applied to rezone a 2.3-acre parcel. To build an “age-targeted” apartment complex on the site, Cedar sought to tear down a blighted church and rezone the parcel from single family home to a zone district that allowed three-story apartment buildings. The neighbors are property owners who live in the neighborhood near the parcel. They challenged the rezoning efforts, asserting it would hurt their property values, create traffic and parking problems, cause hazards to pedestrians, and degrade the character of the surrounding neighborhood. Following an eight-hour hearing, the Council granted the request to change the zoning.

The neighbors challenged the rezoning in district court under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4). The district court rejected all of their claims. On appeal, the neighbors asserted various claims, principally violation of their right to due process. They made five due process arguments. The court of appeals will affirm a rezoning decision unless the governmental entity exceeded its jurisdiction or abused its discretion, which occurs if the body misapplied the law or no competent evidence supports its decision.

The neighbors first argued that a lobbyist for Cedar communicated before the hearing with Council member Susman, in whose district the parcel lies, through her private email account and by phone. They alleged that the failure to disclose these communications to the public before the hearing deprived them of their due process rights because they did not have notice and an opportunity to rebut the information on which the Council may have impermissibly relied in making its determination. Despite evidence of approximately 50 pages of such emails, the neighbors pointed to no evidence that they had a “substantial prejudicial impact” on the outcome of the proceedings. In fact, Susman voted against the rezoning. The neighbors did not overcome the presumption that the Council members acted with integrity, honesty, and impartiality, and they showed no prejudice from the communications.

Second, the neighbors asserted their due process rights were violated due to the involvement of Cedar’s architect, who was also a member of the City’s Planning Board, in the application process. The Planning Board recommended that the Council approve the rezoning. The architect submitted the application to the Board, but did not attend the Planning Board meeting or vote on the rezoning and thus complied with the Denver Municipal Code. Further, the Planning Board’s recommendation is not appealable because it is not a “final decision” reviewable under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4). Therefore, the court of appeals did not review this claim.

Third, the neighbors argued that their due process rights were violated because certain Council members’ comments at the public hearing reflected “flawed quasi-judicial decision making” and showed they “relied on irrelevant factors and information outside of the hearing record” in making their decision. The neighbors failed to demonstrate a lack of competent evidence supporting the Council’s decision or that any individual member relied on factual information outside the hearing record or ignored the record in casting their vote. There was competent evidence in the record to support the Council’s decision.

Fourth, the neighbors argued their due process rights were violated because the Council stepped outside of its neutral, quasi-judicial role and supported Cedar by improperly applying the protest petition procedure of the Denver City Charter. The protest procedure provides that if opponents gather signatures from property owners representing 20% or more of the land area within 200 feet of the perimeter of a proposed rezoning, the rezoning must pass the Council by a super-majority (10 members). Opponents gathered 17% of the perimeter zone signatures and the rezoning passed 8 to 4. The neighbors argued that the City improperly applied the protest procedure by including City-owned park land but not allowing a procedure for residents to obtain petition signatures from the City. The court disagreed, finding that the City’s calculation of the 200-foot protest petition area was in accordance with the Denver Charter.

Fifth, the neighbors alleged a due process violation because some Council members received “substantial” political contributions from lobbyists and were therefore biased in the rezoning vote. Evidence of this was not in the record before the Council and therefore was not reviewable by the court.

The neighbors also argued that the rezoning decision must be vacated because, as a matter of law, it did not comply with the City’s zoning ordinance, alleging it was not consistent with the City’s adopted plans; no specific circumstances justified the rezoning; and the rezoning fails to further the public health, safety, and general welfare. The record shows that the Council members engaged in lengthy discussions about the criteria and evidence, including testimony presented by both proponents and opponents at the hearing. The Council did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the proposed zoning was consistent with the City’s adopted plans; the rezoning resulted in uniformity of district regulations and restrictions; the rezoning furthered the public health, safety, and general welfare; circumstances justified the rezoning; and the rezoning was consistent with the description of the applicable neighborhood context and the stated purpose and intent of the proposed Zone District.

Finally, the neighbors argued that the rezoning was impermissible spot zoning because it did not further Denver’s comprehensive plans and was therefore an abuse of discretion. The court disagreed. Here, the rezoning was not out of character with the adjacent area and furthered the City’s adopted plans.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Jury Foreman’s Affidavit Allowable Under CRE 606(b) Due to Mistake in Entering Verdict

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Malpica-Cue v. Fangmeier on Thursday, April 6, 2017.

Mistake on Special Verdict Form—CRE 606(b).

Malpica-Cue sued Fangmeier for damages resulting from a car accident. After trial, the jury filled out a Special Verdict Form B that included three different damages amounts. All six jurors signed the form, and the judge read the verdict and each separate amount of damages aloud in open court. The jury foreman confirmed the verdict. Counsel for both parties declined to poll the jury.

Fangmeier filed a post-trial motion averring that while the jurors were still in the courthouse, defense counsel spoke with some of them about the amount of damages they had awarded. They said they had intended to award $2,500 for noneconomic losses, $18,373.38 for economic losses, and $0 for physical impairment or disfigurement. The total damages intended, $20,873.38, had mistakenly been added together and inserted on the line for physical impairment and disfigurement, making the total damages $41,746.76. Defense counsel told the court clerk that all six jurors agreed they had made a mistake on the verdict form and wanted to fix it. The judge denied counsel’s request to reconvene the jury that day and told him to file a motion.

Fangmeier filed a motion asking the court to vacate the jury verdict awarding $41,746.76 and enter judgment awarding $20,873.38. The motion included an affidavit from the jury foreman saying the jury had made a mistake. The district court denied the motion, stating that CRE 606(b) precluded it from considering the foreman’s affidavit.

On appeal, Fangmeier argued that the foreman’s affidavit should not have been precluded because an exception to Rule 606(b) allows jury testimony regarding “whether there was a mistake in entering the verdict onto the verdict form.” Here, all the jurors agreed that there should have been no recovery for physical impairment or disfigurement and the foreman misread the jury form, so the exception applies. While the affidavit by itself does not require the verdict to be changed, Fangmeier is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the issue. Thus, it was error to not reconvene the jurors on the day the trial ended and in later failing to reconvene the jurors to ascertain the true verdict in response to the post-trial motion.

The order was vacated and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Court Lacked Jurisdiction to Confirm Arbitration Award Where Arbitrator Died

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Marriage of Roth on Thursday, April 6, 2017.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction—Death of Arbitrator During Pendency of Arbitration.

The parties agreed to arbitrate the permanent orders issues in their dissolution of marriage. The agreement provided that the Colorado Uniform Arbitration Act (CUAA) governed the proceedings; the arbitrator would reserve jurisdiction for 20 days after issuing an award to allow the parties to seek clarification, correction, or modification of the award; and if jurisdiction was reserved on an issue, the arbitrator would hear it unless he was unavailable. The arbitrator issued an award, and both parties submitted timely requests for modification and clarification of the award. During the process of submitting these requests, the arbitrator died. Five days later, wife moved in district court to appoint a replacement arbitrator under C.R.S. § 13-22-215(5). A week later husband moved to confirm the arbitrator’s award under C.R.S. § 13-22-222. The trial court found that wife was essentially seeking to relitigate the permanent orders, and it denied her motion and granted husband’s motion to confirm the award and entered a dissolution decree incorporating the award.

On appeal, wife argued that under the CUAA, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to confirm the arbitration award while the parties’ requests to modify or correct it were pending before the arbitrator. She contended that upon the death of the arbitrator, the court had subject matter jurisdiction only to appoint a replacement arbitrator. Under the CUAA, a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement divests the district court of jurisdiction on all matters submitted to arbitration pending the conclusion of the arbitration. Here, due to the timely requests for modification or correction of the award, the arbitration proceedings had not concluded at the death of the arbitrator and subject matter jurisdiction to confirm the award was not in the district court. Under the CUAA, the district court only had subject matter jurisdiction to appoint a replacement arbitrator to complete the proceedings.

Wife further contended that the district court erred by denying her motion to appoint a replacement arbitrator. Because it is undisputed that the parties’ chosen arbitrator could not act, the district court was required to appoint a replacement arbitrator.

The district court’s judgment confirming the arbitration award was vacated, its order denying wife’s motion to appoint a replacement arbitrator was reversed, and the case was remanded to appoint a replacement arbitrator to complete the arbitration proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 4/13/2017

On Thursday, April 13, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and seven unpublished opinions.

Arleni-Escobar v. Sessions

United States v. McIntosh

United States v. Gilchrist

Cash v. Lockheed Martin Corp.

United States v. Murphy

Thomas v. Berryhill

SMS Financial JDC, LP v. Cope

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, some published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Statutory Limitations Period Began when Broker Knew of Contractual Breach

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in International Network, LLC v. Woodard on April 6, 2017.

Breach of Contract—Exclusive Right-to-Sell Listing—Statute of Limitations—Jury Instructions.

Woodard (seller) owned a 100-acre ranch. In 2006 he signed an exclusive right-to-sell listing agreement with International Network, Inc. (broker). The agreement was for a six-month listing period and provided for a percentage commission to be paid to broker upon sale. Seller had the absolute right to cancel the agreement at any time upon written notice.

Approximately four months into the listing period, seller began negotiating with an attorney who represented a group of potential buyers. Seller did not disclose his negotiations to broker. About a month after commencing these discussions, seller abruptly cancelled the listing agreement without cause. Broker ceased marketing the property. After the listing period had expired, but within the 90-day holdover period set forth in the agreement, seller and the buyers finalized an agreement resulting in the sale of the property.

Seven years later, broker initiated this action against seller for breach of contract based on seller’s failure to comply with the referral provision, which required seller to conduct all negotiations for the sale of the property through broker and refer to broker all communications received from prospective buyers. Following trial, a jury found in favor of broker and awarded damages in the amount of the commission that would have been owed under the listing agreement.

On appeal, seller argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion for directed verdict and his post-trial motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because broker’s breach of contract claim was barred by the statute of limitations. C.R.S. § 13-80-101(1)(a) states that a breach of contract claim must be commenced within three years after accrual of the cause of action, and accrual occurs when the breach is discovered or should have been discovered. It was undisputed that seller breached the referral provision in 2006. Seller argued that under the facts, broker should have realized there might have been a breach of the referral provision and through the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered it in 2006. Broker asserted it had no knowledge of seller’s duplicity until broker’s agent heard seller’s testimony in another lawsuit in 2011 in which seller testified he had violated the listing agreement and intentionally concealed his negotiations to avoid paying a commission. Therefore, in commencing this action in 2013 broker was within three years of its discovery of the breach. Based on the record, the Colorado Court of Appeals could not conclude that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to broker, compelled a different result.

Seller also argued that it was error to not give a jury instruction on the elements of liability for recovery on a real estate commission claim, contending that the broker was not the procuring cause of the sale. Here, seller breached the referral provision and cannot use his intentional concealment of his negotiations to prevent broker from obtaining damages in the form of a commission. The court did not err in rejecting seller’s procuring cause instruction.

Seller contended the trial court erred by rejecting seller’s proposed jury instruction on the affirmative defense of laches. The trial court ruled, and the Court agreed, that seller’s improper conduct precluded his assertion of a laches defense.

Seller further argued that the court erred in denying him the right to impeach broker’s agent with certain evidence. The court precluded seller’s questioning due to lack of a sufficient foundation and acted within its discretion in limiting seller’s cross-examination.

Broker requested attorney fees and costs in accordance with the agreement, which the court awarded.

The judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded for further proceedings to award broker’s costs and attorney fees incurred on appeal.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Certification of One Claim in Multiple Claim Suit was Abuse of Discretion

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Allison v. Engel on Thursday, April 6, 2017.

Landowners—Default Judgment—Finality—C.R.C.P. 54(b) —Jurisdiction—Certification.

The parties own adjacent parcels of property and for a number of years have had disagreements about the precise boundaries of their neighboring parcels. The Allisons filed a complaint asserting two trespass claims and a claim for declaratory relief. The Engels filed various counterclaims. Numerous motions were filed, and the district court ultimately certified a default judgment on the counterclaim for unjust enrichment as final under C.R.C.P. 54(b). The Colorado Court of Appeals ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs as to whether the unjust enrichment counterclaim is a separate claim for purposes of C.R.C.P. 54(b) and whether there is no just reason for delay of an appeal pertaining solely to that counterclaim.

Generally speaking, the court of appeals has jurisdiction only over appeals from final judgments. Thus, jurisdiction over an appeal from an order the district court has certified as final under Rule 54(b) depends on the correctness of that certification. Here, the district court gave two reasons for concluding that there was no just reason for delay: (1) “avoid[ing] duplicative efforts” and (2) obtaining “a clear sense of direction in terms of the issues to be considered” at trial. The first reason is plainly insufficient to justify certification because the same could be said about any case involving multiple claims or parties as to which a dispositive ruling is entered on one claim, or as to one party, before trial. The second reason is also insufficient to justify certification because it is not a proper function of Rule 54(b) certification to assuage a district court’s doubts about its decision or to provide “guidance” in the resolution of claims. The district court’s reasons do not show that any party will suffer hardship or injustice unless an immediate appeal of the default judgment on the single counterclaim is allowed. The district court abused its discretion, and the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction.

The appeal and cross-appeal were dismissed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.