August 20, 2017

Colorado Supreme Court: District Court Properly Denied Motion to Suppress on Facts of Case

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Stock on Monday, July 3, 2017.

Fourth Amendment—Exceptions to Warrant Requirement—Consent Searches—Third-Party Consent.

The supreme court reviewed the court of appeals’ opinion reversing Stock’s convictions and remanding for a new trial. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court erred in denying Stock’s motion to suppress statements she made to a police officer inside the hotel room where Stock lived. The police officer had entered the hotel room after Stock’s father—who did not live in the hotel room—opened the door in response to the officer’s knock. The court of appeals concluded that suppression was required because Stock’s father lacked authority to consent to the officer’s entry. The supreme court concluded that the trial court properly denied the motion to suppress because, on the facts of this case, the officer’s limited entry into Stock’s hotel room, in her immediate presence and without her objection, did not violate Stock’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. The court therefore reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: School District Did Not Give Thing of Value to Any One Candidate

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Keim v. Douglas County Public Schools on Monday, July 3, 2017.

Campaign Finance—Fair Campaign Practices Act—Campaign Contributions.

The supreme court reviewed the court of appeals’ conclusion that a school district did not make a prohibited campaign contribution in a school board election campaign under C.R.S. § 1-45-117(1)(a) of Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act and article XXVIII, § 2(5)(a)(IV) of the Colorado Constitution. Under § 2(5)(a)(IV), a “contribution” requires that (1) something of value (2) be given to a candidate, directly or indirectly, (3) for the purpose of promoting the candidate’s nomination, retention, recall, or election. Here, the school district commissioned and paid for a report supportive of the district’s reform agenda using public funds. However, because the school district did not give something, directly or indirectly, to any candidate when it publicly disseminated an email containing a link to the report, the court concluded that the school district did not make a prohibited contribution under these Colorado campaign finance provisions. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: District Court Incorrectly Determined “Special Circumstances” Warranted Disqualification

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Kendrick on Monday, July 3, 2017.

Disqualification—Special Circumstances.

In this interlocutory appeal, the supreme court reviewed the district court’s decision to disqualify the District Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial District from re-prosecuting defendant’s case after a second mistrial. The court concluded that the district court misinterpreted the “special circumstances” prong of C.R.S. § 20-1-107(2) in finding that the circumstances at issue satisfy the high burden required to bar an entire district attorney’s office from prosecuting a defendant. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in disqualifying the District Attorney’s Office, reversed the district court’s order, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 7/3/2017

On Monday, July 3, 2017, the Colorado Supreme Court issued three published opinions.

People v. Stock

Keim v. Douglas County School District

People v. Kendrick

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: Statutory Continuous Sentence Requirement Applies to Both Concurrent and Consecutive Sentences

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections v. Fetzer on Monday, June 26, 2017.

Parole Eligibility.

The Department of Corrections petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing an order of the district court that denied Fetzer’s petition pursuant to C.R.C.P. 106(a)(2). Fetzer’s petition sought an order compelling the recalculation of his parole eligibility date, asserting that the Department’s “governing sentence” method, which calculated his parole eligibility date solely on the basis of the longest of his concurrent sentences, violated the statutory requirement that his multiple sentences be treated as one continuous sentence. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for recalculation, reasoning both that, contrary to the Department’s understanding, the statutory continuous sentence requirement applies to concurrent as well as consecutive sentences and that the Department’s “governing sentence” method of calculation could not apply to Fetzer’s sentences because they were all subject to the same statutory parole provisions.

The supreme court held that, because the “governing sentence” theories that have previously been sanctioned by this court have served to determine the statutory parole and discharge provisions applicable to a single continuous sentence and the manner in which those provisions can be meaningfully applied to it, rather than as an alternative to the statutory continuous sentence requirement itself, the Department erred in simply substituting Fetzer’s longest sentence for the required continuous sentence. Because, however, Fetzer’s multiple sentences are not all subject to the same statutory parole provisions, as indicated in the court of appeals’ opinion, reference to a governing sentence, or some comparable means of determining the applicable incidents of his parole, may remain necessary to the calculation of Fetzer’s parole eligibility date. The judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court’s order was therefore affirmed. Its remand order, directing the Department to recalculate Fetzer’s parole eligibility date in accordance with its opinion, however, was reversed, and the case was remanded with directions that it be returned to the district court for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Inquiry into Unemployment Claimant’s Mental Condition Beyond Scope of Simplified Administrative Proceedings

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Mesa County Public Library District v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Monday, June 26, 2017.

Unemployment Compensation—Fault or Misconduct—Illness or Physical Disability of Employee.

The supreme court held that where the Division of Unemployment Insurance determines a claimant was mentally unable to perform assigned work under C.R.S. § 8-73-108(4)(j) of the Colorado Employment Security Act, C.R.S. §§ 8-70-101 to 8-82-105, neither the text of C.R.S. § 8-73-108(4)(j) nor related case law contemplates further inquiry into the cause of the claimant’s mental condition, and such an inquiry is beyond the scope of the simplified administrative proceedings to determine the claimant’s eligibility for benefits. Here, the court concluded that the Division’s hearing officer erred in determining that claimant committed a volitional act to cause her mental incapacity and thus was at fault for her separation from employment and was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. The court of appeals’ judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Dog Owner Owes No Duty of Care to Child who was Scared by Dogs and Ran Into Street

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in N.M. v. Trujillo on Monday, June 26, 2017.

Negligence—Duty of Care—Nonfeasance—Special Relationships—C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5).

This case required the supreme court to determine whether respondent, a dog owner, owed a duty of care to petitioner, a child who became frightened when respondent’s dogs rushed at respondent’s front yard fence and who, although not touched by the fenced-in dogs, ran into the street and was struck and injured by a passing van. Because petitioner’s negligence claim against respondent was predicated on alleged nonfeasance, or failure to act, and because the case is distinguishable from cases in which a dangerous or vicious animal attacks and directly injures someone, petitioner was required to plead a special relationship between himself and respondent to establish the duty of care necessary to support his negligence claim. Petitioner did not, however, plead such a special relationship. Accordingly, the court concluded that, as a matter of law, respondent owed no duty of care to petitioner and thus the district court properly dismissed petitioner’s negligence claim against respondent. The court of appeals’ judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 6/26/2017

On Monday, June 26, 2017, the Colorado Supreme Court issued three published opinions.

Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections v. Fetzer

Mesa County Public Library District v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office

N.M. v. Trujillo

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: Self-Defense is Not Affirmative Defense to All Crimes Requiring Intent, Knowledge, or Willfulness

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Roberts v. People on Monday, June 19, 2017.

Affirmative Defenses—Traverses—Self-Defense—Harassment.

In this case, the supreme court reviewed the district court’s order affirming petitioner’s county court conviction for harassment. Petitioner asserted that pursuant to People v. Pickering, 276 P.3d 553 (Colo. 2011), self-defense is an affirmative defense to all crimes requiring intent, knowledge, or willfulness. She thus contended that (1) she was entitled to a self-defense affirmative defense instruction to the specific intent crime of harassment, and (2) the county court’s refusal to give such an instruction constituted reversible error. Because Pickering does not establish the broad, bright-line rule that petitioner asserts and thus does not require a trial court to give a self-defense affirmative defense instruction in every case requiring intent, knowledge, or willfulness, the court affirmed the district court’s judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Public Utilities Commission Properly Imposed Tariff After Billing Error

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Carestream Health, Inc. v. Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Monday, June 19, 2017.

Public Utilities—Tariffs—Standing—Injury-in-Fact.

In this appeal, the supreme court considered two issues from the district court’s review of a decision of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Both issues pertain to a billing error that led Public Service Company of Colorado to undercharge Carestream Health, Inc. for gas it received over the course of a three-year period. The first issue is whether the Commission properly interpreted Public Service’s tariff, specifically the requirement to “exercise all reasonable means” to prevent billing errors. The court concluded that determining what means are “reasonable,” as that term is used in the tariff, necessarily requires considering what errors are foreseeable. The court therefore held that the Commission properly interpreted the tariff and acted pursuant to its authority. The second issue is whether Carestream had standing to challenge Public Service’s use of its tariff to recover a portion of the undercharge from its general customer base. Because Carestream suffered no injury from that action, it lacks standing to challenge it. The court accordingly affirmed the district court’s judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Manufacturing Marijuana Prohibited for Individuals Under Amendment 64

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Lente on Monday, June 19, 2017.

State Constitutional Law—Personal Use of Marijuana.

The supreme court held that the prohibition on processing or manufacturing  marijuana or marijuana concentrate under C.R.S. § 18-18-406(2)(a)(I) is not unconstitutional as applied to Austin Lente, who used butane to extract hash oil from marijuana. Although “processing . . . marijuana plants” is a protected personal activity under Colorado’s Amendment 64, “manufacturing . . . marijuana” is protected only as a facility-operation activity that requires a license. At the time Amendment 64 was  approved, Colorado law established that extracting hash oil was manufacturing, not processing, and the supreme court assumes Amendment 64 adopted that settled meaning. Because Lente was unlicensed, he could not manufacture hash oil under cover of the constitution. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s order that ruled the statute is unconstitutional as applied to Lente.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Petitioners Failed to Satisfy Burden to De-Designate Groundwater Basin

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Gallegos Family Properties, LLC v. Colorado Groundwater Commission on Monday, June 19, 2017.

Water Law—Designated Groundwater Basins—Costs.

The supreme court concluded that the designated groundwater court properly concluded that petitioners failed to satisfy their statutory burden in seeking to de-designate a portion of a designated groundwater basin, and therefore, properly denied the petition to de-designate a portion of the basin. The court also concluded that the designated groundwater court properly awarded respondents a portion of their litigation costs as prevailing parties under C.R.C.P. 54(d). The court affirmed the designated groundwater court in both cases.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.