August 25, 2019

Archives for May 4, 2015

Frederick Skillern: Real Estate Case Law — Zoning and Land Use Control (1)

Editor’s note: This is Part 21 of a series of posts in which Denver-area real estate attorney Frederick Skillern provides summaries of case law pertinent to real estate practitioners (click here for previous posts). These updates originally appeared as materials for the 32nd Annual Real Estate Symposium in July 2014.

By Frederick B. Skillernfrederick-b-skillern

Mountain-Plains Investment Corp. v. Parker Jordan Metropolitan District
Colorado Court of Appeals, August 15, 2013
2013 COA 123

Special districts; Colorado Open Records Act; fee; deposit; attorney-client privilege log.

Mountain-Plains Investment Corporation and others appeal a summary judgment entered in favor of defendant Parker Jordan Metropolitan District (District) in a dispute over an open records act claim. The court holds:

  • The special district did not have to reveal a consultant’s emails (that it no longer retained) to Mountain-Plains’ shareholders, under C.R.S. § 24-72-202(7), because the District did not make or keep the emails and the consultant did not keep them for it.
  • Charging a retrieval fee without having in place a records retention policy, and requiring a deposit to cover the retrieval fee, did not violate the Colorado Open Records Act, C.R.S. §§ 24-72-201, et seq. No policy was required at the time the records were sought, and C.R.S. § 24-72-203 allows a fee.
  • A fee can be charged to segregate privileged material because C.R.S. § 24-72-204(3)(a)(IV) bars inspection of privileged matter.
  • A fee for a privilege log was proper because C.R.S. § 24-72-205(3) allows a fee for creating a record, and the fee did not exceed the log’s cost.


Friends of Denver Parks, Inc. v. City and County of Denver
Colorado Court of Appeals, December 26, 2013
2013 COA 177

City park; conveyance of park land; Denver Charter § 2.4.5.

Defendant, the City and County of Denver (City), agreed to transfer a parcel of land (southern parcel) to a school district so that the district could build a school on it. Plaintiffs, an organization called Friends of Denver Parks, Inc. and several other interested parties, tried to file a referendum petition to repeal the ordinance transferring the southern parcel; however, the City’s Clerk and Recorder refused to accept the petition. Plaintiffs then filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the City’s transfer of the southern parcel to the school district. The court denied both requests.

On appeal, plaintiffs argued that the trial court erred in denying their requested relief because (1) the City’s conduct over the years had dedicated the southern parcel as a park under the common law; and (2) the City’s charter requires that voters approve the transfer of a “park belonging to the city as of December 31, 1955.” The Court of Appeals disagreed on both counts.

Denver Charter § 2.4.5 sets forth the sole mechanism as of December 31, 1955 for creating parks and transferring parks. The City did not pass an ordinance dedicating the southern parcel as a park pursuant to § 2.4.5 after December 31, 1955. Additionally, the record did not clearly establish that the City, through its unambiguous actions, had demonstrated an unequivocal intent to dedicate the southern parcel as a park on or before December 31, 1955. Therefore, Denver Charter § 3.2.6 authorized the City to sell or transfer it without following the requirements of § 2.4.5, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that plaintiffs did not establish a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of this issue. The order was affirmed.

Frederick B. Skillern, Esq., is a director and shareholder with Montgomery Little & Soran, P.C., practicing in real estate and related litigation and appeals. He serves as an expert witness in cases dealing with real estate, professional responsibility and attorney fees, and acts as a mediator and arbitrator in real estate cases. Before joining Montgomery Little in 2003, Fred was in private practice in Denver for 6 years with Carpenter & Klatskin and for 10 years with Isaacson Rosenbaum. He served as a district judge for Colorado’s Eighteenth Judicial District from 2000 through 2002. Fred is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and received his law degree at the University of Colorado in 1976, in another day and time in which the legal job market was simply awful.

Tenth Circuit: Probable Cause Still Existed After Amending Misleading Arrest Warrant so Qualified Immunity Appropriate

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Puller v. Baca on Friday, March 20, 2015.

In the summer of 2009, Detective Baca was investigating a string of robberies by groups of black gang members on inebriated white male victims. After an incident on August 23, 2009, Detective Baca interviewed several people and eventually concluded that Aaron Joel Puller was involved in the August 23 attack. He prepared an arrest warrant for both aggravated robbery and a bias-motivated crime, but he omitted certain details from his interviews, including that certain of his sources could not identify Puller by name and that one of the sources denied that Puller would have assaulted the victims. Puller was arrested, but after watching the interview tapes, Puller’s attorney moved to dismiss the charges. The state court dismissed the charges without a hearing, concluding there was not probable cause to arrest Puller based on the omissions in the arrest warrant.

Puller then sued Baca in federal court under § 1983, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, and manufacture of inculpatory evidence. Baca moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, which the district court granted. After adding the omitted material to Baca’s affidavit and setting aside false information, the district court found it was reasonable for Baca to believe probable cause existed for Puller’s arrest and granted qualified immunity to Baca on all Puller’s claims. Puller timely appealed.

The Tenth Circuit began its analysis by removing false information from Baca’s affidavit and considering omitted material information. After amending the arrest affidavit accordingly, the Tenth Circuit found ample evidence of a race-motivated crime. Although no one contended Puller actually assaulted the victim, he was part of a group whose motive was intimidate a victim to place him in fear of imminent bodily harm. Puller asserted that the mere act of being part of a group is not sufficient to establish probable cause, but the Tenth Circuit found the interviews proved Puller was more than a stationary object in a law-abiding group—he, with the others, approached the victim based on his race with the intent to attack and rob the victim.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment and grant of qualified immunity to Detective Baca.

Second Judicial District Nominating Commission Appointment Announced

On Monday, May 4, 2015, the governor’s office announced Governor Hickenlooper’s appointment of Louise Hurlbut to the judicial nominating commission for the Second Judicial District. Hurlbut is appointed to a term expiring December 31, 2020, to serve as a non-attorney and a Republican from Denver County.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 5/4/2015

On Monday, May 4, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and eight unpublished opinions.

Adam v. Lynch

Estrada v. Janecka

Davis v. Secretary United States Department of the Air Force

United States v. Summers

Winkel v. Hammond

United States v. McAllister

Hare v. Donahoe

United States v. Suniga

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

Bills Regarding Oversight of CFIs, Electronic Benefits Card Transfer, and Promoting Water Conservation in Land Planning Signed

legislationOn Friday, May 1, 2015, Governor Hickenlooper signed 30 bills into law. To date, the governor has signed 176 bills into law. The bills signed on May 1 are summarized here.

  • HB 15-1153 – Concerning Oversight of Child and Family Investigators, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Rep. Dave Young and Sen. Pat Steadman. The bill consolidates the oversight of all CFIs into the Office of the State Court Administrator.
  • HB 15-1255 – Concerning the Enforcement of the Prohibited Use of Electronic Benefits Transfer Cards at Certain Locations, by Reps. Timothy Dore & Dan Pabon and Sens. Kevin Grantham & Cheri Jahn. The bill requires periodic reporting of the use of electronic benefits cards at prohibited locations and adds marijuana retailers to the list of prohibited locations.
  • HB 15-1294 – Concerning Alignment of State Law Regarding In-State Tuition Classification with the Federal “Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014”, by Reps. Pete Lee & Jon Keyser and Sens. Nancy Todd & Owen Hill. The bill requires qualified Colorado institutes of higher education to classify eligible veterans as in-state for tuition purposes.
  • SB 15-008 – Concerning the Promotion of Water Conservation in the Land Use Planning Process, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Ellen Roberts and Rep. Ed Vigil. The bill requires the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop conservation programs for local government land use planners.
  • SB 15-046 – Concerning Reducing the Cost of Attainment of Renewable Energy Standards by Electric Utilities that are not Investor-Owned, and, in Connection Therewith, Allowing Purchases of Electricity from Community Solar Gardens by Cooperative Electric Associations to Qualify as Retail Distributed Generation, by Sen. Kevin Grantham and Rep. Dominick Moreno. The bill reduces the retail distributed generation requirement for cooperative electric associations.
  • SB 15-060 – Concerning the Prevention of Multiple Voter Registrations by the Same Elector, by Sen. Chris Holbert and Rep. Justin Everett. The bill allows the Secretary of State to forward any information from the DMV to the appropriate county clerk for the purpose of updating voter registration information.
  • SB 15-065 – Concerning a Prohibition on the Use of Public Electronic Benefits Transfer Services at Certain Establishments, by Sen. Vicki Marble and Rep. Dan Nordberg. The bill prohibits recipients of electronic benefits transfer cards from using them at adult entertainment facilities or marijuana establishments.
  • SB 15-085 – Concerning the Expansion of the “Colorado Cottage Foods Act,” and, in Connection Therewith, Increasing the Net Revenue a Producer Can Earn Under the Act, by Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik and Reps. Faith Winter & Perry Buck. The bill allows “cottage food” producers to expand their allowable net revenues.
  • SB 15-106 – Concerning the Continuation of the Regulatory Authority Granted Under the “Barber and Cosmetologist Act,” and, in Connection Therewith, Continuing the Cosmetology Advisory Committee and Implementing the Other Recommendations of the Department of Regulatory Agencies as Contained in the 2014 Sunset Report and Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Laura Woods and Rep. Jeni James Arndt. The bill continues the “Barber and Cosmetologist Act” and enacts recommendations from the sunset review committee.
  • SB 15-122 – Concerning the Continuation of the Regulation of Massage Parlors, and, in Connection Therewith, Repealing the Regulation of Massage Parlors, by Sen. Linda Newell and Rep. Dominick Moreno. The bill limits the ability of local governments to regulate massage parlors.
  • SB 15-178 – Concerning the Continuation of the Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and, in Connection Therewith, Implementing the Recommendations of the 2014 Sunset Report by the Department of Regulatory Agencies, by Sen. Linda Newell and Rep. Jessie Danielson. The bill continues the Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and implements recommendations of the sunset review committee.
  • SB 15-182 – Concerning Allowing the Department of Corrections to Transfer Certain Offenders to the Youthful Offender System to Participate in Age-Appropriate Programs, by Sens. Leroy Garcia & Larry Crowder and Reps. Clarice Navarro & Daneya Esgar. The bill allows the Department of Corrections to transfer offenders aged 24 or younger into or out of the Youthful Offender System.
  • SB 15-193 – Concerning the Consolidation of Two Reports that the Statewide Internet Portal Authority is Required to Submit to the Members of the General Assembly, by Sens. Patrick Neville & Tim Neville and Reps. Jack Tate & Max Tyler. The bill combines the reporting requirements of the Statewide Internet Portal Authority into one written report submitted to various legislative committees.
  • SB 15-194 – Concerning the Board of Directors of the Statewide Internet Portal Authority, by Sens. Patrick Neville & Tim Neville and Reps. Jack Tate & Max Tyler. The bill allows executive directors of executive branch agencies to select a designee to serve on the board in their stead, but designees may not serve as the board chair.
  • SB 15-198 – Concerning Modifications to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Fallowing Pilot Program, and, in Connection Therewith, Expanding the Program to Allow an Agricultural Water Right Owner to Lease an Agricultural Water Right for Temporary Agricultural, Environmental, Industrial, or Recreational Use, by Sen. Larry Crowder and Rep. Ed Vigil. The bill allows an agricultural water right owner to lease its right for temporary agricultural, environmental, industrial, or recreational use while the agricultural land goes fallow.
  • SB 15-235 – Concerning Increasing the Amount that the General Assembly may Appropriate for the Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Program, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill increases the appropriation for the state school lunch program.
  • SB 15-236 – Concerning the Reorganization of Funds Expended by the State Historical Society, Sen. Kevin Grantham and Rep. Bob Rankin. The bill creates two separate subaccounts in the State Historical Fund.
  • SB 15-237 – Concerning Calculations Relating to Appropriations to Institutions of Higher Education, and, in Connection Therewith, Clarifying Calculations Required Pursuant to Sections 23-18-304 and 23-18-305, Colorado Revised Statutes, and Delaying Performance Funding Calculations Pursuant to Section 23-1-108, Colorado Revised Statutes, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill makes technical clarifications to definitions used in higher education funding formulas.
  • SB 15-238 – Concerning Allowable Uses of Moneys in the General Fund Exempt Account that are Designated to Benefit Students Attending Institutions of Higher Education, by Sen. Pat Steadman & Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill adds specific uses to the list of qualified higher education appropriations.
  • SB 15-240 – Concerning a Funding Formula for Independent Living Centers, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Dave Young. The bill requires DHS to promulgate a rule regarding funding for independent living centers and requires base funding of $600,000 to each center.
  • SB 15-241 – Concerning Collaborative Management of Multi-Agency Services Provided to Children and Families, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Dave Young. The bill allows moneys from the general fund to be allocated to the Collaborative Management Fund in the DHS and makes changes to the program for collaborative management.
  • SB 15-242 – Concerning an Allocation in Addition to the Child Welfare Block Grant to Counties for the Purpose of Hiring New Child Welfare Staff, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Kevin Grantham and Rep. Dave Young. The bill creates a new allocation for distributing funds to counties to hire additional child welfare staff.
  • SB 15-243 – Concerning a Prohibition on the Transfer of State-Operated Beds Under the Waiver for Home- and Community-Based Services for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Dave Young. The bill prohibits DHS from selling or closing state-operated centers with beds for individuals with disabilities.
  • SB 15-244 – Concerning the Transfer of Moneys to Offset the Federal Government’s Recoupment of Mineral Lease Payments to the State, by Sen. Kevin Grantham and Rep. Bob Rankin. The bill transfers moneys from the General Fund for three fiscal years to offset recoupment of federal mineral lease moneys.
  • SB 15-245 – Concerning the Provision of State Funding for Natural Hazard Mapping, by Sen. Kevin Grantham and Rep. Dave Young. The bill creates a three-year program for state mapping of natural hazards.
  • SB 15-246 – Concerning Modifications to Accommodate Certain Statewide Financial Information Technology Systems in the Department of Personnel, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Bob Rankin. The bill requires the Department of Personnel and Administration to develop a method to bill users of its financial IT systems for the full cost of usage.
  • SB 15-248Concerning the Repeal of the State Facility Security Fund, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill repeals the state facility security fund, because there have been no grants made or deposits to the fund since its inception.
  • SB 15-249 – Concerning a Transfer from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to the General Fund, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill increases the transfer of moneys from the marijuana tax cash fund to the General Fund.
  • SB 15-251 – Concerning the Exclusion of Appropriations for Real Property Lease-Purchase Payments from the Basis for the Calculation of the General Fund Reserve, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill exempts payments for certificates of participation in lease-purchase agreements from the General Fund for purposes of calculating reserves.
  • SB 15-255 – Concerning the Deposit of Twenty Million Dollars of State Severance Tax Revenues in the General Fund, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill diverts money from the state severance tax fund to the General Fund.

For a complete list of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2015 legislative decisions, click here.

Tenth Circuit: Jury Improperly Instructed on Direct Threat in Employment Discrimination Case

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Beverage Distributors Company, LLC on Monday, March 16, 2015.

Michael Sungaila, who is legally blind, worked for Beverage Distributors until his position was eliminated, at which time he obtained a higher paying job in the company’s warehouse that required him to pass a physical. He passed the physical, but the doctor said Mr. Sungaila would require accommodations for his impaired vision. Beverage Distributors declined to make the accommodations, concluding instead that Mr. Sungaila’s condition created a significant risk of harm to himself or others, and rescinded its job offer. Mr. Sungaila subsequently received a lower-paying position with a different company. The EEOC brought suit on his behalf under the ADA.

At trial, Beverage Distributors asserted two defenses: (1) Mr. Sungaila’s limited vision created a direct threat of harm to himself or others and no reasonable accommodations could mitigate the risk, and (2) should he prevail, Mr. Sungaila’s award should be reduced because of his failure to mitigate damages. The jury found that Beverage Distributors was liable for discrimination and Mr. Sungaila was not a direct threat, but also found he had failed to mitigate his damages. The jury reduced his back-pay award for failure to mitigate. The EEOC filed two post-trial motions, first invoking F.R.C.P. 50(a) and arguing Beverage Distributors had not proved failure to mitigate as a matter of law, and also seeking a tax-penalty offset for the lump sum award. The district court granted both motions. Beverage Distributors appealed.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed Beverage Distributors’ claim that the jury was erroneously instructed on direct threat and this constituted reversible error. The Tenth Circuit evaluated the instruction and found it inaccurately conveyed the direct threat standard. The instruction stated that Beverage Distributors must prove that Mr. Sungaila’s employment posed a direct risk of harm, while the actual standard is simply that Beverage Distributors reasonably believed there was a direct risk. Because the jury instruction conveyed the wrong standard for the direct threat defense, and because the jury likely relied on this instruction in determining liability, the Tenth Circuit reversed.

Next, Beverage Distributors argued the district court improperly granted the EEOC’s Rule 50(a) motion, but the Tenth Circuit declined to reach the issue, finding that the evidence for the fact-intensive issue might be different on remand.

Finally, the Tenth Circuit found that the tax penalty offset was properly awarded. If the issue arises again on remand, it is properly before the court to decide whether to award a tax penalty offset, and there is no impropriety in such an award.

The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded on the direct threat instruction and found the tax penalty offset was proper.

Tenth Circuit: Qualified Immunity Improperly Denied to Officers Whose Conduct Not Clearly Prohibited by Established Law

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Quinn v. Young on Friday, March 13, 2015.

Plaintiffs John Quinn and Lavern Gonzalez were arrested after a sting operation. The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) had organized a sting (called the “Tact Plan”) in which they left a backpack containing alcohol, cigarettes, and a laptop next to an ATM and waited to see who would take it. Quinn, Gonzalez, and their child approached the backpack and conversed. The child took the backpack and the three went to a local diner. The police followed. At the diner, Gonzalez opened the backpack and examined its contents. When she opened the laptop, the APD logo appeared and officers arrested Quinn and Gonzalez. They were detained for approximately two days.

Plaintiffs filed a complaint in New Mexico’s federal district court against the officers, Sergeant Armijo, the APD chief, the APD, four APD supervisors, and the City of Albuquerque (collectively, defendants). Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants’ conduct, as well as the Tact Plan, violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful seizure under § 1983. Plaintiffs also alleged entrapment and violation of their substantive due process rights by causing them embarrassment and humiliation. Defendants responded with a summary judgment motion, arguing the officers were entitled to qualified immunity, Plaintiffs had stated no constitutional violation by a municipal employee, and Plaintiffs had stated no actionable claim against the police chief or APD.

The district court granted Defendants’ motion in part and denied it in part, finding Plaintiffs had established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether there was probable cause for their arrest. The district court ruled that the officers should have been on notice that they could not arrest for larceny without probable cause and denied qualified immunity on Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claim. Without making requisite findings, the district court denied qualified immunity on all Plaintiffs’ claims, and it did not articulate a basis for ruling on the entrapment claim. The officers timely appealed.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed the Fourth Amendment claim, evaluating whether the officers had probable cause to arrest Plaintiffs for larceny following the sting operation and whether clearly established law at the time of the offense would have placed a reasonable, similarly situated police officer on notice that no probable cause existed. Addressing the second question first, the Tenth Circuit found that any constitutional violation would not have been apparent based on the clearly established law existing at the time of the arrest, and the officers should have been granted qualified immunity. Finding the lack of on-point caselaw significant, the Tenth Circuit evaluated jurisprudence on non-sting larceny cases and found the officers would not have had fair warning that their arrests lacked probable cause. Additionally, two cases decided in 2013—three years after the arrests in issue here—also determined there was a lack of caselaw regarding the constitutionality of sting operations, supporting the Tenth Circuit’s position that the officers would not have had fair warning about the constitutionality of their arrests.

The Tenth Circuit next evaluated the officers’ challenge to the district court’s denial of qualified immunity on the entrapment, malicious prosecution, and due process claims. Recognizing that the district court “painted with broad strokes,” the Tenth Circuit addressed these points. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the entrapment claim was not properly before it on appeal, since Plaintiffs only named the government and not the officers in their entrapment claim, and dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit likewise exercised its discretion and declined to address the malicious prosecution and due process claims, opting instead for a limited remand with instructions for the district court to explicitly address whether the officers are entitled to qualified immunity on the malicious prosecution and due process claims and then rule on the claims based on the findings.

The Tenth Circuit reversed the summary judgment on the officers’ qualified immunity claim and directed the district court to enter judgment in favor of the officers, dismissed the appeal related to the entrapment claim for lack of jurisdiction, and remanded the malicious prosecution and due process claims with instructions.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 5/1/2015

On Friday, May 1, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and two unpublished opinions.

Jones v. Colvin

United States v. Sicairos

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