June 27, 2017

Tenth Circuit: Eleventh Amendment Barred Claims Against Agricultural Employees

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Colby v. Herrick on March 1, 2017.

This case stemmed from a battle between Ms. Colby and her mother over the ownership of a horse. The mother complained to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which sent someone from the Brand Inspection Division to investigate the situation. After investigating, the inspector seized the horse. Ms. Colby and her mother settled the ownership dispute in court and after three years, Ms. Colby prevailed and received the horse back. Ms. Colby and her husband then sued the Division and two of its officers. The district court dismissed the action.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed the Division as a defendant in the suit. It held that the Division was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity as an arm of the state and therefore could not be sued in federal court. Further, the Tenth Circuit held that because the Division was an arm of the state entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity, the Colbys could not sue the two officers in their official capacity.

The Tenth Circuit reviewed the Eleventh Amendment immunity issue de novo. The Eleventh Amendment extends to governmental entities that are considered arms of the state. When determining if the Division was an arm of the state, the Tenth Circuit laid out five factors that it considered: (1) how the Division is characterized under Colorado law; (2) how much guidance and control the state of Colorado exercises over the Division; (3) how much funding the Division receives from the State; (4) whether the Division enjoys the ability to issue bonds and levy taxes; and (5) whether the state of Colorado bears legal liability to pay judgments against the Division.

The Tenth Circuit held that the first factor weighed in favor of regarding the Division as an arm of the state. This was due to the fact that Colorado law treats the Division as part of the state government. Additionally, the Division participates in state government as a state agency and the agency’s inspectors are Colorado law enforcement officers with the power to make arrests for violations of state law.

The Tenth Circuit held that the second factor also weighed in favor of regarding the Division as an arm of the state. This was because the Division is considered part of the state Department of Agriculture and is therefore subject to control by state officials.

With regard to the third factor, the Division is entirely self-funded. Additionally, with regard to the fourth factor, the State Board of Stock Commissioners is entitled to issue bonds worth up to $10 million to pay the Division’s expenses. The Tenth Circuit held that these two factors by themselves would cut against Eleventh Amendment immunity. However, the Tenth Circuit held that because the Division is entitled to participate in the Colorado risk management fund, which obtains money from state appropriations, that use of state money supports consideration of the Division as an arm of the state.

The Tenth Circuit held that it was unclear whether the State bears legal liability to pay a judgment of the Division.

Therefore, because the first and second factors clearly support characterization as an arm of the state, and the third and fourth could go both ways, the Tenth Circuit held that the balancing of all of the factors led it to regard the Division as an arm of the state. Therefore, the Division was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. The Tenth Circuit held that the district court did not err in dismissing the claims against the division. However, it did hold that the dismissal with prejudice was a mistake. Because Eleventh Amendment immunity is jurisdictional, the Tenth Circuit held that the dismissal should have been without prejudice.

The Tenth Circuit next addressed the Eleventh Amendment immunity issue with regards to the Divisions’ two officers on the official-capacity claims for damages. The Tenth Circuit held that the officers were entitled to immunity in their official capacitates on behalf of the Division being an arm of the state. Therefore, The Tenth Circuit held that the officers were entitled to dismissal on the official-capacity claims for damages. However, just as with the Divisions Eleventh Amendment claim, because Eleventh Amendment immunity is jurisdictional, the district court should have dismissed the claim without prejudice.

The Tenth Circuit finally addressed the federal personal-capacity claims against the officers for damages. The district court had dismissed these claims based on timeliness. The Tenth Circuit stated that the Colbys claims had a two year statute of limitations. Further, the Tenth Circuit determined that the suffered damage accrued when the horse was seized on July 22, 2011. That action triggered the statute of limitations period. Because the Colbys did not sue until nearly three years later, the Tenth Circuit held that the claims were time-barred.

The Tenth Circuit addressed the Colbys’ argument that the statute of limitations should not have started until they were denied a timely post-deprivation hearing. The Tenth Circuit held that, even if this claim was accurate, that would only have moved the statute of limitations period six weeks in the future, which would still have resulted in the statute of limitations running out before the suit was filed.

Finally, the Tenth Circuit held that the continued violation doctrine did not apply to this case because the complaint does not base the claim on any acts taking place after July 22, 2011. Though the Colbys did not have their horse for three years, and therefore damages continued that entire period, the wrongful acts occurred only on July 22, 2011. Therefore, the Colbys’ claims against the officers in their individual capacity were time-barred.

In sum, the Tenth Circuit held that the Division and the officers in their official capacities were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. However, because the district court dismissed these claims with prejudice, the Tenth Circuit remanded them for the limited purpose of directing the district court to make the dismissals without prejudice. Additionally, the remaining federal claims against the officers were properly dismissed based on the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant’s Right to Private Counsel of Choice Conflicts with State’s Appointment of Experts

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Thompson on Thursday, May 4, 2017.

Child Abuse Resulting in Death—Sixth Amendment—Right to Counsel—Public Defender—Indigent—Ancillary Services—CJD 04-04—Statute of Limitations—False Reporting—Conspiracy—Out-of-Court Statements—Hearsay—Expert Witnesses—Credibility—Consecutive Sentences.

Defendant was charged with multiple crimes related to child abuse. After he was indicted, he appeared before the court with attorney Lane, who had represented defendant for about two years as “retained counsel.” Lane stated that defendant was indigent, and although Lane was willing to continue to represent defendant as “retained counsel,” defendant could not pay for ancillary services, such as investigators or experts. Lane stated that the Constitution required the court to provide ancillary services to indigent defendants at state expense. Relying on a U.S. Supreme Court case, United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez, Lane contended that the court should allow him to continue to represent defendant and also agree to pay state funds for ancillary services. Lane asserted that Gonzalez-Lopez is in conflict with the Colorado Supreme Court case People v. Cardenas, under which defendant was being forced to choose between two constitutional rights: the right to counsel of choice and the right to receive ancillary services at state expense. The trial court declined to overrule Cardenas and appointed public defenders to represent defendant, and Lane’s connection with the case ended. Defendant was convicted of multiple charges, including child abuse resulting in death, child abuse, assault, false reporting, concealing a child’s death, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and conspiracy. The trial court sentenced defendant to 12 years in jail to be followed by 102 years in prison.

On appeal, defendant asserted that the trial court denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choice when it did not authorize Lane to receive state-funded ancillary services for defendant’s representation. Indigent defendants do not have a constitutional right to use state funds to pay for attorneys or for ancillary services of their choosing. Defendant only had a right to state-funded ancillary services if the public defender or court-appointed alternate defense counsel represented him. Therefore, the trial court did not wrongfully deny defendant’s constitutional right to counsel of choice when it appointed public defenders to represent him. However, Chief Justice Directive 04-04 (CJD 04-04), Appointment of State-Funded Counsel in Criminal Cases and for Contempt of Court, would have allowed the trial court to pay for support services for a defendant who is represented by private counsel. The trial court did not consider the Directive when it decided to appoint the public defenders, and defendant’s private counsel did not ask the court to do so. Any error in not considering CJD 04-04 was harmless in this case.

Defendant also contended that the trial court erred when it denied his motion for judgment of acquittal on the false reporting and conspiracy to commit false reporting counts because they were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The record contains sufficient evidence to support these convictions based on conduct that had occurred within 18 months of when the grand jury indicted defendant on those charges. Therefore, these convictions were not barred by the statute of limitations.

Defendant further contended that the trial court erroneously admitted the out-of-court statements of defendant’s girlfriend and children who lived with them. As to the girlfriend’s statements, some were admissible as statements against interest; others were admissible as co-conspirator statements; and though the Court of Appeals could not determine the trustworthiness of one statement, it concluded its admission was harmless error. The children’s statements were variously admissible as non-hearsay, or under the child hearsay statute, or under the residual hearsay exception.

Defendant additionally contended that two expert witnesses improperly vouched for the children’s credibility. However, the experts did not vouch for the children’s veracity, either directly or indirectly; rather, their testimony concerned the typical demeanor and traits of abused children.

Defendant also asserted that the trial court erred when it admitted certain financial evidence, contending that it was only relevant to show that defendant and his girlfriend were “sponges on society.” However, this evidence was relevant and its relevancy was not outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

Defendant also argued that the court admitted evidence he described as cumulative. The court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

Finally, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it imposed consecutive sentences on the misdemeanor child abuse counts.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Officer Need Not Consider Innocent Explanations Before Conducting Investigatory Stop

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Reyes-Valenzuela on Monday, April 24, 2017.

Criminal Law—Evidence Suppression.

This interlocutory appeal required the Colorado Supreme Court to answer whether an officer with a reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal behavior is afoot must consider the possible innocent explanations for otherwise suspicious behavior before conducting an investigatory stop. The court held that, because case law from this court and the U.S. Supreme Court does not require an officer to consider every possible innocent explanation for criminal behavior, the officers in this case justifiably performed an investigatory stop on defendant based on a reasonable, articulable suspicion of ongoing criminal activity. The court therefore reversed the trial court’s suppression order and remanded the case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Warrantless Blood Draw on Unconscious Driver Does Not Violate Fourth Amendment

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Hyde on Monday, April 17, 2017.

Searches and Seizures—Warrantless Blood Draw— Consent to Search.

In this interlocutory appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court considered whether a warrantless blood draw conducted on an unconscious driver pursuant to Colorado’s Expressed Consent Statute, C.R.S. § 42-4-1301.1, violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches. The court explained that by driving in Colorado, the driver consented to the terms of the statute, including its requirement that “[a]ny person who is dead or unconscious shall be tested to determine the alcohol or drug content of the person’s blood.” The court concluded that the driver’s prior statutory consent satisfied the consent exception to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment; therefore, the blood draw conducted in this case was constitutional. Consequently, the court reversed the trial court’s order suppressing the blood-draw evidence.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: All Motorists in Colorado Consent to Colorado’s Expressed Consent Statute by Driving

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Simpson on Monday, April 17, 2017.

Searches and Seizures—Warrantless Blood Draw—Consent to Search.

Colorado’s Expressed Consent Statute, C.R.S. § 42-4-1301.1, provides that any motorist who drives on the roads of the state has consented to take a blood or breath test when requested to do so by a law enforcement officer with probable cause to suspect the motorist of driving under the influence. In this interlocutory appeal, the court reviewed the trial court’s ruling that an advisement accurately informing defendant of the statute amounted to coercion that rendered his consent to a blood test involuntary and required suppression of the test result. The court explained that by driving in Colorado, defendant consented to the terms of the statute, including its requirement that he submit to a blood draw under the circumstances present in this case. The court concluded that defendant’s prior statutory consent satisfied the consent exception to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment; therefore, the blood test conducted in this case was constitutional. Consequently, the court reversed the trial court’s suppression of the test result.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Bills Regarding Hearsay Exception, Free Speech on College Campuses, Juvenile Court Jurisdiction, and More Signed

On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the governor signed 16 bills into law. He also signed 14 bills into law on March 30, and 12 bills on March 23. To date, the governor has signed 122 bills into law.

Some of the bills recently signed include a bill clarifying the hearsay exception for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a bill correcting the Colorado Uniform Trust Decanting Act, a bill clarifying that a juvenile court has jurisdiction to issue civil protection orders in dependency and neglect cases, a bill clarifying a student’s right to free speech on college campuses, and more. The bills signed since March 23 are summarized here.

April 4, 2017

  • HB 17-1051“Concerning Modernization of the Colorado ‘Procurement Code’,” by Reps. Bob Rankin & Alec Garnett and Sens. Andy Kerr & Don Coram. The bill reviews the entirety of the Colorado Procurement Code and makes several updates in an effort to modernize the Code.
  • HB 17-1101“Concerning the Creation of the Youth Corrections Monetary Incentives Award Program in the Division of Youth Corrections,” by Rep. Paul Rosenthal and Sens. Nancy Todd & Kevin Priola. The bill authorizes the Division of Youth Corrections to establish, at its discretion, a youth corrections monetary incentives award program. The purpose of the program is to provide monetary awards and incentives for academic, social, and psychological achievement to juveniles who were formerly committed to the Division to assist and encourage them in moving forward in positive directions in life.
  • HB 17-1103“Concerning a State Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Historic Aircraft on Loan for Public Display,” by Reps. Dan Nordberg & Dan Pabon and Sens. Dominick Moreno & Bob Gardner. The bill creates a state sales and use tax exemption for a historic aircraft that is on loan for public display, demonstration, educational, or museum promotional purposes in the state provided certain conditions are met.
  • HB 17-1107“Concerning the Implementation of a New Computer System by the Division of Motor Vehicles to Facilitate the Division’s Administration of the Operation of Motor Vehicles in the State,” by Reps. Dan Thurlow & Jeff Bridges and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik. The bill makes statutory changes regarding implementation of a new computer system.
  • HB 17-1109“Concerning Prosecuting in One Jurisdiction a Person who has Committed Sexual Assaults Against a Child in Different Jurisdictions,” by Reps. Terri Carver & Jessie Danielson and Sens. John Cooke & Rhonda Fields. The bill allows a prosecutor to charge and bring a pattern-offense case for all such assaults in any jurisdiction where one of the acts occurred, rather than prosecuting each act in the jurisdiction in which it occurred.
  • HB 17-1111“Concerning Allowing Juvenile Courts to Enter Civil Protection Orders in Dependency and Neglect Cases,” by Rep. Susan Beckman and Sen. Rhonda Fields. The bill clarifies that the juvenile court has jurisdiction to enter civil protection orders in dependency and neglect actions in the same manner as district and county courts. The court must follow the same procedures for the issuance of the civil protection orders and use standardized forms.
  • HB 17-1149“Concerning Special License Plates Issued to Members of the United States Military who Served in the United States Army Special Forces,” by Reps. Tony Exum & Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Sen. Bob Gardner. The bill clarifies which individuals are eligible for a U.S. Army Special Forces license plate.
  • HB 17-1151“Concerning the Regulation of Electrical Assisted Bicycles,” by Reps. Chris Hansen & Yeulin Willett and Sens. Owen Hill & Andy Kerr. The bill defines electrical assisted bicycles and enacts several regulations regarding manufacture, labeling, and government oversight of such bicycles.
  • HB 17-1152: “Concerning the Authority of a Federal Mineral Lease District to Manage a Portion of the Direct Distribution of Money from the Local Government Mineral Impact Fund to Counties for the Benefit of Impacted Areas,” by Reps. Yeulin Willett & Diane Mitsch Bush and Sen. Ray Scott. The bill gives a federal mineral lease district the option to invest a portion of the funding it receives from the local government mineral impact fund in a fund.
  • SB 17-015“Concerning the Unlawful Advertising of Marijuana,” by Sen. Irene Aguilar and Rep. Dan Pabon. The bill makes it a level 2 drug misdemeanor for a person not licensed to sell medical or retail marijuana to advertise for the sale of marijuana or marijuana concentrate.
  • SB 17-016“Concerning the Optional Creation of a Child Protection Team by a County,” by Sens. Cheri Jahn & Tim Neville and Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp & Dan Nordberg. The bill allows counties and groups of contiguous counties to choose whether to establish a child protection team, at the discretion of the county director or the directors of a contiguous group of counties.
  • SB 17-048“Concerning Requiring an Officer to Arrest an Offender who Escapes from an Intensive Supervision Program in the Department of Corrections,” by Sen. John Cooke & Rep. Yeulin Willett. The bill requires a peace officer who believes that an offender in an intensive supervision program has committed an escape by knowingly removing or tampering with an electronic monitoring device to immediately seek a warrant for the offender’s arrest or arrest the offender without undue delay if the offender is in the presence of the officer.
  • SB 17-062“Concerning the Right to Free Speech on Campuses of Public Institutions of Higher Education,” by Sen. Tim Neville and Reps. Jeff Bridges & Stephen Humphrey. The bill prohibits public institutions of higher education from limiting or restricting student expression in a student forum, and prohibits those institutions for penalizing free speech.
  • SB 17-066“Concerning Clarifying Retroactively the Authority of a Municipality to Employ a Police Force without Going Through Sunrise Review,” by Sens. Rhonda Fields & John Cooke and Reps. Steve Lebsock & Lori Saine. The bill clarifies that municipalities may employ a police force without going through the review process for groups seeking peace officer status.
  • SB 17-076“Concerning Authority to Spend Money in the Public School Performance Fund,” by Sen. Kevin Priola and Rep. James Coleman. The bill allows the Department of Education to spend money received as gifts, grants, and donations for monetary awards to certain high-performing public schools and in purchasing tangible items of recognition for the schools.
  • SB 17-125“Concerning Allowing Certain Persons who Have Been Exonerated of Crimes to Receive in Lump-Sum Payments Compensation that is Owed to Them by the State,” by Sen. Lucia Guzman and Rep. Dan Pabon. The bill allows an exonerated person to elect to receive the remaining balance of the state’s duty of compensation in a lump sum rather than periodic payments.

March 30, 2017

  • HB 17-1059: “Concerning the Scheduled Repeal of Reports by the Department of Public Safety to the General Assembly,” by Rep. Dan Thurlow and Sen. Jack Tate. The bill continues indefinitely statutory reporting requirements.
  • HB 17-1076“Concerning Rule-making by the State Engineer Regarding Permits for the Use of Water Artificially Recharged into Nontributary Groundwater Aquifers,” by Rep. Jeni Arndt and Sens. Stephen Fenberg & Don Coram. The bill adds a requirement that the state engineer promulgate rules for the permitting and use of waters artificially recharged into nontributary groundwater aquifers.
  • HB 17-1147“Concerning Defining the Purposes of Community Corrections Programs,” by Rep. Lang Sias and Sen. Daniel Kagan. The bill statutorily defines the purpose of community corrections as to further all purposes of sentencing and improve public safety.
  • HB 17-1180: “Concerning Requirements for the Tuition Assistance Program for Students Enrolled in Career and Technical Education Certificate Programs,” by Reps. Faith Winter & Polly Lawrence and Sens. Andy Kerr & Tim Neville. The bill allows students in technical education programs to receive tuition assistance even if they do not meet credit hour requirements for the federal Pell grant program.
  • SB 17-024“Concerning the Hearsay Exception for Persons with an Intellectual and Developmental Disability when a Defendant is Charged with a Crime Against an At-risk Person,” by Sen. Rhonda Fields and Rep. Dave Young. The bill clarifies that the hearsay exception for a person with an intellectual and developmental disability applies if the defendant is charged under the increased penalties for crimes against at-risk persons.
  • SB 17-031“Concerning the Scheduled Repeal of Reports by the Department of Corrections to the General Assembly,” by Sen. Jack Tate and Rep. Jeni Arndt. The bill continues indefinitely reporting requirements for the Department of Corrections and makes other changes.
  • SB 17-033“Concerning the Authority of a Professional Nurse to Delegate Dispensing Authority for Over-the-Counter Medications,” by Sen. Irene Aguilar and Rep. Polly Lawrence. The bill allows a professional nurse to delegate to another person, after appropriate training, the dispensing authority of an over-the-counter medication to a minor with the signed consent of the minor’s parent or guardian.
  • SB 17-073“Concerning Promotion of the Runyon-Fountain Lakes State Wildlife Area,” by Sen. Leroy Garcia and Rep. Donald Valdez. The bill directs stakeholders interested in the Runyon-Fountain lakes state wildlife area (including the Colorado division of parks and wildlife, the city of Pueblo, and the Pueblo conservancy district) to cooperatively engage in a long-term process to promote the maximum beneficial development and maintenance of the area.
  • SB 17-110“Concerning Expanding the Number of Unrelated Children to No More than Four to Qualify for License-exempt Family Child Care,” by Sens. Larry Crowder & John Kefalas and Reps. James Wilson & Jessie Danielson. The bill expands the circumstances under which an individual can care for children from multiple families for less than 24 hours without obtaining a child care license.
  • SB 17-122“Concerning the Duties of the Fallen Heroes Memorial Commission, and, in Connection Therewith, Repealing the Commission and Shifting all Remaining Responsibilities to the State Capitol Building Advisory Committee,” by Sen. Jack Tate and Reps. Terri Carver & Jessie Danielson. The bill repeals the fallen heroes memorial commission and requires the state capitol building advisory committee to take on any remaining duties of the commission.
  • SB 17-123“Concerning a High School Diploma Endorsement for Biliteracy,” by Sens. Rachel Zenzinger & Kevin Priola and Reps. James Wilson & Millie Hamner. The bill authorizes a school district, BOCES, or institute charter high school to grant a diploma endorsement in biliteracy to a student who demonstrates proficiency in English and at least one foreign language.
  • SB 17-124“Concerning a Correction to the ‘Colorado Uniform Trust Decanting Act’,” by Sens. Beth Martinez Humenik & Dominick Moreno and Reps. Edie Hooten & Dan Nordberg. The bill changes one reference to the second trust to the first trust to conform with the Uniform Law Commission’s corrected version of the Act.
  • SB 17-134“Concerning the Exclusion of Certain Areas of an Alcohol Beverage Licensee’s Operation in the Application of Penalties for Certain Violations,” by Sen. Jack Tate and Reps. Dan Nordberg & Leslie Herod. The bill limits penalties for violations relating to the sale of alcohol beverages to a visibly intoxicated or underage person that occur in a sales room for licensees operating a beer wholesaler, winery, limited winery, or distillery, or in a retail establishment, for licensees operating a brew pub, vintner’s restaurant, or distillery pub.
  • SB 17-194“Concerning an Exception to the Statutory Deadlines for Making Income Tax Refunds for Returns Suspected of Refund-related Fraud,” by Sen. Tim Neville and Rep. Dan Pabon. The bill specifies that if the department of revenue makes a determination, in good faith, that there is a suspicion of identity theft or other refund-related fraud, then the statutory deadlines do not apply.

March 23, 2017

  • HB 17-1015: “Concerning Clarifying the Manner in Which Reductions of Inmates’ Sentences are Administered in County Jails,” by Rep. Edie Hooten and Sen. John Cooke. The bill clarifies and consolidates various statutory sections concerning reductions of sentences for county jail inmates.
  • HB 17-1040: “Concerning Authorizing the Interception of Communication Relating to a Crime of Human Trafficking,” by Reps. Paul Lundeen & Mike Foote and Sens. Cheri Jahn & Kevin Priola. The bill adds human trafficking to the list of crimes for which a judge can issue an order authorizing the interception of certain communications.
  • HB 17-1044“Concerning Autocycles, and, in Connection Therewith, Clarifying that an Autocycle is a Type of Motorcycle and Requiring Autocycle Drivers and Passengers to Use Safety Belts and, if Applicable, Child Safety Restraints,” by Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush and Sen. Nancy Todd. The bill amends the definition of “autocycle” and amends the restraint requirements for autocycles.
  • HB 17-1048“Concerning the Prosecution of Insurance Fraud,” by Rep. Mike Foote and Sen. Jim Smallwood. The bill amends language describing the criminal offense of insurance fraud.
  • HB 17-1065“Concerning a Clarification of Requirements Governing the Formation of Metropolitan Districts, and, in Connection Therewith, Limiting the Inclusion of Agricultural Land Within a Metropolitan District Providing Park and Recreational Services and Clarifying Signature Requirements Governing Judicial Approval of a Petition for Organization of a Proposed Special District,” by Rep. Kimmi Lewis and Sen. Vicki Marble. The bill subjects metropolitan districts to certain limitations regarding parks and recreation and clarifies which signatures can be counted by the district court in determining validity.
  • HB 17-1071“Concerning a Process for Repayment of Certain Criminal Monetary Amounts Ordered by the Court to be Paid Following Conviction,” by Reps. Cole Wist & Pete Lee and Sens. Daniel Kagan & Bob Gardner. The bill establishes a process for a defendant who has paid a monetary amount due for a criminal conviction in a district or county court to request a refund of the amount paid if the conviction was overturned or the restitution award was reversed.
  • HB 17-1092“Concerning Contracts Involving License Royalties with Proprietors of Retail Establishments that Publicly Perform Music,” by Rep. Steve Lebsock and Sen. Jack Tate. The bill expands the law covering contracts between performing rights societies and proprietors of retail establishments to cover investigations and negotiations between the two.
  • HB 17-1133“Concerning the Annual Report on Filing-Office Rules by the Secretary of State,” by Reps. Dan Nordberg & Edie Hooten and Sens. Dominick Moreno & Jack Tate. The bill repeals the requirement that the secretary of state annually report to the governor and legislature regarding filing-office rules promulgated under the “Uniform Commercial Code – Secured Transactions.”
  • HB 17-1136“Concerning Consistent Statutory Language for Electronic Filing of Taxes,” by Rep. Mike Foote and Sen. Bob Gardner. The bill changes the EFT and electronic filing requirements in the taxation statutes for consistency, specifying in all cases that the department may require EFT and electronic filing and that the department may promulgate rules to implement EFT and electronic filing.
  • HB 17-1148“Concerning Applications for Registration to Cultivate Industrial Hemp,” by Rep. Jeni Arndt and Sen. John Cooke. The bill adds a requirement to existing registration requirements that applicants to cultivate industrial hemp for commercial purposes provide the names of each officer, director, member, partner, or owner of 10% or more in the entity applying for registration and any person managing or controlling the entity.
  • HB 17-1157“Concerning Reliance by a Financial Institution on a Certificate of Trust,” by Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp & Dan Nordberg and Sen. Kevin Priola. The bill requires trustees to provide additional information in a certificate of trust when trustees open a trust deposit account and permits the bank to rely on the certificate of trust absent knowledge of fraud.
  • SB 17-008“Concerning Legalizing Certain Knives,” by Sen. Owen Hill and Rep. Steve Lebsock. The bill removes gravity knives and switchblades from the definition of illegal weapons.

For a list of the governor’s 2017 legislative decisions, click here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Double Jeopardy Claims May Be Raised for the First Time on Appeal

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Reyna-Abarca v. People on Monday, February 27, 2017.

Plain Error Review—Double Jeopardy—Lesser Included Offenses.

In these four cases, which raise the ultimate question of whether driving under the influence (DUI) is a lesser included offense of either vehicular assault-DUI or vehicular homicide-DUI, the Colorado Supreme Court addressed (1) whether a double jeopardy claim can be raised for the first time on direct appeal, and (2) what test courts should apply in evaluating whether one offense is a lesser included offense of another.

The court concluded that unpreserved double jeopardy claims can be raised for the first time on appeal and that appellate courts should ordinarily review such claims for plain error. In so holding, the court rejected the People’s contention that defendants waive their double jeopardy claims unless they raise them at trial through a Crim. P. 12(b)(2) challenge to defective charging documents.

The court further concluded that the applicable test for determining whether one offense is a lesser included offense of another is the strict elements test articulated in Schmuck v. United States, 489 U.S. 705, 716 (1989). Under this test, an offense is a lesser included offense of another offense if the elements of the lesser offense are a subset of the elements of the greater offense, such that the lesser offense contains only elements that are also included in the elements of the greater offense. Applying this test to the cases before it, the court concluded that DUI is a lesser included offense of both vehicular assault-DUI and vehicular homicide-DUI, and thus, defendants’ DUI convictions must merge into the greater offenses. The court further concluded that in not merging such offenses, the trial courts plainly erred and that reversal of the multiplicitous convictions is therefore required.

Accordingly, the court affirmed the divisions’ rulings in People v. Reyna-Abarca, No. 10CA637 (Colo.App. Aug. 1, 2013), and People v. Hill, No. 12CA168 (Colo.App. Aug. 8, 2013), that appellate courts review unpreserved double jeopardy claims for plain error, but reversed the portions of the judgments in those cases concluding that DUI is not a lesser included offense of vehicular assault-DUI, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. Similarly, the Court reversed the portion of the judgment in People v. Medrano-Bustamante, 2013 COA 139, ___ P.3d ___, concluding that DUI is not a lesser included offense of vehicular assault-DUI and vehicular homicide-DUI, and remanded for further proceedings. The Court affirmed the judgments in those cases in all other respects, and affirmed in full the judgment in People v. Smoots, 2013 COA 152, ___ P.3d ___.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Courts Should Review Unpreserved Double Jeopardy Claims for Plain Error

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Scott v. People on Monday, February 27, 2017.

Plain Error Review—Double Jeopardy—Lesser Included Offenses.

In this case, the supreme court reviewed two issues: (1) whether a double jeopardy claim can be raised for the first time on appeal, and (2) whether defendant William Costello Scott’s convictions for both aggravated robbery-menaced with a deadly weapon (“aggravated robbery-menaced victim”) and menacing amounted to plain error. In light of the Colorado Supreme Court’s opinion in Reyna-Abarca v. People, 2017 CO 15, ___ P.3d ___, also decided on February 27, the court concluded here, contrary to the division majority below, People v. Scott, No. 08CA2327 (Colo. App. Nov. 8, 2012), that unpreserved double jeopardy claims can be raised for the first time on appeal and that courts should ordinarily review such claims for plain error. The court further concluded, however, that in the circumstances presented here, any error that might have occurred when the trial court entered judgment on Scott’s convictions for both aggravated robbery-menaced victim and menacing was not obvious, and thus did not amount to plain error.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Court of Appeals Correctly Evaluated Unpreserved Double Jeopardy Claim for Plain Error

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Zubiate v. People on Monday, February 27, 2017.

Plain Error Review—Double Jeopardy—Lesser Included Offenses.

In this case, the Colorado Supreme Court addressed (1) whether a defendant may raise his or her unpreserved double jeopardy claim for the first time on appeal and, if so, what standard of review applies, and (2) whether driving under revocation (DUR) is a lesser included offense of aggravated driving after revocation prohibited (aggravated DARP). In Reyna-Abarca v. People, 2017 CO 15, ¶¶ 2–3, ___ P.3d ___, also decided on February 27, the court (1) concluded that unpreserved double jeopardy claims can be raised for the first time on appeal and that appellate courts should ordinarily review such claims for plain error and (2) clarified the applicable test to be employed in determining whether one offense is a lesser included offense of another.

Applying those rulings here, the court concluded that the division in Zubiate v. People, 2013 COA 69, ___ P.3d ___, correctly (1) conducted plain error review of Zubiate’s unpreserved double jeopardy claim, and (2) determined that DUR is not a lesser included offense of aggravated DARP, although the court’s analysis differs somewhat from that of the division. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Plain Error Review Appropriate for Unpreserved Double Jeopardy Claims

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Zadra on Monday, February 27, 2017.

Plain Error Review—Double Jeopardy.

These two cases present the issues of whether double jeopardy claims can be raised for the first time on direct appeal and, if so, what standard of review applies. The Colorado Supreme Court addressed the same issues in four cases also decided on February 27 (consolidated as Reyna-Abarca v. People, 2017 CO 15, ___ P.3d ___). There, the court concluded that unpreserved double jeopardy claims can be raised for the first time on appeal and that appellate courts should ordinarily review such claims for plain error. Applying that ruling here, the court concluded that the divisions in People v. Zadra, 2013 COA 140, ___ P.3d ___, and People v. Adams, No. 12CA339 (Colo. App. Mar. 12, 2015), correctly conducted plain error review of defendants’ unpreserved double jeopardy claims and merged certain of defendants’ convictions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgments in both cases.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Fine to Employer for Workers’ Compensation Insurance Lapse Unconstitutional As Applied

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Dami Hospitality, LLC v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, February 23, 2017.

Dami Hospitality, LLC, operates a motel in Denver, Colorado. For a period in 2006, Dami failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance. It paid the $1,200 fine and obtained insurance. In 2014, the Division of Workers’ Compensation informed Dami that it was again without workers’ compensation insurance and had been for periods during 2006 and 2007, as well as from September 2010 through the date of the division’s notice. Dami admitted receiving the Division’s June 28, 2014, notice, but denied receiving a notice the Division contended it had mailed four months earlier. Dami obtained the necessary insurance by July 9, 2014, but did not otherwise respond to the Division’s letter.

The Division imposed a fine of $841,200 based on C.R.S. § 8-43-409(1)(b)(II) and 7 CCR 1101-3 (Rule 3-6). Dami’s owner, Soon Pak, sent a letter to the Director captioned “Petition to Review,” asking the Director to reconsider the fine. Ms. Pak claimed that she relied on her insurance agent to obtain the necessary insurance and believed the hotel’s insurance policies contained workers’ compensation coverage. She also asserted that the fine was more than her business grossed in a year and it would bankrupt both the hotel and her individually. Ms. Pak’s insurance agent also submitted a letter claiming personal responsibility for the lapse in coverage. In a supplemental order, the Director again ordered Dami to pay the fine, asserting that the previous lapse in coverage should have put Dami on notice as to the need for insurance.

Dami appealed to the Industrial Claim Appeals Panel, which ruled that the Director had failed to consider the factors in Associated Business Products v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, 126 P.3d 323 (Colo. App. 2005), to protect against constitutionally excessive fines. On remand, without taking additional evidence, the Director reinstated his original fine, concluding that Rule 3-6 inherently incorporated the Associated Business Products factors. Dami again appealed, but this time ICAO upheld the Director’s order. Dami appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

The court of appeals first considered whether Dami was deprived of procedural due process. Dami argued that notice by mail was unreasonable, and that a hearing should have been held before the fine was imposed. The court of appeals disagreed. Dami did not request a prehearing conference when it received the first notice of the lapse in insurance, and Dami did not show that the address the Division had on file was incorrect. Therefore, the court found that Dami was not denied procedural due process.

Dami next contended that the $841,200 fine was constitutionally excessive in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Dami argued that section 8-43-409 is unconstitutional on its face because the General Assembly removed a penalty cap in 2005 and failed to impose a statutory deadline for notice of missing insurance coverage, which therefore granted the Director “complete discretion regarding the timing of notice and thus the size of the fine.” The court of appeals found no facial constitutional error, noting that other penalty statutes have been upheld despite a lack of cap or statutory deadline.

However, the court of appeals agreed with Dami that the penalty was unconstitutional as applied because the Director abused his discretion in applying the Associated Business Products factors to Dami’s situation. Dami also argued that the fine is grossly disproportionate both to its ability to pay and to the harm caused by the lack of workers’ compensation insurance. It asserts the Director should also have considered its ability to pay when weighing the constitutionality of the fine. The court of appeals again agreed that the fine was unconstitutional as applied.

The court of appeals evaluated whether Eighth Amendment protections apply to corporations, and determined that Dami’s status as a corporation did not deprive it of Eighth Amendment protections. The court cited Citizens United for the premise that individual constitutional protections can apply to corporations.

Evaluating the particular fine, the court of appeals determined that the Director abused his discretion in imposing the fine because he did not make specific findings regarding the Associated Business Products factors. The court of appeals found that the uncontroverted facts put Dami at the low end of the reprehensibility scale, since Ms. Pak relied on her insurance agent to supply all necessary insurance coverage and the agent admitted he had not informed Ms. Pak about workers’ compensation insurance. The court also found that because Dami had not had a single workers’ compensation claim in its existence and it had fewer than ten employees, there was no actual harm from Dami’s lack of workers’ compensation insurance and low risk of potential harm. The court noted that the record lacked any evidence of comparable fines because the Division failed to supply it, but the information Dami supplied showed that in FY 2006-2007 the total amount of fines for failure to carry insurance “would be $200,000.” The court of appeals also recognized that the Director should have considered Dami’s ability to pay before imposing the fine.

The court of appeals remanded for reconsideration of the excessive fine in light of the Associated Business Products factors.

SB 17-062: Prohibiting Institutions of Higher Education from Limiting Students’ Free Speech

On January 13, 2017, Sen. Tim Neville and Rep. Stephen Humphrey introduced SB 17-062, “Concerning the Right to Free Speech on Campuses of Public Institutions of Higher Education.”

The bill prohibits public institutions of higher education (public institution) from limiting or restricting student expression in a student forum. ‘Expression’ is defined to mean any lawful verbal or written means by which individuals communicate ideas to one another, including all forms of peaceful assembly, protests, speaking verbally, holding signs, circulating petitions, and disstributing written materials. ‘Expression’ also includes voter registration activities but does not include speech that is primarily for a commercial purpose.

A public institution shall not subject a student to disciplinary action as a result of his or her expression. A public institution shall not designate any area on campus as a free speech zone or otherwise create policies that imply that its students’ expressive activities are restricted to a particular area of campus. Additionally, a public institution shall not impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of student speech unless such restrictions are reasonable, justified without reference to the speech’s content, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information or message.

The bill states that it does not grant other members of the college or university community the right to disrupt previously scheduled or reserved activities in a portion or section of the student forum at that scheduled time. Additionally, the bill clarifies that it is not to be interpreted as preventing the public institution from prohibiting, limiting, or restricting expression that is not protected under the 1st Amendment.

A student who has been denied access to a student forum for expressive purposes may bring a court action to recover reasonable court costs and attorney fees.

The bill was introduced in the Senate and assigned to the Education Committee. It was amended in committee, and was again amended on Second and Third Reading in the Senate. It passed the Senate and was introduced in the House and assigned to the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee.