April 21, 2019

Archives for January 28, 2014

e-Legislative Report: January 27, 2014

CBA Legislative Policy Committee

For readers who are new to CBA legislative activity, the Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) is the CBA’s legislative policy-making arm during the legislative session. The LPC meets weekly during the legislative session to determine CBA positions on requests from the various sections and committees of the Bar Association.

At its Jan. 24 meeting, the LPC voted to make technical changes to UCC Article 9 “Bar Sponsored” legislation. The proposal, which is the product of the Business Law Section, is crafted to clarify the existing law as it related to restrictions on assignment, transfer or creation of security interests in owner interests in unincorporated entities. Also on Jan. 24, the LPC voted to adopt recommendations from the Business Law Section, Bankruptcy Subsection to modify limits on exemptions in a bankruptcy proceeding. These statutes were modified seven years ago in legislation sponsored by the CBA.

Finally, at the meeting the committee voted to support the Uniform Power of Appointment Act; with Colorado modifications. The support for the legislation stems from a study committee within the Trusts and Estates Section of the CBA. The uniform act was approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (“NCCUSL”) at its annual meeting in July 2013. As a quick reference point—Powers of Appointment are routinely included in trusts drafted throughout the United States but there is little statutory law governing their use. A power of appointment is an estate planning tool that permits the owner of property to name a third party and give that person the power to direct the distribution of that property among some class of permissible beneficiaries. The bill will be sponsored by the Colorado Uniform Law Commissioners and will have CBA support once it is introduced.

At the Capitol—Week of Jan. 21

A recap of the committee and floor work follows.

Both the Senate and the House did not meet on Monday, Jan. 20 in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

In the House

Scorecard:

Tuesday, January 21

  • HB 14-1019. Concerning the enactment of Colorado Revised Statutes 2013 as the positive and statutory law of the state of Colorado. Passed 3rd Reading 63 yes, 0 no, 2 excused.
  • The House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee amended and approved HB 14-1042. Concerning access by birth parents to records relating to the relinquishment of parental rights. The bill was referred to the Finance Committee.

Wednesday, January 22

  • The Finance Committee gave initial approval to HB 14-1020. Concerning the consolidation of two reports on taxable property that county assessors submit to their boards of equalization and sent the bill to the full House for consideration on 2nd Reading.
  • The Finance Committee amended and sent HB 14-1074. Concerning payments that a nonprofit owner of a tax-exempt property may receive for reasonable expenses incurred without affecting the tax-exempt status of the property to the floor of the House for consideration on 2nd Reading.
  • The Local Government Committee amended and approved HB 14-1017. Concerning measures to expand the availability of affordable housing in the state, and, in connection therewith, making modifications to statutory provisions establishing the housing investment trust fund, the housing development grant fund, and the low-income housing tax credit. The bill now moves to the Finance Committee for review.
  • HB 14-1064. Concerning the distribution of severance tax revenue to a local government that limits oil and gas extraction was postponed indefinitely—PI’d—“killed” by the House Local Government Committee.

Thursday, January 23

  • The House Judiciary Committee amended and approved HB 14-1035. Concerning collection of restitution ordered pursuant to a deferred judgment. The bill moves to the floor of the House for consideration on 2nd Reading.

Friday, January 24

  • Passed on 2nd Reading—HB 14-1020. Concerning the consolidation of two reports on taxable property that county assessors submit to their boards of equalization. Also passed on 2nd Reading, HB 14-1074. Concerning payments that a nonprofit owner of a tax-exempt property may receive for reasonable expenses incurred without affecting the tax-exempt status of the property.

In the Senate

Scorecard:

Tuesday, January 21

The Senate approved on 2nd Reading:

  • SB14-19. Concerning the state income tax filing status of two taxpayers who may legally file a joint federal income tax return.
  • SB 14-9. Concerning a disclosure of possible separate ownership of the mineral estate in the sale of real property.
  • SB 14-21. Concerning the treatment of persons with mental illness who are involved in the criminal justice systems was approved by the Judiciary Committee and sent to the Appropriations Committee.
  • The Local Government Committee gave initial approval to SB 14-7. Concerning authority for a board of county commissioners to transfer county general fund moneys to its county road and bridge fund after a declared disaster emergency in the county and sent the bill to the Senate 2nd Reading Consent Calendar.

Wednesday, January 22

  • Passed on 3rd and final reading in the Senate, SB 14-19. Concerning the state income tax filing status of two taxpayers who may legally file a joint federal income tax return. The vote 18 yes, 16 no, and 1 excused.
  • The committee on Health and Human serviced approved and sent SB 14-67. Concerning aligning certain state medical assistance programs’ eligibility laws with the federal “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” to the full Senate for review on 2nd Reading.
  • The State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee defeated SB 14-33. Concerning the creation of income tax credits for nonpublic education.
  • SB 14-5. Concerning alternative administrative remedies for the processing of certain wage claims, and, in connection therewith, amending the provisions for written notices of a wage claim was amended by the Judiciary Committee and referred to the Finance Committee.
  • The Judiciary Committee gave its unanimous support to SB 14-48. Concerning use of the most recent United States census bureau mortality table as evidence of the expectancy of continued life of any person in a civil action in Colorado. The bill was sent to the Consent Calendar for consideration on 2nd Reading.

Thursday, January 23

  • Passed, with amendments, on 2nd Reading, SB 14-9. Concerning a disclosure of possible separate ownership of the mineral estate in the sale of real property.

Stay tuned for 10 bills of interest.

Colorado Supreme Court: MMI Not Statutorily Significant Where No Final Admission of Liability Filed

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Harman-Bergstedt, Inc. v. Loofbourrow on Monday, January 27, 2014.

Workers’ Compensation—Temporary Total Disability Benefits—Maximum Medical Improvement—Final Admission of Liability—Division-Sponsored Independent Medical Examination.

Harman-Bergstedt, Inc. and its insurer sought review of a court of appeals’ judgment reversing a decision of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel). The Panel had disallowed claimant’s award of total temporary disability (TTD) benefits, reasoning that once her treating physician placed her at maximum medical improvement (MMI), notwithstanding the failure of her injury to result in any work loss, TTD benefits could not be awarded for the injury for which she initially had been treated in the absence of a division-sponsored independent medical examination (DIME) challenging that placement. The court of appeals found that under the unique circumstances of this case—including the fact that claimant had never been awarded TTD benefits and her employer had never filed a final admission of liability from which the statutory window for seeking a DIME could be measured—a DIME was not a prerequisite to an award of TTD benefits.

The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment. The Court held that because a determination of MMI has no statutory significance with regard to injuries resulting in the loss of no more than three days or shifts of work time, claimant’s award of TTD benefits was not barred by her failure to first seek a DIME.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Recall Election Results to be Reinstated; Historical Overview of Election Law Provided

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re Jones v. Samora on Monday, January 27, 2014.

Recall Election—CRS § 31-10-1307—Ballot Secrecy—Colo. Const. art. VII, § 8—Taylor v. Pile—District Court Error in Voiding Election.

The Supreme Court held that the district court erred as a matter of law in setting aside the results of a recall election in the Town of Center and ordering a new recall election. The district court interpreted Taylor v. Pile, 39 P.2d 670 (Colo. 1964), as placing a duty on it to void an election in which there was potential for a violation of the ballot secrecy provisions of Colo. Const. art. VII, § 8. The Court determined that the prohibition on “marked ballots” contained in § 8 was not intended to govern the use of detachable numbered stubs on paper ballots; rather, the use of detachable stubs is governed by statutory procedures. Although the election officials did not follow the proper procedures when counting the absentee ballots, their actions did not call into question the fundamental integrity or secrecy of the entire election. Taylor suggests that an election may be voided in a case where the election was conducted without a secret ballot; however, based on its factual findings in this case, the district court erred in declaring this recall election void. Accordingly, the district court’s judgment was reversed.

Summary and full case available here.

Tenth Circuit: Order for Co-Insurer to Pay Half Defense Costs Affirmed; Denial of Prejudgment Interest Affirmed

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Yousuf v. Cohlmia on Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

Dr. Ashard Yousuf sued Dr. George Cohlmia and Cardiovascular Surgical Specialists Corporation (CVSS) in Oklahoma state court for defamation, tortious interference with business relations/contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress/outrage, negligence, and breach of contract. Dr. Yousuf alleged that Dr. Cohlmia made a series of false statements to local media disparaging Dr. Yousuf’s professional reputation. Dr. Cohlmia denied that the statements he made were false.

CVSS held a professional liability policy with Physicians Liability Insurance Company (PLICO) and two identical general commercial liability policies with American National Property and Casualty Company (ANPAC) (one for each business location), each of which covered Dr. Cohlmia as an additional insured. Dr. Cohlmia demanded that both insurers provide for his defense, pursuant to their respective policies. PLICO agreed to defend the lawsuit under a reservation of rights and requested ANPAC to share in the defense. ANPAC refused, contending its policy did not cover the alleged wrongdoing and that it owed no duty to defend. ANPAC further claimed that even if it erred in refusing to defend Dr. Cohlmia, PLICO had no right to indemnification or contribution for the defense costs it incurred.

After various state proceedings, PLICO sought to recover its defense costs in federal district court. The court concluded the defense costs should be evenly divided between the insurers and granted summary judgment for PLICO. Once summary judgment for PLICO was granted, PLICO and ANPAC negotiated an agreement, stipulating that ANPAC’s portion was $206,698.78. PLICO then moved for prejudgment interest in the amount of $149,110.57, contending that the district court was required to include prejudgment interest of fifteen percent per year from the date of the judgment pursuant to title 36, section 3629(B) of the Oklahoma Statutes. The court denied prejudgment interest.

ANPAC appealed from the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of PLICO. PLICO cross-appealed the district court’s denial of its motion for prejudgment interest. The Tenth Circuit applied Oklahoma law in interpreting the insurance policies at issue and concluding ANPAC breached its duty to defend Dr. Cohlmia.

The court concluded that the provision in ANPAC’s policy providing coverage for “personal injury” resulting from “the publication or utterances of a libel or slander or of other defamatory or disparaging material” was broad enough to encompass the tort of intentional interference with business relations. It rejected ANPAC’s contention that such an interpretation is against public policy because it extends coverage to include intentional wrongdoing.

The court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment requiring ANPAC to reimburse PLICO for one-half of its defense costs.

In response to PLICO’s cross-appeal on the district court’s failure to award prejudgment interest, ANPAC argued the district court was correct in concluding that prejudgment interest was barred under the Tenth Circuit’s decision in Regional Air because PLICO prevailed on a summary judgment rather than a jury verdict, and also because prejudgment interest is unavailable in Oklahoma where the damages are not certain, liquidated, or reasonably ascertainable. The Tenth Circuit overruled Regional Air on its interpretation of the Oklahoma statute providing for prejudgment interest. It held that PLICO’s claim for prejudgment interest was not defeated simply because the judgment was entered pursuant to summary judgment rather than a jury verdict. It did affirm the district court’s denial because the attorney fees were not liquidated under Oklahoma law as they were subject to a reasonableness determination.

Tenth Circuit: Seizure of Gun Did Not Justify Suppression of Evidence

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Gordon on Monday, January 27, 2014.

On June 5, 2011, Brandi Thaxton called 911 to report an incident of domestic violence which had occurred two days earlier with her boyfriend Shawn Gordon, who had outstanding warrants for his arrest. Thaxton said she and Gordon had been arguing when Gordon grabbed a samurai sword and swung it at her. When officers arrived, they found weapons, including a gun and swords, which they seized.

Gordon was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He moved to suppress the evidence found during the warrantless search of his home, most specifically the shotgun. The district court denied the motion. After the motion was denied, Gordon pled guilty but reserved the right to appeal from the denial of his motion to suppress.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. A search or seizure carried out on a suspect’s premises without a warrant is per se unreasonable, unless the police can show that it falls within one of a carefully defined set of exceptions based on the presence of exigent circumstances. One exigency obviating the requirement of a warrant is the need to assist persons who are seriously injured or threatened with such injury.

Such an exigency existed in this case. When police arrived, Thaxton was too frightened to leave the basement. She told the officers she was in fear for her life. There were weapons throughout the house in addition to the swords and gun. Further, temporary seizure of the gun was permissible to stabilize the situation and eliminate the risk of immediate harm.  Gordon was improperly deprived of his property for only a few minutes−the elapsed time between locking the house and discovering Gordon was a convicted felon−and while he was legitimately in custody. The seizure of the gun was a de minimis intrusion on Gordon’s rights and cannot justify suppression of the shotgun as evidence.

AFFIRMED.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 1/27/14

On Monday, January 27, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued two published opinions and one unpublished opinion.

United States v. Scott

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

Point/Counterpoint: YouTube Law—When Depositions Go Viral: (Point) An Open Democracy is a Healthy Democracy

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of The Colorado Lawyer. It is part of a two-part “Point/Counterpoint” series. Click here for the “Counterpoint” article.
Pineau_JohnCNazi Hermann Goering is on YouTube at his 1946 trial in Nuremburg testifying about the necessity of concentration camps.[1] Charles Manson is on the Internet discussing his 1970 murder trial.[2] F. Lee Bailey’s powerful 1995 cross-examination in the O. J. Simpson trial is on the Web.[3]The thoughtful testimony of Bill Gates is posted from a 1998 video deposition.[4] Bill Clinton’s 1998 attempts to weave through a deposition are uploaded.[5] Andrew Fastow’s admission to Enron fraud in 2006 is posted throughout the Internet.[6] The 2011 video deposition of Tony Hayward, nervous CEO of British Petroleum, also is preserved for us online. And there are thousands of other public court records and depositions available at the click of a few keystrokes.[7]

Court records are public records, particularly after the trial is over. They are reviewed by us, and shared in books, studies, newspapers, television, and the movies. For centuries, these records have been open to the public, and for decades, they have included video exhibits and depositions. Public access is an accepted part of our constitutional plan for an open democracy. That venerable principle is being advanced by citizens who are securing their court files in cases that expose community hazards and then sharing the facts with the public on the Internet.

This practice is a growing pain for those who endanger our safety. Wayward corporations, and the insurance companies who represent them, expect that after trial, the court records of their misconduct will be forgotten, buried in a courthouse cellar, and covered with a sleepy layer of dust. Instead, these records are being uploaded so that the evidence is available to the public. The move is to openness and accountability—two necessary components of a healthy democracy.

The Public’s Right to Access Case Records

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in Union Oil Company of California v. Leavell:

People who want secrecy should opt for arbitration. When they call on the courts, they must accept the openness that goes with subsidized dispute resolution by public (and publicly accountable) officials. Judicial proceedings are public rather than private property and the third-party effects that justify the subsidy of the judicial system also justify making records and decisions as open as possible. What happens in the halls of government is presumptively public business. Judges deliberate in private but issue public decisions after public arguments based on public records. . . . Much of what passes between the parties remains out of public sight because discovery materials are not filed with the court. But most portions of discovery that are filed and form the basis of judicial action must eventually be released.[8]

Our courts proclaim that the public has a constitutional right to access court records.[9]

The presumption of public access recognized and promoted by the local rule finds its root in the common law rights of access to judicial proceedings and to inspect judicial records—rights which are “beyond dispute.” . . . The court in Publicker, and other circuit courts of appeal, have gone beyond the undoubted common law right, however, and have found a constitutionally protected right, rooted in the First Amendment, to public access to civil trials.[10]

The general public has had online access to the contents of federal court files since 2005.[11] In Colorado courts, “C.R.C.P. 121, adopted in 1988, creates a presumption that court files will be open to the public unless a court order provides otherwise.”[12]

Hence, the rule creates a presumption that all court records are to be open; it allows a court to limit access in only one instance and for only one purpose (when the parties’ right of privacy outweighs the public’s right to know); and it grants to every member of the public the right to contest the legitimacy of any limited access order.[13]

In Exum v. United States Olympic Committee, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado held that “[i]n the absence of a showing of good cause for confidentiality, parties are free to disseminate discovery materials to the public.”[14] Courts have found that “[a]ccess to discovery materials is particularly appropriate when the subject matter of the litigation is of general public interest.”[15]

Openness Generally Trumps Privacy Interests

Public access to court records is founded on the principles of an open democracy.

A presumption of openness inheres in civil trials as in criminal trials. . . . [T]he civil trial, like the criminal trial, plays a particularly significant role in the functioning of the judicial process and the government as a whole. . . . [P]ublic access to civil trials enhances the quality and safeguards the integrity of the fact finding process. It fosters an appearance of fairness, and heightens public respect for the judicial process. It permits the public to participate in and serve as a check upon the judicial process—an essential component in our structure of self-government. Public access to civil trials, no less than criminal trials, plays an important role in the participation and the free discussion of governmental affairs.[16]

In fact, it is “unreasonable, as a matter of law, for the parties to litigation to expect or to assume that all of the court files will remain private.”[17]

A claim that a court file contains extremely personal, private, and confidential matters is generally insufficient to constitute a privacy interest warranting the sealing of the file. Likewise, prospective injury to reputation, an inherent risk in almost every civil lawsuit, is generally insufficient to overcome the strong presumption in favor of public access to court records.[18]

Naturally, when a party’s privacy concerns outweigh the public’s right to know, the court will enter a protective order sealing such matters.[19] As trial lawyers know, protective orders are freely granted in cases that do not impact public safety or raise public concerns.

To protect community safety, parties have posted public records and videos of child abuse,[20] abuse of the handicapped,[21] nursing home abuse of the elderly,[22] school violence,[23] workplace violence,[24] bank foreclosure fraud,[25] drinking water contamination,[26] air and water pollution,[27] insurance bad faith,[28] and hundreds of other cases of public concern. In response, errant corporations have counter-punched with personal attacks and much more. For example, in the food industry, where video evidence has lead to successful civil and criminal charges, corporate lobbyists in twelve states are pushing legislation that criminalizes such videos and the videographers.[29] Fortunately, the fact that these laws would indict innocent witnesses has been noted by the press and prosecutors, and the bills have struggled for approval.[30] It is in this environment that I was contacted by my new friend Fred Burtzos, counsel for State Farm Insurance Company, and asked to debate the issue here.

So, how do citizens share these types of records? They collect the public portion of their court file, minus any sealed material. Using the records, images, and video depositions, they create a short video and upload it to the Internet. If their video exposes dangers to the community, it is likely to be watched and shared, and it may go viral. If it is not newsworthy, it is likely to have limited circulation.

Conclusion

The sharing of public records is not just growing, it is exploding. Over the last few years, my company, JusticeTV, has joined the trend to assist lawyers and their clients with the technical aspects of creating, editing, and uploading the videos. The process is simple. The law is well-established. And, like sunshine, it is healthy for our community.

John K. Pineau is a trial lawyer in civil and criminal courts. He has handled a number of high-profile cases and lectures on trial tactics and strategy. He also is the president of JusticeTV, LLC, a company that assists lawyers and their clients in creating and sharing public record videos—(303) 440-4444, johnpineau@yahoo.com, www.johnpineau.com.

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of The Colorado Lawyer. Articles are available online to CBA members.

 


[1] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfwujaV7Ia8.

[2] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MZaEt6lOq8.

[3] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVoIz2zNX9U.

[4] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_2m1qdqieE.

[5] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHlt1W83JFU.

[6] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zxAJO7owy8.

[7] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUINT2ibjSE.

[8] Union Oil Company of California v. Leavell, 220 F.3d 562, 568 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing U.S. Bancorp Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall Partnership, 513 U.S. 18, 27-29 (1994), and In re Memorial Hospital of Iowa County, Inc., 862 F.2d 1299, 1302-03 (7th Cir. 1988)).

[9] Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1149 (10th Cir. 2007) (citing Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978)).

[10] Huddleson v. City of Pueblo, Colorado, 270 F.R.D. 635, 638 (D.Colo. 2010) (citing Publicker Industries, Inc. v. Cohen, 733 F.2d 1059 (3d Cir. 1984)). See Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140. 1149 (10th Cir. 2007) (“Courts have long recognized a common-law right of access to judicial records.”).

[11] See www.cod.uscourt.gov/courtoperations/faq.aspx.

[12] Office of the State Ct. Administrator v. Background Info. Serv., 994 P.2d 420, 429 (Colo. 1999).

[13] In Anderson v. Home Ins. Co., 924 P.2d 1123, 1126 (Colo.App. 1996), the court stated:

In the Open Records Act, § 24-72-201, C.R.S. (1988 Repl.Vol. 10B), the General Assembly has declared that, with certain specified exceptions, it is “the public policy of this state that all public records shall be open for inspection by any person at reasonable times. . . .” This public policy means that, unless there exists a legitimate reason for non-disclosure, any member of the public is entitled to review all public records. There is no requirement that the party seeking access must demonstrate a special interest in the records requested.

[14] Exum v. United States Olympic Committee, 209 F.R.D. 201, 206 (D.
Colo. 2002).

[15] In re Texaco, Inc. 84 B.R. 14, 17 (Bankr.S.D.N.Y. 1988) (citing In Re “Agent Orange” Product Liability Litigation, 821 F.2d 139, 146 (2d Cir. 1987)).

[16] Huddleson, 270 F.R.D. at 635, 638 (citing Nixon, 435 U.S. 589).

[17] Anderson v. Home Ins. Co., 924 P.2d 1123 (Colo.App. 1996) (citing Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn, 420 U.S. 469 (1975)).

[18] Doe v. Heitler, 26 P.3d 539, 544 (Colo.App. 2001).

[19] FRCP 26(c) and CRCP 26(c).

[20] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8RzT0NiruQ.

[21] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAYXJ26j2Po.

[22] See www.wkyc.com/video/1027702353001/0/Investigator-Hidden-camera-catches-nursing-home-abuse.

[23] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDifkMzSLuw.

[24] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkxbG5HADso.

[25] See 4closurefraud.org/depositions.

[26] See www.slideshare.net/MarcellusDN/lawsuit-deposition-of-pa-dep-official-tara-upadhyay-on-water-testing-procedures.

[27] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgR3lDg9KhY.

[28] See www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hIzsc7muxo.

[29] Oppel, Jr., “Taping of Farm Cruelty Is Becoming the Crime,” The New York Times (April 6, 2013), www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/us/taping-of-farm-cruelty-is-becoming-the-crime.html?_r=0.

[30] Id.