April 18, 2019

Archives for December 23, 2013

Colorado Court of Appeals: Colorado Constitution Protects Medical Marijuana Patient’s Cultivation of Plants and Controlled Substances Act Does not Preempt

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Crouse on Thursday, December 19, 2013.

Medical Marijuana—Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14(2)(e)—Controlled Substances Act—Supremacy Clause.

During a search of defendant’s home, Colorado Springs police officers seized marijuana and marijuana plants. The prosecution charged defendant with one felony count of cultivation of more than thirty marijuana plants and one felony count of possession of between 5 and 100 pounds of marijuana with the intent to distribute. At trial, defendant raised an affirmative defense that Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14 (MM Amendment) expressly authorized his possession, because he was a medical marijuana patient and the marijuana that he possessed was medically necessary to treat his condition. The jury acquitted him of both charges.

Relying on § 14(2)(e) of the MM Amendment, defendant moved the trial court to order the police to return the seized marijuana plants and marijuana. Section 14(2)(e) requires the return of marijuana seized from a medical marijuana patient to the patient if a jury acquits the patient of state criminal drug charges arising from the seized marijuana (return provision). The trial court agreed and ordered the police to return the seized items, which they did.

On appeal, the prosecution contended that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 USC §§ 801 et seq., preempts the return provision. The Court of Appeals rejected this contention for three reasons. First, the CSA cannot be used to preempt a state law under the obstacle preemption doctrine. Second, even if obstacle preemption applies, CSA § 885(d), which prevents federal prosecution of “any duly authorized officer of any State . . . who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law . . . relating to controlled substances,” would preclude applying prohibitions in other CSA sections to police officers complying with a court order issued under the return provision. Third, and making the same assumption, the recipient patient’s involvement in the return process also does not create obstacle preemption because the federal government could not commandeer state officials to seize and hold marijuana, and the MM Amendment does not require patients to either demand return or accept returned marijuana. Therefore, the trial court’s order was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Underinsured Motorist Judgment for Claimant Affirmed

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Hansen v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co. on Thursday, December 19, 2013.

Personal Injury—Insurance Policy—Underinsured Motorist Coverage—Ambiguity—CRS § 10-3-1115—Covered Benefit.

Claimant was injured while riding as a passenger in her boyfriend’s vehicle. After settling a claim with the boyfriend’s insurer for policy limits, she pursued an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim with American Family Mutual Insurance Company. American Family denied the claim because claimant did not reside with the named insureds (her parents). Claimant filed an action against American Family, asserting a breach of contract claim, common law claim, and statutory claim.The trial court entered judgment in favor of claimant on her statutory claim and awarded her attorney fees and costs. Claimant filed a motion to amend the judgment and requested that the court award a statutory penalty of two times the covered benefit, or $150,000. The trial court granted claimant’s motion.

On appeal, American Family argued that the trial court erred in concluding that the insurance policy was ambiguous and by referring its construction to the jury. The Court of Appeals disagreed. American Family prepared and delivered to claimant a lien holder statement, which created an ambiguity in the insurance policy as to the identity of the named insured, because it was inconsistent with the declaration pages maintained by the insurance company. Therefore, the trial court did not err in reaching this conclusion.

American Family also argued that because claimant’s claim for coverage under the policy was “fairly debatable,” it cannot be found to have unreasonably delayed or denied payment of a benefit under the statutory claim as a matter of law. The Court disagreed. The policy was arguably unambiguous as to the named insured, so American Family was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on claimant’s statutory claim.

Furthermore, the court did not err in awarding claimant two times the covered benefit. According to CRS § 10-3-1115, the award to be made to the prevailing claimant is not the damages suffered by the claimant caused by the delay in the payment of the benefit; rather, it is two times the covered benefit that was unreasonably delayed or denied. There is no dispute that the covered benefit under the reformed policy was $75,000. Therefore, claimant correctly received $150,000. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 12/23/13

On Monday, December 23, 2013, the Colorado Supreme Court issued three published opinions.

People v. Cunningham

S.W. v. Towers Boat Club, Inc.

Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy v. Livingston

Summaries for these cases are forthcoming, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.

 

Tenth Circuit: § 1983 Malicious Prosecution Claim Partially Reinstated

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Myers v. Koopman on Friday, December 20, 2013.

Jeremy Myers challenged the district court’s dismissal of his § 1983 malicious prosecution claim alleging violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In his complaint, he asserted that Detective Brian Koopman obtained an arrest warrant by fabricating facts to create the illusion of probable cause. As a result, Myers spent three days in custody.

The Tenth Circuit held that the district court correctly dismissed Myers’s Fourteenth Amendment claim because Colorado law provided an adequate remedy in the form of a malicious prosecution tort. If a state actor’s harmful conduct is unauthorized and thus could not be anticipated pre-deprivation, as here, then an adequate post-deprivation remedy—such as a state tort claim—will satisfy due process requirements. The fact that Myers’s state tort remedy was now time-barred did not alter the court’s decision as Myers could have brought that claim in time but did not.

The court held that Myers’s Fourth Amendment claim was improperly dismissed because the court used the wrong underlying tort to provide the § 1983 statute of limitations. Myers correctly styled his claim as one for malicious prosecution, rather than false imprisonment, because he was seized after the institution of legal process. His claim accrued when the underlying criminal proceedings resolved in his favor and he filed his § 1983 claim within two years of that accrual.

The court affirmed dismissal of the Fourteenth Amendment claim and reversed and remanded the dismissal of the Fourth Amendment claim.

 

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 12/20/13

On Friday, December 20, 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued five published opinions and five unpublished opinions.

Self v. I Have a Dream Foundation-Colo.

Wild Horse Observers v. Jewell

United States v. Ontiveros

United States v. Silouangkhoth

United States v. Eccleston

Case summaries are provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.