May 25, 2019

Archives for November 24, 2015

CJD 11-02, Pilot Project Rules, Repealed and Reenacted by Colorado Supreme Court

On Monday, November 23, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court issued repealed and amended Chief Justice Directive 11-02, “Adopting Pilot Rules for Certain District Court Civil Cases.” The amendments affect cases filed between January 1, 2012, and June 30, 2015. For all cases filed on or after July 1, 2015, the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure have been amended to included provisions of the pilot project rules.

For the amended version of CJD 11-02, click here. For all of the Colorado Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Directives, click here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: No Requirement that Complaint be “Well Pleaded” Before Entry of Default

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its consolidated opinion in Dickinson v. G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc. and Dickinson v. Lincoln Building Corporation on Thursday, November 19, 2015.

Premises Liability—Entry of Default—Comparative Negligence and Pro Rata Liability.

This is a consolidated appeal in a premises liability case brought by Charlene Dickinson against Lincoln Building Corporation (LBC); Wells Fargo Bank National Association (Wells Fargo); and G4S Secure Solutions (USA), Inc. (G4S). Dickinson sought damages for shoulder injuries sustained when she attempted to open a door leading to her workplace that allegedly was locked or malfunctioning.

LBC and Wells Fargo admitted they were served but failed to enter an appearance or file an answer. The district court entered default against them, and they filed a joint motion to set it aside, which the court denied. On appeal, LBC and Wells Fargo argued the default should have been set aside because it was entered in violation of their right to due process of the law and it was not well pleaded. The Court of Appeals disagreed. LBC and Wells Fargo were properly served with the complaint and summons, and they failed to enter an appearance or file an answer until almost a year later, well after the court had entered default. As to the argument that the trial court had to first find that the complaint was “well-pleaded,” the Court could find absolutely no support for any such requirement.

LBC and Wells Fargo also argued that they should have been permitted to present evidence of Dickenson’s comparative negligence and G4S’s pro rata liability at the damages hearing after entry of default. The Court disagreed, finding that the default constituted an admission of liability that precluded them from thereafter presenting evidence of others’ comparative fault. The damages hearing was only to determine the amount of damages owed and any discussion of liability underlying that award is prohibited.

Dickenson argued that the trial court erred in rejecting a tendered negligence per se instruction as to G4S. The Court affirmed, finding that the tendered instruction did not apply to G4S, a security company, but to the manufacturer of the door’s locking mechanism. Moreover, even if it did apply, no evidence was presented that the code section regarding the door’s locking mechanism was intended to protect against injuries stemming from attempting to open a locked exit door. The judgments and orders were affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Lacks Discretion to Vary Downward from Mandatory Minimum Sentence

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Rice on Thursday, November 19, 2015.

Distribution of Controlled Substance—Possession With Intent to Distribute—Conspiracy to Distribute—Presumptive Sentencing Range—Mitigating Circumstances.

Rice was charged with distribution of a controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute, and conspiracy to distribute based on Rice’s selling cocaine and discovery of nearly 5 ounces of cocaine hidden in Rice’s car pursuant to arrest and search warrants. Rice pleaded guilty to distribution of a schedule II controlled substance pursuant to CRS § 18-18-405(1), (2)(a)(I), and (3)(a)(I).

On appeal, Rice contended that the sentencing court incorrectly interpreted CRS § 18-18-405(3)(a)(I) to preclude a sentence of less than four years based on extraordinary mitigating circumstances pursuant to CRS § 18-1.3-401(6). CRS 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V)(A) mandates that the presumptive sentencing range for a class 3 felony is four to twelve years in the Department of Corrections (DOC) with a mandatory five-year period of parole. CRS 18-18-405(3)(a) is a sentencing enhancement statute that requires a mandatory minimum sentence, which in this case was 4 to 16 years in the custody of the DOC. Accordingly, the trial court did not have discretion to impose a sentence below the minimum sentence under CRS § 18-1.3-401(6). Rice’s sentence was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Jury Instructions on Implied Warranty of Suitability Insufficient

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its consolidated opinion in Rogers v. Forest City Stapleton, Inc. and Rogers v. Forest City Stapleton, Inc. on Thursday, November 19, 2015.

Implied Warranty of Suitability—Developer—Homeowner—Vacant Lot—Nuisance—Sanctions—Discovery Violation.

Defendants (collectively, Forest City) served as the master developer for the redevelopment of the old Stapleton International Airport. Forest City sold the vacant residential lot at issue here to a homebuilder, with which plaintiff Rogers contracted to build a home. Rogers paid the builder an extra fee to include a basement that could later be finished. After learning that his lot was not suitable for a home with a basement that could be finished, Rogers brought claims for breach of implied warranty, nuisance, and negligent misrepresentation.

On appeal, Forest City argued that the trial court erred by instructing the jury that it could find that an implied warranty runs from a developer to a homeowner under the circumstances of this case. An implied warranty of suitability exists between a developer of a vacant lot and the owner of a home on that lot who is not the first purchaser if (1) the developer improves the lot for a particular purpose, and (2) all subsequent purchasers rely on the developer’s skill or expertise in improving the lot for that particular purpose. Here, the trial court did not adequately instruct the jury on this law. Consequently, the judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial on the implied warranty claim.

Forest City also argued that the trial court erred in denying its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on Rogers’s nuisance claim, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the nuisance verdict as a matter of law. Because the jury was instructed that Forest City placing RABC in the roads was a necessary element of the nuisance claim, and the record reveals no evidence that Forest City placed RABC, or anything else, in the roads in Stapleton, the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s nuisance verdict. The trial court therefore erred by denying Forest City judgment notwithstanding the verdict on that claim pursuant to CRCP 59(e)(1).

Rogers argued that the trial court erred in the amount of sanctions awarded to Rogers and against Forest City’s counsel for the late disclosure of discovery documents. Because the trial court found that (1) the late disclosed documents were of “slight use” to Rogers, (2) Forest City’s counsel acted with “candor and professionalism,” and (3) the violation was an unintentional “oversight,” the trial court acted within its broad discretion by awarding only $10,000 of the $90,000 that Rogers requested.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Judge’s Ex Parte Communications Violated Defendant’s Constitutional Rights

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Guzman-Rincon on Thursday, November 19, 2015.

Sixth Amendment—Fourteenth Amendment—Jury—Ex Parte Communications.

The victim and her friends were standing across the street from Aurora Central High School when a vehicle drove by, made a U-turn, and drove back toward the group. A passenger from the vehicle then fired a single shot from the car. The bullet struck the victim in the spine, paralyzing her. A jury found him guilty of six counts of attempted extreme indifference murder (crime of violence).

During trial, the prosecutors requested ex parte communications with the judge to inform him that the investigating officer on the case had been contacted by a confidential informant, who warned the prosecutors that defendant or defense counsel had leaked information about witness interviews to defendant’s family and that gang members viewed the interviews. The court determined there were credible threats against the witnesses, investigating officer, prosecutor, and jurors. The court sequestered the jury based on this information; however, the court did not inform defendant’s counsel or the jury that the sequestration was based on a credible threat. During deliberations, the jury questioned the court about their safety, and the court informed the jury of the threat outside the presence of defendant.

On appeal, defendant contended that the court’s ex parte communications with the prosecutors and the jurors violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and Fourteenth Amendment right to be present at all critical stages of his trial. Because a defendant is entitled to counsel and to be present at every critical stage of the proceedings, and the court’s discussions with the prosecutors and the jurors constituted critical stages, defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel and his Fourteenth Amendment right to be present were violated. Because the court could not conclude that these errors were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, reversal was required.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Evidence From One Trial Would Have Been Admissible at Other so Joinder Proper

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Bondsteel on Thursday, November 19, 2015.

Joinder—Crim.P. 13—CRE 404(b)—Pretrial Lineups—Unduly Suggestive—Challenge for Cause—Jury—Kidnapping—Evidence—Prosecutorial Misconduct.

The trial court joined two separate cases against Bondsteel for trial: (1) the Signal Mountain Trail case in which Bondsteel had attacked two women while they were hiking; and (2) the motorcycle case in which Bondsteel approached four women in three separate cars while on his motorcycle, taking their cell phones and other belongings and demanding that the women move or remove portions of their clothing. A jury convicted him of multiple offenses, including second-degree kidnapping, aggravated robbery, unlawful sexual contact, and attempted sexual assault.

On appeal, Bondsteel first contended that the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to join the two cases for trial. However, Bondsteel failed to satisfy either prong of the misjoinder test. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in joining the cases.

Bondsteel next contended that because the pretrial lineups in which N.D. and K.D. both identified him as their attacker were unduly suggestive, their identifications should have been suppressed. All six lineup participants were dressed in camouflage with head coverings, leaving only their eyes visible, just as the victims had described their attacker to sheriff’s office deputies. Four of the participants had blue eyes; Bondsteel and one other participant had brown eyes. The disparity in the participants’ eye colors did not render the lineups impermissibly suggestive. Therefore, the trial court did not err in denying his motion to suppress.

Bondsteel contended that the trial court wrongfully denied his for-cause challenge to juror J.H., whom he eventually excused with a peremptory challenge. Even if the trial court abused its discretion in denying the challenge for cause, Bondsteel was not entitled to relief because he failed to show that a biased or incompetent juror sat on the jury instead of J.H.

Bondsteel further contended that the trial court committed reversible plain error by failing to instruct the jury sua sponteon the limited purposes for which it could consider evidence of the motorcycle case in relation to the Signal Mountain Trail case. However, Bondsteel failed to raise this issue, and a trial court’s failure to give a limiting instruction sua spontein the CRE 404(b) context was not reversible plain error.

Bondsteel argued that the evidence was insufficient to convict him for second-degree kidnapping of N.D. and K.D.; alternatively, he contended that the jury instructions on these counts were deficient. Although Bondsteel only moved N.D. a short distance, it substantially increased the risk of harm to N.D. by moving her off the public path. In contrast, there was no evidence in the record that Bondsteel moved K.D. at all. Because the evidence on the second-degree kidnapping conviction of K.D. was insufficient, this conviction was reversed and the accompanying sentence was vacated.

Finally, Bondsteel argued that the judgments must be reversed because the prosecutors misrepresented the nature of DNA evidence during closing argument. Bondsteel’s counsel did not object to the arguments at trial, and there was either support in the record for the prosecutor’s arguments or there was a lack of evidence in the record that defense counsel’s failure to object was tactical instead of inadvertent. Therefore, reversal was not required.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/23/2015

On Monday, November 23, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and three unpublished opinions.

Sanders v. Anoatubby

United States v. Etenyi

United States v. Rising

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