February 6, 2016

Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure Amended in Rule Change 2016(01)

On Thursday, February 4, 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court posted Rule Change 2016(01), adopted January 29, 2016. The rule change affects several of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, and there are various effective dates for the changes.

C.R.C.P. 10 was changed to specify that footnotes should be in 12 point font and motions should be double-spaced. The comment to § 1-12 of Rule 121 was changed to include oral discovery in its scope. Rule 121, § 1-15, was revised significantly, changing several of the specifications for word and page limits of motions and addressing when the court should rule on motions. The comment to § 1-15 was also changed to explain some of the revisions. The changes to Rule 10 and §§ 1-12 and 1-15 of Rule 121 apply to motions filed on or after April 1, 2016.

C.R.C.P. 23, “Class Actions,” was amended by the addition of a new subsection (g), dealing with residual funds left after class action settlements. The changes to Rule 23 are effective for all class settlements approved by the court on or after July 1, 2016.

Rules 103 and 403 dealing with garnishments in district and county court were amended to provide that for pro se judgment creditors, indebtedness must be paid into the registry of the court, whereas judgment creditors represented by attorneys and collection agencies may receive funds directly. The Writ of Garnishment form was amended accordingly. These changes are effective March 1, 2016.

The amendment to Rule 359, “New Trials; Amendment of Judgments,” changed the deadline for appeal from 21 days to 14 days. The change is effective April 1, 2016.

Finally, Form 35.1, “Mandatory Disclosure,” was changed significantly. Most of the changes clarified required disclosures when a decree has been filed, specifying that only documents filed or prepared since the entry of the decree need be disclosed. These changes are effective April 1, 2016.

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

Five Cybersecurity Tech Tips: Worries to Give You the Willies

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Attorney at Work on January 29, 2016. Reprinted with permission. See below for information about ordering Colorado CLE’s homestudy for our program, “Data Privacy & Information Security: Meeting the Challenges of this Complex and Evolving Area of the Law.”

By Sharon Nelson and John Simek

A keyboard with a red button - Privacy

A keyboard with a red button – Privacy

There are lots of cybersecurity worries to give you the willies in the wee hours of the morning, but we were asked to pick five. So here are some of the most common threats for lawyers to keep in mind.

1. Ransomware. We continue to see law firms struck by ransomware, which is a type of malware that encrypts your data (restricting your access to it) and then demands a ransom payment — usually in bitcoins — to get your data back. Training your employees not to click on suspicious attachments or links in email will help. They should stay away from suspicious sites as well since ransomware can be installed by just “driving by” an infected website.

Overwhelmingly, from a technological standpoint, you can defeat ransomware by having a backup that is immune to it. This can mean, particularly for solo lawyers, that you back up and then disconnect the backup from the network. For others, it means running an agent-based backup system rather than one that uses drive letters. Make sure your IT consultant has your backup engineered so that backups are protected — that way, even if you are attacked with ransomware, you can thumb your nose at the thief’s demands for money because you can restore your system from your backup. Of course, this means backups need to be made frequently to avoid any significant data loss.

2. Employees. Employees are by nature rogues. Every study made shows employees will ignore policies (assuming they exist) to do what they want to do. This often means people bring their own devices (BYOD) which may be infected when they connect to your network. They may also bring their own network (BYON) or bring their own cloud (BYOC). Certainly, your policies should disallow these practices (in our judgment) or, at least, manage the risks by controlling what it is done by implementing a combination of policies and technology.

Oh, and employees steal your data or leave it on flash drives or their home devices, too. This means you have “dark data” — data you don’t know about and over which you have no control. This means you may miss data required in discovery because you don’t know it exists. Your data may not be protected in compliance with federal or state laws and regulations. And you have no way to manage the data because you don’t know it is there. Once again, a combination of policies and technology should be in place to prevent these issues.

3. Targeted phishing. This is perhaps the greatest and most successful threat to law firm data. Someone has you in their sights — often they have done research on your law firm. They may know the cases you are involved in — and who your opponents are. They may know the managing partner’s nickname. Everything they know about you, they may use to get you to click on something (say, an email from an opponent referencing a specific case and saying “The next hearing in ___ case has been rescheduled as per the attachment). Many a lawyer has clicked on such attachments — or a link within an email.

The best solution to protect yourself from targeted phishing is training and more training — endlessly. One California firm was targeted by multiple phishing attacks but survived them because the lawyers and staff who received such emails questioned their authenticity.

Forget the loss of billable time. The loss of money, time and even clients due to a data breach can be far worse.

4. Interception of confidential information. Start with the proposition that everyone wants your data, including cybercriminals, hackers and nation states (including our own). Frankly, if they want your data and they have sophisticated tools, they will get it. So shame on you if you are not employing encryption (which is now cheap and easy) to protect confidential data transmitted and received via voice, text, and email. Encryption today is a law firm’s best friend. You may choose to use it always or in cases where it is warranted — but you surely should have the capability of encrypting.

5. Failure to use technology to enforce passwords policies. First, let us say that you should use multi-factor authentication where available and use it to protect sensitive data. But failing that, we recognize that passwords are still king in solo practices and small to midsize firms. Therefore, have your IT consultant assist you in setting up policies that can be enforced by technology, requiring that network passwords be changed every 30 days, not reused for an extended period of time — and mandating strong passwords (14 or more characters in length, utilizing upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols). Passphrases are best. Iloveattorneyatwork2016! would do nicely.

There are many other “willies” out there, but address them one digestible chunk at a time!

Sharon D. Nelson (@SharonNelsonEsq) and John W. Simek (@SenseiEnt) are the President and Vice President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a digital forensics, legal technology and information security firm based in Fairfax, VA. Popular speakers and authors, they have written several books, including “The 2008-2015 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guides” and “Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers.” Sharon blogs at Ride the Lightning and together they co-host of the Digital Detectives podcast.

 

CLE Homestudy: Data Privacy & Information Security — Meeting the Challenges of this Complex and Evolving Area of the Law

This CLE presentation took place Friday, January 22, 2016. Order the homestudy here: CDMP3 audioVideo OnDemand.

Tenth Circuit: Officer Lacked Reasonable Basis to Effect Felony Stop Based on Mistaken Information

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Maresca v. Bernalillo County on Thursday, October 22, 2015.

Stephen Maresca, a former police officer, and his family were returning from a family hike when they were pulled over by Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputies J. Fuentes, G. Grundhoffer, and four other officers. Officer Fuentes, who had completed her training as a new officer approximately two months earlier, initiated the stop. Mr. Maresca waved to Officers Fuentes and Grundhoffer as he drove by, and Officer Fuentes randomly decided to follow the Marescas’ truck—a red 2004 Ford F-150 pickup. She attempted to type their license plate number into her onboard computer, but got a digit wrong and received a message that the vehicle, a maroon 2009 Chevrolet four-door sedan, had been stolen.

Without double-checking the license plate number or verifying that the information on her screen matched the Marescas’ vehicle, she initiated a “felony stop.” She called the Marescas actual license plate number into dispatch, stating that the vehicle was stolen, but did not wait for dispatch to verify the information before initiating the felony stop. As a result of this call, other officers were dispatched to assist. For the felony stop, she and Officer Grundhoffer, who was following her in a different vehicle, stood behind the open doors of their vehicles with weapons drawn and shouted orders at the Marescas. She ordered Mr. Maresca to turn off the truck, throw his keys out of the window, exit the truck with his hands in the air, lift his shirt above his waistband so she could check for weapons, and lay on the highway on his stomach. She repeated this procedure with Mrs. Maresca. The Marescas complied fully with Officer Fuentes’ commands. While they were laying on the ground, Mrs. Maresca informed the officers that there were children and a dog in the truck. Mr. Maresca also told them that there had to be a mistake and to check everything again. The officers ignored the Marescas.

The officers ordered the boys out of the car the same way as Mr. and Mrs. Maresca, and ordered 9-year-old M.M. to exit the vehicle and lift her shirt. The evidence is disputed whether they forced her to lay on her stomach or sternly told her to stay at the side. After all the Marescas were out of the truck, the dog became upset and jumped out of the vehicle, running into the highway. Mr. Maresca called the dog and the officers allowed him to hold onto her. Two more deputies arrived and one began directing traffic around the “felony stop.” Two additional deputies arrived next, and the Marescas presented disputed evidence that one of them pointed his gun directly at 14-year-old C.M.’s head, leading C.M. to freak out and start crying to his mom that they were going to kill him. There was also disputed evidence that an officer stood over Mrs. Maresca with his gun cocked in a sideways gangster-style hold. Mrs. Maresca began to panic, and the children and Mrs. Maresca were all crying.

Finally, between seven and fifteen minutes after initiating the stop, Officer Fuentes returned to her vehicle and re-ran the Marescas’ plate, at which point she discovered her error. Fuentes asked one of the other deputies whether she was going to get into trouble. The deputy told her to uncuff the Marescas, let them return to their vehicle, and call a sergeant. Sergeant Bartholf explained to the Marescas that Fuentes was a new officer. The parties dispute whether he ever apologized. Mrs. Maresca asked Officer Quintana why he thought it necessary to point his gun at her when she was already laying on the ground, at which point Quintana smiled and walked away.

The Marescas filed suit in New Mexico state court, alleging the officers violated their 42 U.S.C. § 1983 rights to be free from unlawful arrest and excessive force. The Marescas also asserted state law claims against the officers for assault, false imprisonment, battery, and negligence, and asserted claims against Bernalillo County for negligent training. Defendants removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. The Marescas filed a motion for summary judgment on their federal claims, and the defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims. The district court denied the Marescas’ motion, granted defendants’ motion, and dismissed the Marescas’ state law claims without prejudice. The Marescas appealed.

The Tenth Circuit analyzed qualified immunity and found it inapplicable to Officer Fuentes. The Marescas argued Officer Fuentes violated their Fourth Amendment rights by arresting them without probable cause and by using excessive force. The officers argued that they did not arrest the Marescas, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding the duration of the stop, the use of firearms, and rough treatment to which they subjected the Marescas indicated that the stop was an arrest. The Tenth Circuit further concluded the arrest was not supported by probable cause because the officers lacked an objectively reasonable basis to believe the truck was stolen. The Tenth Circuit noted that the sole basis for the arrest was Officer Fuentes’ “mistaken and unreasonable belief” that the truck was stolen. The Tenth Circuit clarified that it was not holding that a mere typing error deprives officers of a reasonable basis to effect an arrest, but rather based the holding in this case on all the facts taken together. However, in this case, the undisputed facts established that Fuentes violated the Marescas’ Fourth Amendment rights. The Tenth Circuit held that Officer Fuentes was not entitled to qualified immunity, and in fact that the Marescas were entitled to summary judgment against Officer Fuentes.

Turning to Officer Grundhoffer’s role, the Tenth Circuit concluded it was reasonable for him to rely on the information he was given by Officer Fuentes in assisting with the felony stop. The Tenth Circuit found no evidence that Officer Grundhoffer’s conduct was in bad faith or unreasonable under the circumstances. It therefore upheld qualified immunity as to Officer Grundhoffer.

Turning to the excessive force claim, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the Marescas were entitled to have their claims evaluated by a jury. The Tenth Circuit reiterated that although it granted summary judgment to the Marescas on their Fourth Amendment claims against Officer Fuentes, there were still questions of fact regarding whether the officers used force that was unreasonable under the circumstances. The Tenth Circuit reminded the officers that the use of force must be justified under the circumstances, especially when directed at children as it was here. The Tenth Circuit also found that the Marescas presented evidence of more than de minimus injury.

The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Officer Fuentes based on qualified immunity, and also reversed the court’s denial of summary judgment to the Marescas as related to Officer Fuentes. It remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment as to Officer Grundhoffer’s qualified immunity. On the excessive force claims, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the denial of summary judgment to the Marescas and remanded for further proceedings.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Contractual Option Between Actual and Liquidated Damages Not Inherently Void

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Ravenstar LLC v. One Ski Hill Place LLC on Thursday, January 28, 2016.

Ravenstar and the other plaintiffs are Colorado companies who entered into separate contracts with One Ski Hill Place (OSHP) to purchase not yet built condominium units. Plaintiffs paid earnest money of 15% of the purchase price but were unable to obtain financing and failed to close on the units by the deadline. The contracts between OSHP and all plaintiffs contained an identical provision allowing OSHP to choose between actual or liquidated damages in the event of default. OSHP chose liquidated damages. Plaintiffs brought suit against OSHP, raising several claims, including breach of contract. Many claims were dismissed prior to the litigation at issue. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled against plaintiffs on all their remaining claims and imposed attorney fees on plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs appealed, arguing the contract clause that allowed OSHP to choose between actual and liquidated damages was unenforceable because there was no mutual intent to liquidate damages as required under Colorado law. The Colorado Court of Appeals declined to adopt reasoning from other jurisdictions that the mere presence of an option between actual and liquidated damages renders a contract unenforceable. The court noted that the option to choose liquidated damages did not operate as a penalty in every case, and since the parties stipulated that the amount of liquidated damages was reasonable, they could not show that they were being penalized by the imposition of liquidated damages.

The court of appeals affirmed the district court, also affirming the attorney fee award.

Colorado Court of Appeals: City Liable for Medical Costs of Person in Custody

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Denver Health & Hospital Authority v. City of Arvada on Thursday, January 28, 2016.

Arvada police were called to a domestic disturbance involving Terry Ross. While they were there, Ross attempted suicide and was taken by ambulance to Denver Health, where he was treated for a gunshot wound to the face. Eventually, he was released into the custody of Arvada police. In March 2014, Denver Health filed a complaint against the City of Arvada for payment of Ross’s medical expenses, seeking $29,264.69 from Arvada. The parties stipulated to the facts and filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court denied Arvada’s motion and granted Denver Health’s, ruling the hospital was entitled to payment under C.R.S. § 16-3-401(2).

On appeal, the city argued § 16-3-401(2) was void for vagueness because it does not expressly define the term “in custody” and does not address at what point in time the term applies. Arvada challenged the vagueness of the statute on its face, not as applied. The Colorado Court of Appeals found the statute was not vague on its face when read together with other provisions of Title 16. Arvada argued Ross was not in custody when his need for medical care arose and therefore it should not be liable for the cost of treatment. The court of appeals disagreed, finding that the legislature intended the costs of medical treatment for detainees to be borne by the detaining party.

The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Denver Health. Judge Vogt wrote a special concurrence, urging the legislature to resolve the problem of when a municipality is liable for medical costs of a person with whom it interacts.

Comment Period Open for Proposed Changes to Colorado Appellate Rules

The Colorado Supreme Court is soliciting comments regarding proposed changes to the Colorado Appellate Rules. The changes affect Rule 3.4, “Appeals from Proceedings in Dependency and Neglect,” and the corresponding forms, JDF 545 through 549. The proposed changes to Rule 3.4 include minor changes, such as changing the word “record” to “transcript” in some places, and major changes, including the court’s continued jurisdiction over the case, composition of the record on appeal, inclusion of information about the Indian Child Welfare Act, and more. A redline of the proposed changes is available here.

Comments regarding the proposed changes may be submitted in writing to Christopher Ryan, Clerk of the Colorado Supreme Court, via email or via U.S. mail to 2 E. 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203. Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m. on April 6, 2016. Comments will be posted on the State Judicial website after the comment period has closed.

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

Qusair Mohamedbhai Recognized with 2015 Davis Award

Qusair Mohamedbhia Bio PicOn January 21, 2016, Davis Graham & Stubbs held its annual Richard Marden Davis Award Dinner. The guest of honor and recipient of the 2015 Davis Award was Qusair Mohamedbhai, founder of Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, a civil rights and plaintiff’s employment firm in Denver. Mohamedbhai is a member of the Board of Directors for CLE in Colorado, is a frequent speaker at our programs, and writes for The Practitioner’s Guide to Colorado Employment Law. In his practice, he advocates for the rights of employees in the workplace and for the civil rights of all people against governmental and institutional abuses of power. In addition to his law practice, Mohamedbhai is an adjunct professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, where he teaches constitutional litigation.

Mohamedbhai has received many other prestigious awards in his career. In addition to the 2015 Davis Award, Mohamedbhai received the 2015 Leonard Wein­glass in Defense of Civil Lib­er­ties Award from the American Association of Justice; received the 2013 and 2014 Case of the Year awards from the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association; and is a Legal Advisor to the Government of Mexico. He also received 5280 Magazine‘s “Top Lawyer” award for 2016 in the area of civil rights, Law Week Colorado‘s “Barrister’s Best” award in 2015 for Best Plaintiff’s Employment Lawyer, a “Super Lawyer” designation for 2014 and 2015 in the area of plaintiff’s employment law, and was named in Best Lawyers in the 2016 edition for employment law.

The Richard Marden Davis Award is given annually to a lawyer under 40 years old who combines excellence as a lawyer with civic, cultural, educational, and charitable leadership. The award was created in honor of Richard Marden Davis, a founding partner of Davis Graham & Stubbs, who was a skilled attorney who also made time for community service. The Davis family, Davis Graham & Stubbs, and the Denver Bar Foundation established the award in memory of Richard Marden Davis in 1993 to honor his belief that great lawyers should also be professional and community leaders. Past recipients of the Davis Award include Justice Monica Marquez of the Colorado Supreme Court, Justice Richard Gabriel of the Colorado Supreme Court, Judge Gilbert Roman of the Colorado Court of Appeals, and former governor Bill Ritter.

For more information about the award, click here. Congratulations, Qusair!

Colorado Supreme Court: Hospital Assumed Duty to Protect Suicidal Patient from Self-Harm

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re P.W. v. Children’s Hospital Colorado on Monday, January 25, 2016.

Torts—Medical Malpractice—Comparative Negligence.

In this original proceeding arising out of a medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court considered whether the defendant hospital’s comparative negligence and assumption of risk defenses were properly dismissed on summary judgment. First, the Court analyzed the nature of defendant’s duties toward the patient and determined that defendant undertook to render mental healthcare services to prevent the patient from engaging in self-harm. The Court then reasoned that the scope of defendant’s assumption of duty subsumed any legal duty the patient had not to engage in foreseeable self-destructive behavior. Accordingly, the Court concluded that defendant cannot assert the patient’s comparative negligence under the facts of the case and discharged the rule.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Workers’ Compensation Act Requires Statutory Interest on All Past Due Amounts

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Keel v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, January 14, 2016.

John Keel, a resident of Mississippi, was killed in a workplace accident in Colorado. The employer paid workers’ compensation death benefits in Mississippi from 2010 to 2013, and claimants (Keel’s surviving spouse and children) applied for Colorado benefits. In 2013, an ALJ determined that Colorado had jurisdiction and the employer was liable for death benefits under the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act. The ALJ left for future determination the amount of the death benefit, whether the employer should pay past due death benefits, and whether interest was due on past due amounts.

The employer subsequently calculated Keel’s average weekly wage and subtracted offsets for Social Security death benefits and Mississippi workers’ compensation benefits, and issued a check to claimants for $66,822 for past due death benefits. The employer also stated it owed claimants an additional $2,040.32 in interest, having subtracted the Mississippi death benefits paid from the past due Colorado death benefits and using the statutory 8% interest rate. Claimants contended the employer significantly miscalculated the interest award.

An ALJ agreed with the employer’s reasoning and ordered it to pay the amount of interest it had calculated. A panel of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office calculated interest differently and ordered employer to pay interest on $41,841.08 instead. On remand, the ALJ adopted the ICAO’s reasoning and ordered the employer to pay interest on the ICAO’s calculated amount. Claimants again appealed and the ICAO affirmed the ALJ’s order.

Claimants then appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which clarified that the issue on appeal was what the effect of death benefits paid in another state was on past due Colorado benefits. The court agreed with claimants’ contention that the ICAO erred in determining that C.R.S. § 8-42-114 did not apply, and found that by its plain and ordinary language claimants were entitled to 8% interest on the entire past due amount, $66,822.

The court analyzed the ICAO’s reasoning and respectfully disagreed with its conclusions. The court noted that it was not bound by the ICAO’s conclusions, which were primarily based on policy concerns. ICAO relied on the Full Faith and Credit Clause in determining that the Mississippi benefits were subsumed by the Colorado benefits, but the court of appeals found the Full Faith and Credit Clause inapplicable where, as here, the industrial commission of one state lacks authority to bar recovery in another state. Rather, if more than one state has jurisdiction over a workers’ compensation claim, the claimant can seek successive awards from those states. Since the ICAO cited no Colorado authority to support its rationale, and instead applied out-of-state case law, the court of appeals found the panel’s reasoning flawed. ICAO was also concerned that the claimants might receive a windfall or a double recovery. The court found that the claimants in this case did not receive a double recovery because the Colorado benefits were offset by the Mississippi benefits. The panel also expressed concern that a claimant might time its recovery in a way to maximize benefits, which the court of appeals thought was a concern better addressed to the legislature.

The ICAO’s order was reversed with directions to remand to the ALJ so that she may order the employer to pay statutory interest on the entire past due amount.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Objection to Special Master’s Attorney Fees Waived When Not Timely Asserted

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Laleh v. Johnson on Thursday, January 14, 2016.

Mr. Johnson was appointed special master during the Lalehs’ complex forcible entry & detainer action. Ali and Kahlil Laleh, brothers, each signed engagement agreements with Mr. Johnson, outlining the scope of work and payment obligations. Mr. Johnson incurred attorney fees because the Lalehs’ former attorney refused to honor a subpoena, and billed the brothers for those fees as costs. Although the brothers settled their cases in February 2014, Mr. Johnson continued invoicing the brothers for costs, including his attorney fees, through May 2014. Kahlil Laleh sent a letter to Mr. Johnson in March 2014 expressing concern about his inclusion of attorney fees in his billings.

Although the trial court dismissed the case in February 2014 pursuant to stipulations by the parties, Mr. Johnson expressed concern to the court about his significant unpaid bills and the court issued an order to show cause as to why Mr. Johnson’s bills had not been paid. The court eventually accepted Mr. Johnson’s proposed order regarding the unpaid fees. The brothers appealed, arguing their due process rights were violated by the court’s entry of judgment against them.

The Colorado Court of Appeals found that the trial court’s order was procedurally deficient because it had issued only three days after Mr. Johnson proposed his order, defeating Rule 121’s requirement of a 7-day objection period. The court of appeals vacated the court’s judgment and remanded.

The brothers argued the trial court erred in ordering they pay Mr. Johnson’s attorney fees without express court approval, and in awarding Mr. Johnson’s fees incurred after the litigation settled. The majority disagreed with both contentions. The brothers challenged whether Mr. Johnson had authority to hire counsel, but because they did not object as soon as they learned of counsel’s role, the majority concluded they forfeited any objection, although the preferred option would have been for Mr. Johnson to request permission from the court before hiring counsel. Likewise, the brothers did not object to the first invoice containing a line item for Mr. Johnson’s attorney fees, and the court took this as further indication that they waived any contention. Even though Kahlil Laleh wrote to Mr. Johnson in March 2014 expressing concern about the attorney fees, this was not enough to constitute a sufficient objection.

The brothers also challenged the trial court’s award of post-settlement attorney fees, most of which post-dated Kahlil’s objection to the fees. The court of appeals determined the fees were proper pursuant to the court’s inherent authority. The majority affirmed the trial court’s order for the Lalehs to pay Mr. Johnson’s outstanding fees and costs. The dissent, written by Judge Webb, outlined how he would have disallowed any fees incurred after the parties settled.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Attorney Fee Request Under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 Not Moot

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Libertarian Party of Colorado v. Colorado Secretary of State on Thursday, January 14, 2016.

Two recall election candidates, Gordon Roy Butt and Richard Anglund, requested the Secretary of State’s approval to circulate petitions as successor candidates in a General Assembly recall election. The Secretary denied their petitions as untimely because they were submitted after a deadline in C.R.S. § 1-12-117. The candidates and the Libertarian Party (collectively, “Libertarian Party”) appealed, arguing the Secretary violated their constitutional right to access to the ballot because the statutory deadline conflicted with a later deadline in the Colorado Constitution.

The Libertarian Party asked the court to order the Secretary to accept candidate petitions until the constitutional deadline, requested injunctive and declaratory relief under § 1983, and requested attorney fees under § 1988. In an expedited proceeding, the district court held that the statute conflicted with the constitution and therefore was void and ordered the Secretary to enforce only the constitutional deadline, but did not address the §§ 1983 and 1988 claims. The Colorado Supreme Court denied certiorari.

The Libertarian Party then moved for summary judgment on its §§ 1983 and 1988 claims, but the district court ruled that the federal claims were effectively dismissed when the Libertarian Party failed to file a Rule 59 motion for amended judgment. On appeal, the court of appeals found the § 1983 claim was moot, because the Libertarian Party’s claim for injunctive relief was satisfied by the district court’s original order and the claim for declaratory relief became moot when the General Assembly amended the statute. However, the court of appeals found that the § 1988 claim may have survived. Because the Libertarian Party prevailed on its state law claim, it still may be entitled to attorney fees under § 1988 because its federal claims were joined with its state law claims.

The court of appeals remanded for determination of the Libertarian Party’s § 1988 claim.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Unique Circumstances Doctrine Disfavored; Appeal Dismissed as Untimely

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Heotis v. Colorado Department of Education on Thursday, January 14, 2016.

In this appeal after remand, Heotis was a teacher who had criminal charges filed against her and entered into a plea agreement with a deferred judgment. In 2011, after fulfilling the conditions of her plea agreement, the court allowed Heotis to withdraw her guilty plea and dismissed the criminal case. Heotis sought to renew her teaching license in 2012 and discovered the Department had revoked her license based on her involvement in the criminal case. Heotis sought reinstatement of her teaching license.

In mid-January 2013, Heotis filed a motion in district court to seal the records in her criminal case, which was referred to a magistrate. The magistrate recommended against sealing the records, and the district court adopted the magistrate’s recommendations. Heotis appealed, and a panel of the court of appeals remanded with instructions for the magistrate to consider four factors in its review, adding that Heotis could appeal the magistrate’s decision to the district court and then the court of appeals.

On remand, the magistrate again recommended against sealing the records, and Heotis appealed to the district court within 14 days. The district court ruled on her motion 33 days later, and Heotis filed her appeal with the court of appeals 49 days after that. The court of appeals dismissed Heotis’ appeal as untimely, ruling that because her case was governed by C.R.M. 7(b), she should have immediately appealed to the court of appeals and had a 49-day deadline in which to do so. Even providing for excusable neglect, Heotis must have filed her appeal within 84 days, which she did not. The court refused to apply the unique circumstances doctrine based on the first panel’s incorrect statement about Heotis’ appeal rights, noting that the doctrine was disfavored by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Heotis’ appeal was dismissed.