June 26, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Trial Court Erred by Concluding Ex Parte Review of Defense’s Competency Motion Prohibited

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re People v. Roina on Monday, March 25, 2019.

Competency Proceedings.

The supreme court addressed whether a trial court erred in requiring the defense to provide a copy of its sealed motion raising competency to the prosecution before conducting an initial competency evaluation of defendant. Because C.R.S. § 16-8.5-102(2)(b) requires trial courts to consider defense motions raising competency without disclosing that motion to the prosecution, the court determined that the trial court erred in concluding that Rule 2.9(A) of the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits the trial court from conducting an ex parte review of the defense’s motion. Accordingly, the court made its rule to show cause absolute.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 3/25/2019

On Monday, March 25, 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court issued one published opinion.

In re People v. Roina

The summary of this case is forthcoming.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions.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

Colorado Supreme Court: Eyewitness’ In-Court Identification Allowed Despite Previous Failure to Identify Defendant in Photo Array

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Garner v. People on Monday, March 18, 2019.

Eyewitnesses—Identification Evidence and Procedures—In-Court Identification.

The supreme court reviewed whether due process or the Colorado Rules of Evidence required the exclusion of victim-witnesses’ in-court identifications of defendant, where each witness had failed to identify defendant in a photographic array before trial and almost three years had elapsed between the crime and the confrontations. The court held that where an in-court identification is not preceded by an impermissibly suggestive pretrial identification procedure arranged by law enforcement, and where nothing beyond the inherent suggestiveness of the ordinary courtroom setting made the in-court identification itself constitutionally suspect, due process does not require the trial court to prescreen the identification for reliability. Here, because defendant alleged no impropriety regarding the pretrial photographic arrays, and the record revealed nothing unusually suggestive about the circumstances of the witnesses’ in-court identifications, the in-court identifications did not violate due process. The court further held that defendant’s evidentiary arguments were unpreserved, and the trial court’s admission of the identifications was not plain error under CRE 403, 602, or 701. Accordingly, the court affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 3/18/2019

On Monday, March 18, 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court issued one published opinion.

Garner v. People

The summary of this case is forthcoming.

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

Colorado Supreme Court: Proper Sanction for Judge’s Improper Communications Is Acceptance of Resignation, Censure, and Payment of Costs

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In the Matter of Laurie A. Booras on Monday, March 11, 2019.

Judicial Discipline—Sanctions.

In this judicial disciplinary proceeding, the supreme court considered the exceptions of a now-former Colorado Court of Appeals judge to the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline’s (Commission’s) recommendation that the judge be removed from office and ordered to pay the costs the Commission incurred in this matter.

The Commission’s recommendation was based on factual findings and conclusions of law determining that the judge had violated Canon 1, Rule 1.2, Canon 3, Rule 3.1, and Canon 3, Rule 3.5 of the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct by (1) disclosing confidential information belonging to the court of appeals (namely, the vote of a court of appeals division on a case prior to the issuance of the decision in that case) to an intimate, non-spousal partner, and (2) using inappropriate racial epithets in communications with that intimate partner, including a racially derogatory reference to a court of appeals colleague.

The supreme court concluded that the Commission properly found that the judge’s communications with the judge’s then-intimate partner were not protected by the First Amendment. The court further concluded that, given the judge’s resignation, which the judge tendered and which became effective after the Commission made its recommendation, the court need not decide whether the judge’s removal from office was an appropriate sanction. Rather, the court concluded that the appropriate sanction in this case is the acceptance of the judge’s resignation, the imposition of a public censure, and an order requiring the judge to pay the Commission’s costs in this matter.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Jury Instruction Defining “Hesitate to Act” Did Not Lower Prosecution’s Burden of Proof

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Johnson v. People on Monday, March 11, 2019.

Jury Instructions—Reasonable Doubt—Burden of Proof—Due Process.

In this case, the supreme court considered whether the trial court’s jury instruction defining “hesitate to act” lowered the prosecution’s burden of proof in violation of due process. The court held that the instruction did not lower the prosecution’s burden of proof in violation of due process. Because the instruction was nonsensical, given only once during voir dire, not referenced by either party at any time, and flanked by the proper instruction regarding the burden of proof at the beginning and end of trial, there is not a reasonable likelihood that the jury understood the instruction and applied it in a manner that lowered the prosecution’s burden.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Deputy Had Reasonable, Articulable Suspicion to Stop Defendant; Suppression Order Reversed

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Threlkel on Monday, March 11, 2019.

Investigatory Stop—Grounds for Stop or Investigation—Fellow-Officer Rule.

An extensive narcotics investigation culminated in arrest warrants for defendant and her significant other based on their alleged distribution of controlled substances. While attempting to execute the warrants, deputies observed a truck belonging to defendant’s significant other driving away from the residence shared by the couple. The deputies suspected that defendant was a passenger in the truck. As the deputies tried to stop the truck, it evaded them. At one point, the deputies observed a white bag fly out of the passenger window, which supported their belief that there was a passenger in the truck. The truck eventually stopped within a mile of the home. Inside, they located defendant’s significant other, but not defendant. Moments later, however, defendant was spotted a couple of hundred yards away, attempting to hitch a ride. It was a frigid and snowy night, the roads were slippery, and there was no easy access on foot between the home and the location of the stop. A deputy who recognized defendant detained her, and she was later arrested on her outstanding warrant.

The trial court suppressed all evidence and observations derived from defendant’s stop, finding that the deputies lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to detain her. Later, the trial court explained that its suppression order included the deputies’ observations and investigation before they contacted defendant. The supreme court reversed. It concluded that the deputies had reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop defendant. It further concluded that the trial court lacked authority to suppress the deputies’ observations and investigation before they contacted defendant.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Defendant’s Request to Look for Lawyer Did Not Implicate Sixth Amendment

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Travis on Monday, March 4, 2019.

Sixth Amendment—Counsel of Choice—Motion to Continue—Abuse of Discretion.

The People challenged the decision of a division of the court of appeals that concluded that Travis’s request to “look for and pay for a lawyer” was an invocation of her Sixth Amendment right to be represented by counsel of her choice. The supreme court held that Travis’s request did not implicate her Sixth Amendment right to counsel of her choice and that the trial court’s decision to deny Travis’s request to continue her trial to “look for and pay for a lawyer” was not an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court reversed the division’s decision and remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 3/4/2019

On Monday, March 4, 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court issued one published opinion.

People v. Travis

The summary of this case is forthcoming.

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


Colorado Supreme Court: Unenforceable 1909 Water Decree Fails to Set Forth Indicia of Enforceability, Including Appropriation Date, Priority Number, and Quantification Information

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dill v. Yamasaki Ring, LLC on Monday, February 25, 2019.

Water Law—Adjudicated Water Rights—Indicia of Enforceability. 

The supreme court considered whether a 1909 water decree adjudicates a water right in certain springs. Because the decree failed to set forth required indicia of enforceability—including an appropriation date, a priority number, and quantification information—with respect to the springs, the court answered the question in the negative. A decree must measure, limit, and define both the nature and extent of a water right. The priority, the location of diversion at the supply’s source, and the amount of water for application to a beneficial use are all essential elements of the appropriative water right. Of these, priority is the most important stick in the water rights bundle because priority is a function of appropriation and adjudication; indeed, the purpose of adjudication is to fix the priority of a water right. 

As the water court concluded, the 1909 decree clearly and unambiguously sets forth an unenforceable entitlement to receive and conduct water from the springs. Without indicia of enforceability, and in particular a priority number, the 1909 decree cannot be deemed to adjudicate a water right in the springs that can be enforced and administered. Therefore, the court affirmed the water court’s judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 2/25/2019

On Monday, February 25, 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court issued one published opinion.

Dill v. Yamasaki Ring, LLC

The summary of this case is forthcoming.

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

Colorado Supreme Court: DUI, Fourth Offense, is Class 4 Felony Therefore Defendant Entitled to Preliminary Hearing

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re People v. Tafoya on Tuesday, February 19, 2019.

Sentencing and Punishment—Criminal Law—Preliminary Hearings

In this original proceeding pursuant to C.A.R. 21, the supreme court reviewed the district court’s ruling denying petitioner a preliminary hearing when she was charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI)—fourth or subsequent offense, a class 4 felony under C.R.S. § 42-4-1301(1)(a), and was being held in custody on that charge.

The court issued a rule to show cause and now makes the rule absolute. C.R.S. § 16-5-301(1)(b)(II) provides that a defendant who is accused of a class 4, 5, or 6 felony and is in custody for that offense “may demand and shall receive a preliminary hearing.” The legislature amended the DUI statute to provide that DUI is a class 4 felony if the violation occurred after three or more prior convictions arising out of separate and distinct criminal episodes. Here, the complaint and information accused petitioner of committing a class 4 felony and she was being held in custody on that charge. Accordingly, under the plain language of the statute, petitioner was entitled to a preliminary hearing, and the district court erred in denying her request for such a hearing.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.