June 25, 2017

Tenth Circuit: No Sixth Amendment Violation where Court Disallowed Questioning Regarding Victim’s Mental Health

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. John on February 27, 2017.

Defendant and the victim were related. At trial, the victim testified to the following facts: The victim was in the shower when Defendant showed up at her house. He started undressing in front of the shower door while the victim was still in the shower. Defendant moved towards the victim and the victim struggled to get away. Defendant pulled the towel away from the victim and pushed her head toward his “private parts.” The victim was able to get away from Defendant and grabbed a blanket before running outside. When outside, the victim called the police. Officers arrived after Defendant had left. The officers found the shower door tilted and the bathroom trashcan turned over. No forensic testing occurred. Defendant was convicted after a jury trial of one count of attempted aggravated sexual abuse in Indian country and one count of abusive sexual contact in Indian county.

At trial, Defendant wanted to cross-examine the victim about an incident that occurred in Phoenix. The district court did not allow the line of questioning and the Defendant challenged the courts ruling on appeal claiming it violated his Confrontation Clause rights under the Sixth Amendment and his right to present a complete defense under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

The Tenth Circuit summarized the facts of the Phoenix incident that it obtained from police reports. The victim had visited her sister in Phoenix. She alleged that her sister pressured her to drink. After the two argued, the victim tried to cut her writs. She was then taken to the hospital where she was transferred to an inpatient behavioral-health unit after telling the staff that she had been having suicidal thoughts for two years. During intake, she denied using any illicit substances, even though she told emergency staff that she used marijuana. The intake staff determined she had a mood disorder, but she was discharged without any medication needed. The victim’s sister denied to police that she gave the victim alcohol or coerced her to drink. Because the police could not determine how the victim got the alcohol, they closed the case.

On appeal, the Defendant argued that the Phoenix incident showed that the victim would falsely accuse him of sexual assault given her poorly controlled behavior and drug use revealed by the incident. It also would show her propensity to lie and accuse family members. These facts could have led the jury to draw “vital inferences” in his favor.

The Tenth Circuit held that because the Defendant only argued at trial that the Phoenix incident would show that the victim had an impaired ability to perceive events, and not the reasons given on appeal, Defendant was precluded from arguing such reasons on appeal. In fact, the Tenth Circuit points to the fact that Defendant’s counsel rejected the possibility of using the Phoenix incident for the reasons stated on appeal, which the Tenth Circuit held was an “intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right.”

The Tenth Circuit held that Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was not violated because that right is not unlimited. The Supreme Court has held that trial judges retain wide latitude to impose reasonable limits on cross-examination based on concerns about harassment, prejudice, and confusion of the issues. The Tenth Circuit held that the Phoenix incident was not even marginally relevant to the victim’s ability to remember or relate the shower incident. It would not show that the victim was on drugs at the time of the shower incident. Therefore, the Tenth Circuit held that no lay person could draw those inferences.

Next, the Tenth Circuit addressed the Defendant’s challenges to three jury instructs concerning the assessment of evidence.

The first challenged instruction stated: “The testimony of the complaining witness need not be corroborated if the jury believes the complaining witness beyond a reasonable doubt.” Defendant argued that the instruction did no accurately reflect the government’s burden of proving each element of the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. The Tenth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by giving this instruction because it properly informed the jury that it could convict on the basis of the testimony of a single witness, only if they believed that witness. Further, another instruction told the jurors that they could not convict unless they found each element of each offense beyond reasonable doubt.

The second challenged instruction stated: “ An attorney has the right to interview a witness for the purpose of learning what testimony the witness will give. The fact that a witness has talked to an attorney does not reflect adversely to the truth of such testimony.” Defendant argued that this instruction insulated from the jury’s scrutiny the cross-examination of the victim about being improperly influenced by the prosecutor. The Tenth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by giving this instruction because it did not prevent defense counsel from making a commonsense suggestion that inappropriate coaching influenced the witness, which the counsel actually made.

The final challenged instruction stated: “You may infer, but you are certainly not required to infer, that a person intends the natural and probably consequences of acts knowingly done or knowingly omitted.” Defendant argues that this instruction was ambiguous, because it was not stated which element the instruction was meant to modify, and that it was confusing because it created uncertainty as to the requisite level of intent. The Tenth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by issuing this instruction because the court made clear to the jury that the burden was on the government to prove the requisite intent beyond a reasonable doubt.

Finally, the Tenth Circuit held that the district court did not err in declining to instruct the jury that it could consider the lesser-included charge of simple assault, rather than just the charges of attempted aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact. The district court held that there was no evidence that the encounter was anything but sexual. The Tent Circuit affirmed this decision holding that the jury could reasonably have found that the alleged incident did not occur, but that there was no reasonable grounds for believing that Defendant assaulted the victim but with no sexual intent.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment.

Bills Closing Torrens Title, Allowing Electronic Preservation of Plats by Clerk & Recorder, Adopting Revised Uniform Notorial Acts Law, and More Signed

Although the legislative session is over, the governor continues to sign bills. This week, he signed one bill on Monday, May 15; four bills on Wednesday, May 17; and 13 bills on Thursday, May 18. To date, he has signed 231 bills and vetoed one bill this legislative session. The bills signed this week are summarized here.

Monday, May 15

  • HB 17-1204“Concerning Juvenile Delinquency Record Expungement, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Rep. Pete Lee and Sen. John Cooke. The bill restricts access to juvenile delinquency records by making certain records public only after a court orders that a child be charged as an adult, consistent with recent changes to the direct file statute, and by eliminating the requirement that the prosecuting attorney notify the school principal of minor offenses.

Wednesday, May 17

  • HB 17-1248“Concerning the Funding of Colorado Water Conservation Board Projects, and, in Connection Therewith, Making Appropriations,” by Rep. Jeni Arndt and Sens. John Cooke & Jerry Sonnenberg. The bill makes certain appropriations from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) construction fund to the CWCB or the Division of Water Resources.
  • HB 17-1301“Concerning Protecting Colorado Citizens who are Engaged in an Act that is Protected by the Colorado Constitution from Outside Agencies,” by Rep. Steve Lebsock and Sen. Tim Neville. The bill prohibits a state agency from aiding or assisting a federal agency or agency of another state in arresting a Colorado citizen for committing an act that is a Colorado constitutional right; or violating a Colorado citizen’s Colorado constitutional right.
  • SB 17-129“Concerning the Electronic Preservation of a Plat Recorded by a County Clerk and Recorder,” by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Reps. Jon Becker & Jeni Arndt. The bill permits a county clerk and recorder to preserve an original plat in an electronic format. If an electronic filing system is established, then the board of county commissioners is authorized to provide additional funding and space suitable for a county surveyor or any other appropriate local government official to store original mylar, paper, or polyester sheets of subdivision plats and land survey plats.
  • SB 17-140“Concerning the Torrens Title Registration System,” by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Reps. Jon Becker & Jeni Arndt. The bill closes the Torrens title registration system to new applications to register land title in this state, effective January 1, 2018.

Thursday, May 18

  • HB 17-1162“Concerning Action that can be Taken Against an Individual Based on the Individual’s Failure to Pay for a Traffic Violation, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Rep. Matt Gray and Sen. Bob Gardner. The bill decreases the penalty for driving under restraint to a class A traffic infraction if the basis of the restraint is an outstanding judgment.
  • HB 17-1201“Concerning Authorization for Granting a High School Diploma Endorsement in the Combined Disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” by Rep. James Coleman and Sens. Kevin Priola & Rachel Zenzinger. The bill authorizes a school district, board of cooperative services, district charter high school, or institute charter high school to grant a high school diploma endorsement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to students who demonstrate mastery in STEM. To obtain the endorsement, a student must complete the high school graduation requirements at a high level of proficiency, successfully complete 4 STEM courses selected by the local education provider in addition to the high school graduation requirements in these subjects, achieve a minimum score specified in the bill on one of several specified mathematics assessments, and successfully complete a final capstone project.
  • HB 17-1211“Concerning Professional Development for Educators Regarding Disciplinary Strategies for Young Students,” by Rep. James Coleman and Sen. Kevin Priola. The bill creates the discipline strategies pilot program to provide money to school districts, boards of cooperative services, and charter schools for professional development for educators in the use of culturally responsive methods of student discipline for students enrolled in preschool through third grade and developmentally appropriate responses to the behavioral issues of students enrolled in preschool through third grade.
  • HB 17-1214“Concerning Efforts to Encourage Employee Ownership of the State’s Existing Small Businesses,” by Rep. James Coleman and Sen. Jack Tate. The bill requires the Colorado Office of Economic Development to engage the services of a local nonprofit organization that supports and promotes the employee-owned business model to educate the staff at the office on the forms and merits of employee ownership in order for the office to promote employee ownership as part of its small business assistance center.
  • HB 17-1227“Concerning an Extension of Demand-Side Management Goals for Investor-Owned Utilities as Set by the Public Utilities Commission,” by Reps. Faith Winter & Polly Lawrence and Sens. Stephen Fenberg & Kevin Priola. The bill extends programs establishing electricity goals for investor-owned utilities until 2028.
  • HB 17-1246“Concerning Implementation of the STEMI Task Force Recommendations Relating to Reporting Confirmed Heart Attack Incidents in the State,” by Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Sens. Leroy Garcia & Jack Tate. The bill implements recommendations of the STEMI task force regarding hospital reporting of heart attacks.
  • HB 17-1266“Concerning Allowing Persons who were Convicted of Misdemeanors for Marijuana-Related Behaviors that are No Longer Illegal to Petition for the Sealing of Criminal Records Relating to Such Convictions,” by Reps. Edie Hooten & Jovan Melton and Sens. Vicki Marble & Stephen Fenberg. The bill allows persons who were convicted of misdemeanors for the use or possession of marijuana to petition for the sealing of criminal records relating to such convictions if their behavior would not have been a criminal offense if the behavior had occurred on or after December 10, 2012.
  • HB 17-1354“Concerning the Collection of Delinquent Taxes on Certain Mobile Homes,” by Rep. KC Becker and Sens. Kevin Priola & John Kefalas. The bill makes the process to enforce the collection of delinquent taxes on mobile or manufactured homes that are not affixed to the ground permissive, and therefore gives the county treasurer more flexibility to enter into partial payment agreements with the owners of such mobile or manufactured homes. The bill authorizes the county treasurer to declare tax liens on mobile or manufactured homes that are not affixed to the ground as county-held to address title deficiencies in conjunction with the collection of taxes.
  • SB 17-132“Concerning Enactment of the ‘Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts’ as Amended,” by Sen. Bob Gardner and Reps. Jovan Melton & Cole Wist. The bill enacts the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, and creates a working group to study and make recommendations by December 1, 2017, regarding electronic remote notarization. The Secretary of State must promulgate rules regarding electronic remote notarization, after which notaries may perform a notarial act by electronic remote notarization in compliance with the rules.
  • SB 17-193“Concerning the Establishment of the ‘Center for Research into Substance Use Disorder Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Support Strategies’ at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Sens. Kevin Lundberg & Cheri Jahn and Reps. Bob Rankin & Brittany Pettersen. The bill establishes the Center for Research into Substance Use Disorder Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Support Strategies at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
  • SB 17-207“Concerning Strengthening Colorado’s Statewide Response to Behavioral Health Crises, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Sens. John Cooke & Daniel Kagan and Reps. Lang Sias & Joseph Salazar. The bill clarifies the intent of the General Assembly for establishing a coordinated behavioral health crisis response system. The crisis system is intended to be a comprehensive, appropriate, and preferred response to behavioral health crises in Colorado. By clarifying the role of the crisis system and making necessary enhancements, the bill puts systems in place to help Colorado end the use of jails and correctional facilities as placement options for individuals placed on emergency mental health holds if they have not also been charged with a crime and enhances the ability of emergency departments to serve individuals who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
  • SB 17-297“Concerning Revising Higher Education Performance Requirements,” by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill repeals a performance-based funding plan for institutions of higher education that was included in the master plan for Colorado postsecondary education. The performance-based funding plan was not implemented.
  • SB 17-305“Concerning Modifications to Select Statutory Provisions Affecting Primary Elections Enacted by Voters at the 2016 Statewide General Election to Facilitate the Effective Implementation of the State’s Election Laws, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Sens. Stephen Fenberg & Kevin Lundberg and Reps. Patrick Neville & Mike Foote. At the 2016 general election, the voters of the state approved 2 initiated measures affecting primary elections: Proposition 107, which restored a presidential primary election, and Proposition 108, which allows participation by unaffiliated voters in primary elections. The bill makes several modifications to some of the statutory provisions that were affected by Propositions 107 and 108 for the purpose of facilitating the effective implementation of the state’s election laws.

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

Bills Limiting Evidence in Groundwater Appeals, Expanding Juvenile Court Jurisdiction, and More Signed

On Tuesday, April 18, 2017, Governor Hickenlooper signed 11 bills into law. To date, he has signed 158 bills this legislative session. The bills signed Tuesday include a bill limiting the evidence that may be submitted in appeals from groundwater decisions, a bill expanding the exception for possession of sexually exploitative material to prosecutors and others involved in investigations, a bill giving the juvenile court jurisdiction to decide parental responsibilities issues in juvenile issues, and more. The bills signed Tuesday are summarized here.

  • HB 17-1012“Concerning the Creation of a Pueblo Chile License Plate,” by Rep. Daneya Esgar and Sen. Leroy Garcia. The bill creates the Pueblo chile special license plate. In addition to the standard motor vehicle fees, the plate requires 2 one-time fees of $25.
  • HB 17-1110“Concerning Juvenile Court Jurisdiction Regarding Matters Related to Parental Responsibilities in a Juvenile Delinquency Case,” by Rep. Susan Beckman and Sen. Nancy Todd. The bill allows the juvenile court to take jurisdiction involving a juvenile in a juvenile delinquency case and subsequently enter orders addressing parental responsibilities and parenting time and child support in certain circumstances.
  • HB 17-1138“Concerning the Reporting of Hate Crimes by Law Enforcement Agencies,” by Rep. Joseph Salazar and Sen. Angela Williams. The bill requires the Department of Public Safety to include in its annual hearing information concerning reports submitted by law enforcement agencies about crimes committed in the state during the previous year, including but not limited to information concerning reports of bias-motivated crimes.
  • HB 17-1174“Concerning the Establishment of an Exception for Rural Counties from the Limitations on the Establishment of a Local Improvement District to Fund the Construction of a Telecommunications Service Improvement for Advanced Service,” by Rep. James Wilson and Sens. Lucia Guzman & Larry Crowder. The bill allows a rural county with a population of fewer than 50,000 inhabitants to establish a local improvement district to fund an advanced service improvement in an unserved area of the county.
  • HB 17-1193“Concerning the Installation of Small Wireless Service Infrastructure within a Local Government’s Jurisdiction, and, in Connection Therewith, Clarifying that an Expedited Permitting Process Applies to Small Cell Facilities and Small Cell Networks and that the Rights-of-Way Access Afforded Telecommunications Providers Extends to Broadband Providers and to Small Cell Facilities and Small Cell Networks,” by Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp & Jon Becker and Sens. Andy Kerr & Jack Tate. The bill clarifies that the expedited permitting process established for broadband facilities applies to small cell facilities and small cell networks, and that the rights-of-way access afforded to telecommunications providers for the construction, maintenance, and operation of telecommunications and broadband facilities extend to broadband providers as well as small cell facilities and small cell networks.
  • SB 17-036“Concerning Groundwater,” by Sens. Don Coram & Ray Scott and Reps. Jon Becker & Jeni Arndt. The bill limits the evidence that a district court may consider, when reviewing a decision or action of the commission or state engineer on appeal, to the evidence presented to the commission or state engineer.
  • SB 17-068“Concerning Early Support for Student Success Through Access to School Counselors, and, in Connection Therewith, Serving All Grades Through the Behavioral Health Care Professional Matching Grant Program and the School Counselor Corps Grant Program,” by Sen. Nancy Todd and Rep. Jonathan Singer. The bill adds elementary schools to the list of public schools eligible to receive a grant through the behavioral health care professional matching grant program.
  • SB 17-088“Concerning the Criteria Used by a Health Insurer to Select Health Care Providers to Participate in the Insurer’s Network of Providers, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Sens. Angela Williams & Chris Holbert and Reps. Kevin Van Winkle & Edie Hooten. The bill requires health insurers to develop and use standards for selecting participating providers for its network and tiering providers if the insurer carries a tiered network.
  • SB 17-112: “Concerning a Clarification of the Effect of Statutes of Limitations on the Dispute Resolution Process when a Taxpayer Owes Sales or Use Tax to One Local Government but has Erroneously Paid the Disputed Tax to Another Local Government,” by Sen. Tim Neville and Rep. Dan Pabon. The bill seeks to clarify the General Assembly’s intent when it enacted a dispute resolution process in 1985 to address a situation when a taxpayer paid a sales and use tax to one local government when it should have instead paid that disputed amount to a different local government.
  • SB 17-115“Concerning Possession of Sexually Exploitative Material by Persons Involved in Sexually Exploitative Material Cases,” by Sen. John Cooke and Reps. Mike Foote & Yeulin Willett. Under current law there is an exception to the crime of possession of sexually exploitative material for peace officers while in the performance of their duties. The bill expands the exception to a prosecutor, criminal investigator, crime analyst, or other individual who is employed by a law enforcement agency or district attorney’s office and performs or assists in investigative duties.
  • SB 17-137“Concerning the Continuation of the Colorado Health Service Corps Advisory Council,” by Sens. Nancy Todd & Michael Merrifield and Rep. Dominique Jackson. The bill continues the Colorado Health Service Corps Advisory Council indefinitely.

For a list of all of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2017 legislative decisions, click here.

HB 17-1156: Prohibiting “Conversion Therapy” by Licensed Mental Health Care Providers

On February 6, 2017, Rep. Paul Rosenthal and Sen. Stephen Fenberg introduced HB 17-1156, “Concerning a Prohibition on Conversion Therapy by a Licensed Mental Health Care Provider.”

The bill prohibits a licensed physician specializing in psychiatry or a licensed or registered mental health care provider from engaging in conversion therapy with a patient under 18 years of age. A licensee who engages in these efforts is subject to disciplinary action by the appropriate licensing board. ‘Conversion therapy’ means efforts that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attraction or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.

The bill was introduced in the House and assigned to the Public Health Care & Human Services Committee.

SB 17-021: Establishing a Program for Support of Mentally Ill Persons when Released from Department of Corrections

On January 11, 2017, Sen. Beth Humenik and Rep. Jonathan Singer introduced SB 17-021, “Concerning Reentry Services for Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation.”

Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems.

The bill directs the division of housing in the department of local affairs to establish a program to provide vouchers and supportive services to persons with a mental illness who are being released from the department of corrections (DOC) or jails. The program is funded by general fund appropriations and from money unspent by the division of criminal justice (CDPS) for community corrections programs in the previous fiscal year.

The bill directs the behavioral health unit in the department of human services, in conjunction with the DOC, to implement reentry programs to assist persons with a mental illness who are transitioning from incarceration. If necessary, the programs may receive money from the community corrections appropriation to CDPS.

The bill appropriates $2.7 million to the department of local affairs.

The bill was introduced in the Senate and assigned to the Judiciary Committee. It is scheduled for hearing in committee on February 15 at 1:30 p.m.

The Addicted Lawyer: Is Alcoholics Anonymous For You?

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Above the Law on October 14, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please get help. The Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program provides confidential assistance — call (303) 986-3345 or visit coloradolap.org

briancuban-e1473974781722By Brian Cuban, Esq.

April 2007. I walk up to the door of the building where area Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings are held. My family is pushing hard for in-patient treatment but I refuse. My psychiatrist feels that a trip here is the first step to long-term sobriety. Lucky for me, the building is right next to his office. If it hadn’t been convenient, I might have just made excuses to not go at all. For an addict, excuses are often more plentiful than reasons for recovery. The present is more important than the future — the present of the high.

After pacing around outside the doorway for a long time, I finally peer down the long hallway into the room where people are gathering. I’m afraid of being recognized. My ego is still paramount in my worries. “I’m a lawyer. There are no lawyers in in AA or treatment. My one client left needs me!”

My mind flashes back to one of my favorite childhood movies, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I suddenly imagine that as soon as I enter the meeting room, I’ll be carried away by a team of chanting Oompa Loompas determined to punish me for my bad habits. I have no desire to meet the Oompa Loompas on the other side of that door.

I finally walk down the hall into the meeting room, and I can smell the fumes of stale cigarette smoke and day-old coffee. My eyes lock onto the 1950s tile floor, ingrained with the dirt of countless feet. There are other people milling around in room. Are these the people with whom I was supposed to share my darkest secrets? Would I be made fun of, teased, or insulted? Who are these people? Skid row bums? That’s my perception of AA. I think of Nick Cage’s character, Ben, living in the sleazy “no-tell motel” as he drinks himself to death in Leaving Las Vegas. Dick Van Dyke’s character, Charlie, drunk, alone on the beach with no future in The Morning After.

Deep breath. Don’t look around. Eyes down at the floor. That fixed point. Watch the feet move forward. One baby step at a time to a waiting chair. It’s the way I’m able to accomplish things in life. It’s how I was able to finish eight marathons. Facing any difficult task, my best self is that part of me that can place one foot in front of the other until a goal is accomplished. Don’t look left. Don’t look right. Don’t think about the finish line. I sit down. I listen. I cry. At the end of the meeting, I take a desire chip. The most important journey in my life begins.

As you have probably figured out, I got sober in Alcoholics Anonymous. I know I am irritating some who believe we should not talk publicly about being in AA. I believe we should be empowered to share all aspects of our personal journey if we choose to. I find it perplexing that we as attorneys in recovery, who spend our lives engaged in critical thought and using data, will exclude AA from that process as if there is some magical healing power to not discussing both its benefits and flaws when there is no empirical data to support the notion that talking publicly about being in AA, then relapsing publicly, will cause someone to not enter the program.

Certain aspects of AA have worked for me to date. I completely disregard other aspects. The sober connections I found in group were, and are, important to me. The people. The stories that tell me I am not alone. I, however, have never been as keen on the spiritual aspects and certain rituals of the program. That’s just me. You may like that. You may need that. Those issues however, have never been a deterrent to me in my program like they are for some who reject AA as their mode of recovery.

In speaking to law students and other lawyers about recovery, while some embrace the program, some would rather find others ways to long-term sobriety and have. Through their church. Through non-12-step-based programs such as Smart Recovery. Through both 12-step-based and non-12-step-based residential treatment. Through collegiate recovery programs. Through informal local attorney support groups. I know a few lawyers who have gotten sober on their own, although I would never recommend that path to start. There are many paths to recovery available today that were not available in 1935 when AA was founded.  AA has also not been my only mode of therapy. I have been seeing a psychiatrist for over a decade. I take anti-depressant medication daily. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) have been important in my recovery. Let’s not lose sight of the goal: To be a person in long-term recovery regardless of the path chosen. The most important decision of your life should be one of reflection and critical thought. It’s your journey. If it’s AA, that’s great. If it’s another path, get on it. Recovery awaits.

  1. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/lawyer_assistance.html
  2. http://collegiaterecovery.org/programs/
  3. http://www.aa.org/
  4. http://www.smartrecovery.org/
  5. http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

 

Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The Addicted Lawyer. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his résumé as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery April 8, 2007. He left the practice of law and now writes and speaks on recovery topics, not only for the legal profession, but on recovery in general. He can be reached at brian@addictedlawyer.com.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.

Colorado Supreme Court: Reverse Transfer Request Does Not Waive Psychologist-Patient Privilege

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Johnson v. People on Monday, October 3, 2016.

Criminal Law—Juvenile Law—Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege.

This case raises two questions involving what a trial court may order when a juvenile seeks reverse-transfer of her criminal case from trial court to juvenile court. First, when a juvenile requests a reverse-transfer hearing, does she waive her psychotherapist-patient privilege, thereby authorizing a trial court to order her to produce privileged mental health records pursuant to C.R.S. § 19-2-517(3)(b)(VI)? Second, does C.R.S. § 19-2-517(3)(b)(VI) give a trial court the power to order a juvenile to submit to a state mental health assessment? As to the first question, the Colorado Supreme Court held that, because nothing in the statute states that a juvenile waives her psychotherapist–patient privilege by requesting a reverse-transfer hearing, a trial court cannot order the juvenile to produce privileged mental health records. As to the second question, the court held that, because nothing in the statute explicitly grants a trial court the power to order a mental health assessment, a trial court cannot order such an assessment. The reverse-transfer statute only requires that the trial court consider mental health records “made available” (i.e., voluntarily waived by the privilege-holder) to the trial court and the parties. Therefore, the court made its rule to show cause absolute and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Mental Health Assessment Not Court-Ordered Where Defendant Agreed to Participate

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Higgins v. People on Monday, October 3, 2016.

Criminal Law—Juvenile Law—Psychotherapist– Patient Privilege—Constitutional Law.

This companion case to People v. Johnson, 2016 CO 69, raises two questions. First, does a trial court have statutory authority to order a juvenile charged as an adult to undergo a state-administered mental health assessment for a reverse-transfer proceeding? The supreme court answered that question in the negative in Johnson, but does not answer that question here because it is hypothetical—the question is not based on the facts of this case. Second, is a trial court required, before a mental health assessment, to provide a juvenile with warnings based on the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination? The court does not answer that question either, because (1) Higgins consented to the evaluation while represented by counsel, and (2) any claims that ineffective assistance of counsel vitiated Higgins’s consent are premature. Therefore, the court vacated the order to show cause and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

The Addicted Lawyer: Silence is Deadly

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Above the Law on September 16, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

September is Suicide Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or suicidal thoughts, please get help. The Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program provides confidential assistance — call (303) 986-3345 or visit coloradolap.org

briancuban-e1473974781722By Brian Cuban, Esq.

July 2005. A dark room. Table, desk, chairs. I’m with a staff psychiatrist of the Green Oaks Psychiatric Facility in Dallas, Texas. My brothers, Mark and Jeff, are sitting at the table across from me. I have a vague recollection of my younger brother rousing me from my bed. My .45 automatic lying on my nightstand.

The residuals of cocaine, Xanax, and Jack Daniels are still coursing through my veins. Questions from the attending psychiatrist pierce my fog and anger like tracer rounds. “What drugs have you taken? How are you feeling? Do you want to hurt yourself?”

In the back of my mind, what’s left of the lawyer takes over. I know that my family can’t commit me, but he can. Proceed with caution. I don’t mention that I had been “practicing” sticking the barrel of the gun in my mouth and dry-firing the gun.

Ripped back to reality. Voices in the room. The doctor is talking to me again. When was the last time I used cocaine? I’m pretty sure it has been recently, since it was all over the room when my brothers showed up. I had become the consummate liar in hiding the obvious cocaine habit and drinking problem from my family.

More questions. Do I think I need help? Will I go to rehab? Sure, whatever will get me out of here? I lash out again. They have no right to do this. I yell across the table. “You have no right to control my life! I am an adult! Mind your own business!” They quietly let me rant.

Blaming them for the darkness is so much easier than seeing the light. The doctor is asking calm, focused questions, to ascertain whether I am a danger to myself. At times I am calm in my answers. At times I am crying, angry at him, then at my brothers. Quit asking the same questions! I know your game! Quit treating me like an idiot!

An hour has passed. The room is getting brighter. The love and calm of my brothers soothes me. Quiets me, softens my edges. It’s always been there, but I wasn’t present enough to sense it. I was thinking only of myself: My next high. My next drink. Without the drugs, what am I going to see in the mirror each morning? The thought terrifies me. My brothers calm me, and I begin to focus on my love for my family. Arms are around me. Holding me. I begin to feel the love penetrating my shell. They are not the enemy. Should I go to rehab? What about twelve-step? I’m still on the defensive, but at least for the moment I can listen. Have to grab those moments. They don’t come often.

Sitting in that room during my first of two trips to a psychiatric facility seems so long ago. Today I am closing in on ten years of long-term recovery from addiction. I still deal with clinical depression and take medication daily. I see a psychiatrist weekly. I am also a lawyer. I am part of profession with an alarmingly high suicide rate. An alarmingly high rate of substance use, particularly alcohol. I’ve been there. I get it. I also talk to many in the profession weekly who are currently struggling. Some have contemplated suicide. I ask them what they are afraid of. What’s holding them back from taking that first step forward towards the light. It’s almost always about loss. Loss of license. Loss of job. Loss of family. Interestingly however, the fear of loss is generally attached to disclosure of the problem and not the possible consequences of the problem itself. That is what we know as the “stigma of addiction.” A problem that cuts across demographics but is particularly powerful in the legal profession. We are strong. We are hard chargers. We are “thinkers” who can problem solve our way out of any situation without disclosure. We are not vulnerable.

I am here to tell you that that emotional vulnerability is a good thing in taking that first step to get help. Reaching out is not weakness, it’s courage. Asking questions as a friend or family member is not intrusive, it’s compassionate.

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. Be vulnerable. Be compassionate. Ask questions. Provide resources. Learn what your state Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP) has to offer. Learn what your local bar association has to offer.  Above all, talk! Talking is healing. Silence can be deadly.

 

Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The Addicted Lawyer. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his résumé as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery April 8, 2007. He left the practice of law and now writes and speaks on recovery topics, not only for the legal profession, but on recovery in general. He can be reached at brian@addictedlawyer.com.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Probate Court Lacked Authority to Order “Chemical Castration”

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of C.J.R. on Thursday, September 8, 2016.

Probate Court Authority—Chemical Castration—Medina Factors.

C.J.R. is a long-term patient at a state hospital, where he is treated for a form of psychosis. He has also engaged in “sexually inappropriate behavior” for some time. C.J.R. was treated for years with antipsychotic drugs. After a change in his drug therapy, his sexually inappropriate behavior worsened. As a result, a psychiatrist prescribed Depo-Provera by injection every 90 days. The use of Depo-Provera for this purpose is commonly called chemical castration. C.J.R. refused to take the drug voluntarily, and the People sought authorization from the Denver Probate Court to administer it involuntarily. The probate court authorized the involuntary administration of Depo-Provera and use of a nasogastric tube to administer other drugs. C.J.R. appealed.

In People v. Medina, the Colorado Supreme Court formulated a four-factor test that the People must satisfy before a court may order a patient to be forcibly medicated. Medina dealt with antipsychotic drugs. The court of appeals held that it does not apply to a request to involuntarily administer the synthetic equivalent of progesterone as part of the treatment for a mentally ill male patient at a state hospital for the express purpose of controlling his sexually inappropriate behavior.

In addition, the court found that even if the Medina test were applicable here, the People did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that the requirements of Medina were established because (1) there was not record support that there were no less intrusive alternative treatments available, and (2) C.J.R.’s need for treatment with medication was not sufficiently compelling to override “any bona fide and legitimate interest of the patient in refusing treatment.”

The part of the probate court’s order authorizing involuntary administration of Depo-Provera was reversed. That part of the order authorizing the use of a nasogastric tube to administer other medications was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Chief Justice Directive 12-03 Regarding Court Compensation of Expert Witnesses Amended

On July 21, 2016, Chief Justice Nancy Rice of the Colorado Supreme Court signed an amended version of CJD 12-03, “Directive Concerning Court Compensation of Expert Witnesses and Professionals Conducting Mental Health Evaluations, Sanity Evaluations, and Competency Evaluations,” effective July 1, 2016. The CJD was amended in conjunction with the establishment of the new Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel. The experts covered by the CJD now fall within the purview of the Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel, so the reference to C.R.S. § 19-3-607 was removed. The Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel now has the related state funding and is statutorily responsible for payment of expert witnesses in these cases.

For the full text of the CJD 12-03, click here. For all of the Chief Justice Directives, click here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Hearing Officer Erred in Ascribing Fault to Claimant for her Mental Health Disorders

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Mesa County Public Library District v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Unemployment Compensation Benefits—Mental Health Disorder.

Gomez worked for the Mesa County Public Library District (Library) for almost 25 years. In 2013, she began having performance issues and was placed on two successive performance improvement plans (PIPs). In September 2014, she was placed on a third PIP and told to produce a satisfactory organizational capacity report by October 7 or face additional disciplinary action, including discharge. She called in sick on that date, and again on October 9, and did not return to work again. On October 14, she submitted a doctor’s note advising that she was suffering from acute stress disorder and major depressive disorder. She was granted a request to remain off work for four to six weeks. The Library director terminated her on October 20, 2014 for failing to provide the organizational capacity report.

The hearing officer in her unemployment compensation benefits case determined that Gomez had become mentally unable to perform her job duties but found her “at fault” for becoming mentally unable to complete the report, and under C.R.S. § 8-73-108(5)(e)(XX), disqualified her from receiving benefits. On review, the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel) adopted the hearing officer’s evidentiary findings but rejected as a matter of law the conclusion that Gomez was disqualified from receiving benefits because she was at fault for her own diagnosed mental disorders. It awarded her benefits under C.R.S. § 8-73-108(4)(j).

On appeal, the Library argued that the Panel substituted its findings of fact for those of the hearing officer. The Court of Appeals found that the Panel adopted the hearing officer’s findings of fact. The Court also rejected the Library’s contention that the evidence demonstrated that Gomez’s mental health disorder did not affect her ability to complete the report. The Court agreed with the Panel that the hearing officer erred in determining that Gomez was at fault for her nonvolitional conduct.

The Panel’s order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.