July 18, 2019

Archives for June 7, 2010

Tenth Circuit: Opinions, 6/7/10

The Tenth Circuit on Monday issued two published opinions and six unpublished opinions.


In Welch v. Workman, the district court denied Welch’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, and granted a certificate of appealability on ten issues involving both the guilt and sentencing phase of his trial. The Tenth Circuit affirmed.

Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska v. Salazar concerns a small tract of land taken by the Secretary of the Interior into trust on behalf of the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma. The Tenth Circuit determined that, because the Secretary had already taken the land at issue into trust, sovereign immunity precluded the relief sought by plaintiffs and, therefore, the Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.


United States v. Cornelio-Legarda

Henning v. Cooper

Perry v. McCune

United States v. Fierro-Rascon

Clark v. Yellow Transportation, Inc.

Norris v. Fourth District Court

Colorado Supreme Court: In re Marriage of Weis

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re Marriage of Weis on June 7, 2010.

Civil and criminal contempt — bankruptcy automatic stay — domestic support obligation — effect of bankruptcy on contempt proceedings — property that is not property of the estate — findings necessary for criminal contempt

In her separation agreement, Melanie Bergeron agreed to pay credit card debts jointly owed with her former spouse, Greg Weis. When she failed to pay them, creditors instituted collection actions against Weis, who then sought contempt citations against Bergeron. The trial court found Bergeron in contempt.
Bergeron sought to vacate the contempt order based on the fact that she had filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy while the contempt proceedings were pending and that therefore the bankruptcy automatic stay barred the proceedings. The trial court found that the contempt proceedings fit within two exceptions to the automatic stay, one that applies to criminal proceedings, see 11 U.S.C. § 362(b)(1), and one that applies when payment is sought for a domestic support obligation from property that is not part of the bankruptcy estate, see 11 U.S.C. § 362(b)(2)(B). The trial court imposed a sixty-day sentence. We vacate the trial court’s order and make the rule absolute.
First, while the credit card debts were properly classified as domestic support obligations, there is no evidence that payment of the debts could be collected from non-estate funds. In fact, while imposing the sentence, the trial court found Bergeron was not then able to pay. Second, the contempt proceedings did not fit within the exception for criminal proceedings, as they were primarily civil, rather than criminal, in nature. The contempt could have been purged; the proceedings were primarily designed to vindicate the interests of a third party, rather than the dignity of the court; and findings necessary to a criminal contempt, as required by In re Marriage of Nussbeck, 974 P.2d 493, 498 (Colo. 1999), were not made. Thus, the automatic stay applied.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: DeBella v. People

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in DeBella v. People on June 7, 2010.

Testimonial Evidence — Videotapes — Jury Deliberations — Failure to Exercise Discretion.

The Colorado Supreme Court reviews a court of appeals opinion affirming a trial court’s order, which allowed a jury unfettered access to a videotape of a child sexual assault victim’s interview with a detective and counselor during its deliberations. The court reiterates that, under People v. Frasco, 165 P.3d 701 (Colo. 2007), a trial court has discretionary power to limit a jury’s access to such testimonial evidence during deliberations in order to ensure that juries do not use exhibits in a manner that is unfairly prejudicial to a party. The court concludes that, in this case, the trial court’s failure to exercise its discretion constituted reversible error because the mostly empty record left it with grave doubts as to the error’s effect on the verdict and the fairness of the trial proceedings. As such, the court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment.

Summary and full case also available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Clark v. People

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Clark v. People on June 7, 2010.

Criminal Law – People v. Bennett – Sufficiency of the Evidence – Substantial Evidence Test – DNA evidence – Direct and Circumstantial Evidence – Fingerprint Identification Test

The Colorado Supreme Court affirms the court of appeals’ judgment that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the defendant’s, Rosten Lee Clark, conviction for sexual assault. The court of appeals, in upholding Clark’s conviction, employed a fingerprint identification test, initially formulated in Silva v. People, 170 Colo. 152, 459 P.2d 285 (1969), but modified for DNA evidence. The court determines that the proper analysis for the sufficiency of the evidence is the substantial evidence test utilized in People v. Bennett, 183 Colo. 125, 515 P.2d 466 (1973). Thus, the court affirms the court of appeals’ judgment on alternate grounds, holding that the direct and circumstantial evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, is substantial and sufficient to sustain Clark’s sexual assault conviction.

Summary and full case also available here.