July 22, 2018

Archives for February 28, 2018

Interview with Jason St. Julien: Former History Teacher, Current Assistant United States Attorney, Devoted Mentor

Editor’s Note: In honor of Black History Month, Mary Dilworth, CBA-CLE’s Marketing Manager, is conducting a series of interviews of some of our distinguished faculty and authors. Click here for the previous post.

Colorado Bar Association CLE (CBA-CLE) continues the interview series with some of our African-American faculty and authors. Our hope is that this series is able to inspire others by sharing the journey and achievements of these successful attorneys.

Jason St. Julien, a CBA-CLE faculty member, is a charismatic, engaging, and driven attorney who hails from St. Martinville, Louisiana. Currently an Assistant United States Attorney in Denver, he works in the Major Crimes Section of the Criminal Division. Prior to becoming an Assistant United States Attorney, Jason served as a Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Mary Ann Vial Lemmon, Senior Judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and the Honorable Wiley Y. Daniel, Senior Judge in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.

Jason strives to affect positive change in the human condition each day. Prior to attending law school, Jason taught 7th Grade Reading and Texas History in Pearland, Texas where he was named New Teacher of the Year in Secondary Education. He continues his devotion to youth by serving as a mentor/facilitator with Denver Urban Scholars (formerly Colorado Youth at Risk). Jason is a graduate of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado’s 2014 Chamber Connect Leadership Program and the Colorado Bar Association’s 2017 Leadership Training class. He is also the immediate past President of the Sam Cary Bar Association.

What inspired you to become an attorney? My cousin is a patent attorney in Houston, Texas. While I taught 7th grade in Pearland, a suburb of Houston, we discussed a possible career in law. I chose law school over pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology because I believed a J.D. would open more doors. My choice panned out well. Law brought me to Colorado in 2012 and my world is a bigger place because of my experiences here in Denver.

What do you enjoy about the practice of law? As a criminal prosecutor, I know that I affect positive change every day. I know with absolute certainty that what I do makes a difference in the lives of Colorado’s citizens. I have my hand on the pulse of something much greater than myself. For that, I am thankful.

What historical black figure do you admire? Harriet Tubman

What about someone from today who inspires you? President Obama

Favorite Book? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Favorite Movie? Star Wars: A New Hope. Return of the Jedi is a close second.

What do you do in your spare time for fun (if there is any spare time!) I am on my Harley Davidson Road King any time the weather permits! I usually purchase a season ticket package for the Colorado Symphony and get out to listen to live jazz music. And there is never a bad time for a good book.

What advice would you give to new attorneys? Whatever you “think” is happening or going on, it is not that serious. Really, it’s not. Find your advancement in the advancement of others and you will become your firm’s most valuable asset.

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Court had Personal Jurisdiction over Out of State Client in Legal Fee Dispute

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Dorsey & Whitney LLP v. RegScan, Inc. on Thursday, February 22, 2018.

Attorney Fees—Personal Jurisdiction—Long Arm Statute—Due Process—Expert Witness—Fed. R. Evid. 703—Jury Instructions—CRE 408—Settlement Negotiations—Evidence.

RegScan, Inc., a Pennsylvania-based Internet company, reached out to and retained a specific Colorado attorney in Dorsey & Whitney LLP (the law firm) to represent it in a matter ultimately filed in Virginia. After a disagreement about the amount of fees owed, the law firm sued RegScan in Denver District Court. Judgment was ultimately entered for $373,707.43 against RegScan.

On appeal, RegScan argued that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction. It contended that its actions connecting it to Colorado did not demonstrate purposeful availment because it merely contacted a Minnesota-based firm that happened to staff the case with Colorado attorneys. A plaintiff desiring to invoke a Colorado court’s jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant must show that doing so comports with the long-arm statute and due process. Here, RegScan specifically retained an attorney in Colorado based on an existing relationship. The totality of the circumstances surrounding this retention demonstrates that RegScan’s purposeful activities directed at Colorado satisfy the minimum contacts requirement. Further, requiring RegScan to defend this case in Colorado was not unreasonable. Therefore, the district court did not err in denying RegScan’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

RegScan next contended that the court erred by allowing the law firm’s expert witness on the reasonableness of its fees to testify to the substance of information in pro forma bills (records reflecting the total number of hours worked) that the law firm didn’t offer into evidence. Fed. R. Evid. 703 allows an expert to base his opinion on facts or data that wouldn’t be admissible if such facts and data are of a type on which experts in the field would reasonably rely. But the expert may not disclose those inadmissible facts to the jury unless the court so allows after engaging in the balancing analysis required by the rule. RegScan’s argument confuses information that can’t be admitted under the evidence rules with information that simply has not been admitted. Here, RegScan failed to timely argue that the pro formas weren’t admissible. Further, the substance of the testimony was already in evidence, and RegScan did not argue that the witness’s ultimate opinion was inadmissible or wrong. Therefore, there was no violation of Fed. R. Evid. 703.

RegScan also contended that the district court erred by failing to include a fairness element in the elemental breach of contract jury instruction. Even if the court erred in omitting the element that the fee agreement was “fair and reasonable under the circumstances,” all relevant evidence in the record overwhelmingly shows that the fee agreement was fair and reasonable under the circumstances. Thus, any error was harmless.

Finally, RegScan argued that the district court erred by relying on CRE 408 to exclude email communications in which RegScan disputed the reasonableness of the law firm’s fees and didn’t admit liability. This evidence was properly excluded under CRE 408 because at the time the communications occurred the parties disputed the amount owed and were exchanging offers to resolve the dispute.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant Must be Prosecuted Under Specific Statute for Theft of Food Stamps

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Rojas on Thursday, February 22, 2018.

Criminal Law—Theft—Colorado Public Assistance Act—Food Stamps—Fraudulent Acts.

Rojas received food stamps. When requesting an extension of food stamp benefits, Rojas reported that she had no employment income, although she had been hired as a restaurant manager. While continuing to work as a restaurant manager, Rojas received $5,632 worth of food stamps to which she was not entitled. Rojas was found guilty of two counts under the general theft statute, CRS 18-4-401, and one count under CRS 26-2-305(1)(a), which criminalizes failing to report a change in financial circumstances that affects that participant’s eligibility for food stamps.

On appeal, Rojas challenged the trial court’s denial of her motion to dismiss the general theft counts. She argued that the trial court erred in finding that she could be prosecuted for theft of food stamps under the general theft statute. The prosecution is barred from prosecuting under a general criminal statute when the legislature evinces a clear intent to limit prosecution to a more specific statute. CRS 26-2-305(1)(a) creates a more specific criminal offense, theft of food stamps by a fraudulent act, than the general theft statute, and the General Assembly intended it to supplant the general theft statute.

The convictions under the general theft statute were vacated.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 2/27/2018

On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued four published opinions and three unpublished opinions.

United States v. Bouziden

Winston v. Ross

United States v. Ramos

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