April 20, 2018

Colorado Supreme Court: Compliance with Departmental Policy Insufficient to Bring Seizure of Vehicle Within Exception to Fourth Amendment Warrant Requirement

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Quick on Monday, April 16, 2018.

Inventory Search—Impoundment.

The People brought an interlocutory appeal, as authorized by C.R.S. § 14 16-12-102(2) and C.A.R. 4.1, from a district court order granting Quick’s motion to suppress a gun found during an inventory search of his car. The district court initially denied the motion, but in light of the court of appeals’ opinion in People v. Brown, 2016 COA 150, __ P.3d __, it found that where Quick was merely cited, and not actually arrested, for driving with a suspended license, and where the only justification offered for seizing his car was instead the likelihood that he would continue to drive and thereby endanger public safety, the initial seizure of his car did not fall within the community caretaking exception to the probable cause and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

The supreme court affirmed the district court’s order. Compliance with a departmental policy or procedure is insufficient in and of itself to bring the seizure of a vehicle within an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. Moreover, seizing a vehicle to prevent the driver from continuing to drive with a suspended license does not fall within the specific community caretaking exception.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Seizure of Vehicle Not Justified as Exercise of Police Caretaking Function

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Brown on Monday, April 16, 2018.

Inventory Search—Impoundment.

The People petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing Brown’s drug-related conviction on the ground that his motion to suppress should have been granted. See People v. Brown, 2016 COA 150, __ P.3d __. The district court found that the contraband in question was discovered during an inventory search of defendant’s vehicle, the conduct of which was within the officers’ discretion according to the policies and procedures of the Aurora Police Department, even though they had already decided to issue a summons rather than arrest defendant for driving with a suspended license. By contrast, the court of appeals found that in the absence of an arrest, seizing defendant’s vehicle to provoke an inventory of its contents could not be justified as an exercise of the police caretaking function, and in the absence of any other recognized exception to the probable cause and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment, violated its prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The supreme court affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment. The record failed to demonstrate that seizure of defendant’s vehicle was justified as an exercise of the police caretaking function or was otherwise reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, regardless of local ordinances or police policies and procedures broad enough to grant the officers discretion to impound the vehicle of a driver merely summoned rather than arrested for driving with a suspended license.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Ground Water Replacement Plan Violated Anti-Speculation Doctrine where Proponents Could Not Prove Beneficial Use

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Front Range Resources, LLC v. Colorado Ground Water Commission on Monday, April 9, 2018.

Designated Ground Water—Anti-Speculation Doctrine—Attorney Fees.

The supreme court held that the anti-speculation doctrine applies to replacement plans involving new appropriations or changes of water rights of designated ground water. Here, a private company applied for a replacement plan involving designated ground water in an over-appropriated alluvial aquifer, to which defendants (parties believing the plan would impair their water rights) objected. Because the company could not demonstrate that it or another end-user would put the replacement-plan water to beneficial use, the court concluded that the company’s replacement plan violated the anti-speculation doctrine. It further concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendants attorney fees. The district court’s judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Absent Statutorily Authorized Order Reserving Restitution, Final Judgment Finalizes Restitution Amount

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Belibi on Monday, April 9, 2018.

Sentencing—Restitution.

The People petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing the amended restitution order of the district court, which substantially increased Belibi’s restitution obligation after his judgment of conviction. See People v. Belibi, No. 14CA1239 (Colo. App. May 14, 2015). Following the acceptance of Belibi’s guilty plea, the imposition of a sentence to probation (including a stipulation to $4,728 restitution), and the entry of judgment, the district court amended its restitution order to require the  payment of an additional $302,022 in restitution. The court of appeals held that in the absence of anything in the court’s written or oral pronouncements reserving a final determination of the amount of restitution, the initial restitution order had become final  and could not be amended. The supreme court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. A judgment of conviction, absent a statutorily authorized order reserving a determination of the final amount of restitution due, finalizes any specific amount already set. Therefore, the sentencing court lacked the power to increase restitution beyond the previously set amount of $4,728.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Annotation “RR” on Form Guilty Plea Insufficient to Reserve Final Restitution

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Meza v. People on Monday, April 9, 2018.

Sentencing—Restitution.

Meza petitioned for review of the judgment of the district court (sitting as the court of direct appellate review pursuant to the simplified procedure for county court convictions), which affirmed the county court’s order granting a motion for additional restitution. See People v. Meza, No. 14CV33017 (Denver Dist. Ct. May 15, 2015). The county court ordered the requested additional amount of restitution, finding that the victim had suffered a loss of $936.85 that was not known to the People nor the court at sentencing, when restitution was initially, but not finally, set at $150. On appeal, the district court found that the annotation “RR” on the form guilty plea was sufficient to reserve the final amount of restitution and that the record supported the county court’s finding of an additional loss not known at sentencing; and it therefore affirmed the increase as having been sanctioned by C.R.S. § 18-1.3-603(3)(a). The supreme court reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded the case to the district court with directions to order reinstatement of the $150 restitution order entered prior to judgment of conviction. A judgment of conviction, absent a statutorily authorized order reserving a determination of the final amount of restitution, finalizes any specific amount already set. Because the court ordered no reservation in this case, it lacked the power to increase the amount of restitution it had previously set.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Trial Court Had Jurisdiction to Impose Constructive Trust where Sister Misspent Multi-party Funds

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Sandstead-Corona v. Sandstead on Monday, April 9, 2018.

Implied Trusts—Probate Jurisdiction—C.R.S. § 15-10-501—No-Contest Clause.

This case raised multiple issues arising from a dispute between two sisters concerning their mother’s estate and funds contained in a multi-party account alleged to be non-probate assets. The supreme court first held that pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-9-103(3)(b), the trial court had jurisdiction to resolve the dispute over the funds in the multi-party account and to impose a constructive trust if appropriate because the facts presented a question as to whether the funds were part of mother’s estate. The court further concluded that the trial court properly imposed a constructive trust over these funds because the sister who was the surviving signatory on the multi-party account was in a confidential relationship with her mother and her sister, and she abused that relationship when she misspent the funds. Next, the court held that because an implied trust is included in the fiduciary oversight statute’s definition of an “estate,” the trial court properly surcharged the sister who was the signatory on the multi-party  account because she had misused the funds in the implied trust. Finally, the court found that although a no-contest clause that was contained in mother’s revocable trust was incorporated by reference into her will, by its plain language, that clause applied only to actions contesting the trust, not challenges to the will. Accordingly, the court held that the trial court erred in enforcing the no-contest clause against the sister who challenged the will. The court of appeals’ judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Only Privilege-Holder Can Waive Physician-Patient Privilege, and Only By Injecting Condition Into Case

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Gadeco, LLC v. Grynberg on Monday, April 9, 2018.

Physician-Patient Privilege—Implied Waiver.

In this original proceeding, the supreme court considered whether the trial court abused its discretion when it found that defendant impliedly waived the physician-patient privilege as to his mental health records by asserting counterclaims for breach of contract, requesting specific performance, and denying the opposing parties’ allegations. The court affirmed its rule that only privilege holders—patients—can impliedly waive the physician-patient privilege, and they do so by injecting their physical or mental condition into the case as the basis of a claim or an affirmative defense. Correspondingly, an adverse party cannot place a patient’s mental condition at issue through its defenses, nor can a privilege holder do so by denying an adverse party’s allegations. Applying those rules, the court held that defendant did not waive the physician-patient privilege through his counterclaims or answer. The court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering defendant to produce his medical records for in camera review and made the rule to show cause absolute.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 4/9/2018

On Monday, April 9, 2018, the Colorado Supreme Court issued five published opinions.

Gadeco, LLC v. Grynberg

Meza v. People

People v. Belibi

Front Range Resources v. Colorado Ground Water Commission

Sandstead-Corona v. Sandstead

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: Narrowing of Time Frame for Charged Acts was Amendment of Form, Not Substance

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Sandoval on Monday, March 26, 2018.

Plain Error Review—Sentencing.

The supreme court held that Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), applies to a direct sentence to community corrections. The court further held that it was plain error for the trial court to sentence defendant to an aggravated sentence to community corrections without meeting Blakely’s requirements. The court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals and remanded the case for resentencing.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 3/26/2018

On Monday, March 26, 2018, the Colorado Supreme Court issued one published opinion.

People v. Sandoval

The summary of this case is forthcoming.

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

Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure Updated Regarding Legal and Judicial Education

On Tuesday, March 20, 2018, the Colorado State Judicial Branch released Rule Change 2018(04), adopted by the Colorado Supreme Court on March 15, 2018, and effective on July 1, 2018. The rule change adds C.R.C.P. 250 and amends C.R.C.P. 260, both rule sets titled “Mandatory Continuing Legal and Judicial Eduction.”

The new Rules 250.1 through 250.10 comprehensively define the continuing education requirements of lawyers and judges. The new rules make some changes from the previously enacted rules. Specifically, the definition of which activities will be accredited has been expanded, and now activities related to wellness, diversity, law practice management, leadership, professionalism, and more may qualify for accreditation.

Another major change enacted with the new rules is that lawyers are required to track compliance with CLE requirements until age 72. Lawyers who had previously aged out under the former limit of age 65 will now be required to continue tracking credits until they reach age 72, beginning with the effective date of the new rules (July 1, 2018).

The new rules also clarify that lawyers may receive CLE credit for certain pro bono activities, participation in the CAMP program, and mentoring. Attorneys who mentor can receive CLE credit for mentoring each year, while mentees can only receive CLE credit one time.

The former rules, codified at C.R.C.P. 260 through 260.8, were amended to reference the new rules, as appropriate.

For a redline of the rule change, click here. For all of the Colorado Supreme Court’s adopted and proposed rule changes, click here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Encroaching Tree on Property Line Belongs to Party on whose Property Tree First Grew

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Love v. Klosky on Monday, March 19, 2018.

Adjoining Landowners—Stare Decisis.

In this case, the supreme court considered whether to overrule Rhodig v. Keck, 421 P.2d 729 (Colo. 1966), which outlines the test for ownership of a tree that encroaches onto a neighbor’s land. Under that test, an encroaching tree remains the sole property of the owner of the land where the tree first grew, unless the tree was jointly planted, jointly cared for, or treated as a partition between the two properties. The supreme court upheld Rhodig. The court found that Rhodig’s approach remains sound and it failed to see how overruling Rhodig would do more good than harm.

The court then applied to Rhodig to the decision at hand. Here, the trial court found that the tree in question began life on Klosky’s land and encroached onto the Loves’ land, and there was no joint activity implying shared ownership of the tree. Because the Loves failed to prove any such shared property interest in the tree, the court concluded that the Loves cannot prevent Klosky from removing the encroaching tree.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.