December 16, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: Former Spouse Not Foreclosed on Standing Grounds from Seeking Reformation of Will

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Estate of Little on Thursday, November 29, 2018.

Family LawCommon Law MarriageProbateWillsReformation to Correct Mistakes.

Little’s will devised her estate to her spouse Curry, from whom she later divorced. After her death, Curry claimed that he was entitled to inherit under Little’s will because they had remarried at common law before she died. Alternatively, he sought reformation of the will, contending that Little intended to devise her estate to him regardless of their marital status. The trial court found that Curry failed to show he and Little remarried at common law, and Curry otherwise lacked standing to seek reformation of her will.

On appeal, Curry contended that the provisions in Little’s will devising her estate to him were revived by their common law remarriage under C.R.S. § 15-11-804(5). There was substantial evidence in the record to support the trial court’s findings that Curry and Little were not common law married after their divorce.

Alternatively, Curry contended that the trial court erroneously found he lacked standing to seek reformation of Little’s will under C.R.S. § 15-11-806 because when Little executed her will, she intended for him to inherit her estate regardless of their marital status. The court of appeals reviewed the statutory scheme and found no indication that the General Assembly intended to exclude a former spouse from pursuing reformation under C.R.S. § 15-11-806, or that it intended C.R.S. § 15-11-804(5) to be an ex-spouse’s sole and exclusive remedy for avoiding a statutory revocation due to a divorce. Accordingly, Curry had standing to pursue his reformation claim.

The order determining that Little and Curry were not common law remarried was affirmed. The dismissal of Curry’s reformation claim was reversed and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Language in Fee Agreement Insufficient to Terminate Counsel’s Representation

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Lancaster on Thursday, November 29, 2018.

Criminal ProcedureConstitutional LawSixth AmendmentNotice of AppealIneffective Assistance of CounselCrim. P. 44(e)Termination of Representation.

Newell represented Lancaster at a criminal trial. The fee agreement between Newell and Lancaster included a provision that representation terminated at the conclusion of trial. A jury found Lancaster guilty on six of seven counts and he was sentenced in 2007. Following trial, Newell informed Lancaster that he would not represent him on appeal, but Newell did not withdraw from the representation. Thereafter, Lancaster did not timely file a notice of appeal. In 2010, Lancaster filed a pro se Crim. P. 35(c) motion alleging that Newell had been constitutionally ineffective by failing to file a notice of appeal. The motion was denied after a hearing.

On appeal, Lancaster contended that Newell was constitutionally ineffective in failing to file a notice of appeal on his behalf. Trial counsel’s representation of a criminal defendant terminates only as provided under Crim. P. 44(e), notwithstanding the fee agreement; therefore, trial counsel’s duty to perfect the defendant’s appeal is not discharged until the representation terminates pursuant to Crim. P. 44(e). Here, Newell’s failure to either file a notice of appeal on Lancaster’s behalf or withdraw pursuant to Crim. P. 44(d) and secure the appointment of the public defender to represent Lancaster on direct appeal constituted ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Because the ineffective assistance of trial counsel deprived Lancaster of his right to direct appeal of his conviction, he is entitled to pursue a direct appeal out of time pursuant to C.A.R. 4(b).

The order was reversed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Police Officer’s Observation of Vehicle Weaving in Lane Sufficient to Create Reasonable Suspicion of DUI

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Johnston on Thursday, November 29, 2018.

Constitutional Law—Fourth Amendment—Search and Seizure—Motor Vehicles.

A sheriff’s deputy noticed defendant’s car continuously weaving within the right-hand lane while traveling on Interstate 70. The deputy followed defendant for five to six miles before stopping him for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. During the stop, the officer noticed signs of intoxication, administered roadside tests, and arrested defendant. Defendant was charged with aggravated driving after revocation prohibited and driving under the influence (DUI). Defendant filed a motion to suppress, which the trial court denied. A jury found defendant guilty of aggravated driving after revocation prohibited and the lesser included offense of driving while ability impaired.

On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress. He argued that his weaving within a single lane, without more, did not create a reasonable suspicion of DUI. The Fourth Amendment does not require that a police officer see the defendant commit a traffic violation before stopping him, and repeated intra-lane weaving can create reasonable suspicion of impaired operation. Whether there exists reasonable suspicion of intoxicated driving is based on the totality of the circumstances. Here, under the totality of the circumstances, the police officer’s observation of defendant’s vehicle weaving continuously within its own lane for over five miles was sufficient to create a reasonable suspicion that the driver was intoxicated. Therefore, the trial court did not err in denying defendant’s motion to suppress.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 12/3/2018

On Monday, December 3, 2018, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and one unpublished opinion.

Grigsby v. Baltazar

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

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 12/3/2018

On Monday, December 3, 2018, the Colorado Supreme Court issued two published opinions.

Ruibal v. People

In re Fox v. Alfini

Summaries of these cases are forthcoming.

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

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/30/2018

On Friday, November 30, 2018, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and four unpublished opinions.

United States v. Fisher

United States v. Lax

Fowler v. State of Utah

Kirkland v. English

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

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/29/2018

On Thursday, November 29, 2018, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and three unpublished opinions.

United States v. Sedillo

Estate of Duke v. Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office

United States v. Triplett

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

 

Colorado Court of Appeals: Announcement Sheet, 11/29/2018

On Thursday, November 29, 2018, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued three published opinions and 30 unpublished opinions.

People v. Johnston

People v. Lancaster

In re Estate of Little

Summaries of these cases are forthcoming.

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

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/28/2018

On Wednesday, November 28, 2018, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and seven unpublished opinions.

Bilder v. Mathers

United States v. Daniels

United States v. Magnan

Leon v. Summit County

Agrawal v. Ogden

McDonald v. Arapahoe County

Vue v. Whitaker

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Anonymous Juror’s Response to Post-Verdict Attorney Evaluation Inadmissible Under CRE 606(b)

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Burke on Thursday, November 15, 2018.

Post-Verdict Juror Attorney EvaluationMotion for New TrialCRE 606(b).

Burke was convicted of burglary. After trial, the jury commissioner sent an attorney performance evaluation form to the jurors. Responses are anonymous. On one of the responses directed to Burke’s counsel, an anonymous juror wrote, “Hard to believe a client when they choose to remain silient [sic].”  Burke moved for a new trial, arguing that at least one juror had disregarded the court’s instructions and based her decision on an impermissible basis. The trial court found the statement was evidence there had been jury misconduct and concluded that CRE 606(b) did not render the statement inadmissible. Without taking additional evidence, the trial court granted the motion for a new trial.

On appeal, the People argued that CRE 606(b) precluded the trial court from considering the anonymous juror’s statement as a basis to grant a new trial. The rule bars admission of any juror testimony or statement to impeach a verdict where the testimony or statement concerns what occurred during jury deliberations, with three exceptions. The anonymous juror’s statement was inadmissible under CRE 606(b) and the exceptions were not applicable. The trial court erred in granting the motion for a new trial.

Burke argued that the trial court’s order should be affirmed because the juror intentionally concealed bias during voir dire. But because the statement was inadmissible, it cannot be used to impeach a verdict on any ground, including a claim that a juror concealed bias during voir dire.

Finally, Burke argued that the court of appeals should recognize a constitutional exception to CRE 606(b) where the juror’s statement reflects a bias against the defendant for the exercise of a fundamental constitutional right. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent recognition of a limited constitutional exception to Rule 606(b) in a case of racial animus does not support an exception under the circumstances of this case.

The order for a new trial was reversed and the case was remanded for reinstatement of the jury’s verdict.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Grandparent Has No Constitutionally Protected Liberty Interest in Society or Custody of Child

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of C.N. on Thursday, November 15, 2018.

Dependency and NeglectGrandparentsFourteenth AmendmentDue ProcessStanding.

In 2015, the Jefferson County Division of Children, Youth, and Families filed a petition in dependency and neglect due to concerns about mother’s mental health. Mother’s newborn was placed in foster care and mother’s parental rights were terminated a year later. A division of the court of appeals affirmed the judgment and a mandate was issued in February 2017. That same month, grandmother filed a motion to intervene in the case and then filed a motion for the child to be placed with her. The juvenile court held a contested hearing on the motion and found it was in the child’s best interest to permanently remain with the foster parents. The court also terminated grandmother’s visitation with the child. The child was adopted by the foster parents in January 2018.

On appeal, grandmother argued that mother did not receive reasonable accommodations to address her mental health issues and the child had a fundamental right of association with grandmother. Also, she asserted that as an intervenor in the case she was a real party interest as to these issues. The court construed grandmother’s arguments to be that she had standing in the case. Grandmother cited no substantive law granting her standing to assert the rights of mother and the child. Further, courts have consistently held that in dependency and neglect appeals parents and intervenors lack standing to assert the rights of other parties. Grandmother lacked standing to raise the issues on appeal regarding mother and the child.

Grandmother also argued the juvenile court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case because the child never resided or was present in Jefferson County. The allegation that the child was dependent or neglected conferred subject matter jurisdiction with the juvenile court; the question then turned on whether venue was proper. When mother gave birth to the child, she was asked at the hospital where she lived and she provided an address in Arvada, which is within Jefferson County. Thus, venue was proper.

Grandmother further argued that her fundamental associational rights with the child required that she be fully considered for placement of the child and it was error for her not to receive notice of the termination hearing. Grandmother did not have a constitutionally protected liberty interest in the society or custody of the child because she had only limited visitation rights derived from statute and had no existing custodial relationship. Grandmother did not have placement of the child and was not entitled to notice of the termination hearing.

The court also rejected grandmother’s argument that it was error to not allow grandmother to file a petition for the adoption of the child in the dependency and neglect case. There is no such right in the dependency and neglect proceeding, and grandmother was not precluded from timely filing an adoption petition in a separate proceeding. Accordingly, the juvenile court did not err in disallowing the filing of the adoption petition.

The court further rejected grandmother’s argument that the juvenile court erred in terminating her visitation rights with the child. Grandmother’s visitation rights were terminated at the time mother’s parental rights were terminated.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/27/2018

On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and eight unpublished opinions.

United States v. Martinez-Romero

McNelly v. Cline

United States v. McCoy

United States v. Joseph

Davis v. U.S. Government

United States v. Jackson

Rodriguez v. Nationwide Homes, Inc.

United States v. Waldron

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