March 24, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Court Did Not Completely Discharge Mandate in Taylor Ranch Case Because Identification Process Was Not Comprehensive

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Cielo Vista Ranch I, LLC v. Alire on Thursday, November 15, 2018.

Real Property—Public Lands.

Fifteen years ago, the Colorado Supreme Court remanded this case to the district court with instructions to “identify all landowners who have access rights to the Taylor Ranch.” In 2004, the district court began identifying and decreeing access rights for landowners in the San Luis Valley whose land was settled by 1869. From 2004 until 2010, the district court relied on the best available evidence to decree access rights for individual landowners without requiring any landowner to come forward to assert a claim (the opt-out process). After 2010, the district court decreed access rights for only those landowners who came forward to assert claims (the opt-in process). In October 2016, the trial court issued a final order that certified all prior orders, adjudicating 26 access rights for landowners as final and appealable pursuant to C.R.C.P. 54(b). Remaining landowner claimants were not foreclosed from coming forward in the future.

Appellants in this case are CVR Properties, Ltd., Jaroso Creek Ranch, LLC, and Western Properties Investors LLC, the owners of Cielo Vista Ranch and other properties that were once known as the Taylor Ranch (the Ranch) (collectively, Ranch Owner). Appellees are landowners in Costilla County whose rights to access the Ranch to graze livestock and gather firewood and timber were decreed through the remand proceedings.

On appeal, Ranch Owner challenged the trial court’s implementation of the supreme court’s mandate on remand. The opt-out proceedings on remand from 2004 through 2010 were largely consistent with the mandate. But as to the opt-in process from 2010 through 2016, the district court did not completely discharge the mandate because that portion of the identification process could have been, but was not, comprehensive. The trial court mistakenly concluded that it was bound by the law of the case doctrine to implement an opt-in process during the last phase on remand.

The October 2016 order was reversed to the extent it requires any remaining landowners entitled to access to the Ranch to come forward. The case was remanded for the trial court to identify all remaining owners of benefited lands and adjudicate their rights. In all other respects the order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Patrick H. Hayes Appointed to 12th Judicial District Court

On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, the governor’s office announced Governor Hickenlooper’s appointment of Patrick H. Hayes to the district court bench in the Twelfth Judicial District. Hayes will fill a vacancy created by HB 15-1034, effective July 1, 2015.

Currently, Hayes is a county court judge in Rio Grande County, where he was appointed in 2011. He is also a Division 3 Water Referee. Prior to his appointment to the Rio Grande County Court, Hayes was in private practice at Hayes Law, P.C., where he practiced criminal defense. Hayes also served as Chief Deputy District Attorney in the San Luis Valley and was the juvenile court magistrate in Rio Grande County. He received his law degree, summa cum laude, from Oklahoma City University School of Law and his undergraduate degree from Cameron University.

Nominees Announced for 12th Judicial District Court Judgeship

On Monday, June 1, 2015, the Colorado State Judicial Branch announced the selection of three nominees for appointment to the bench of the Twelfth Judicial District. The selected nominee will fill a vacancy created by House Bill 15-1034, effective July 1, 2015. The three nominees are Patrick H. Hayes Jr of South Fork, Jason T. Kelly of Alamosa and Amanda K. Pearson of Crestone.

Patrick H. Hayes, Jr. is currently a county court judge in Rio Grande County, presiding over a mixed docket. Jason T. Kelly is a county attorney in Alamosa. Amanda K. Pearson is a county court judge in Saguache County.

Under the Colorado Constitution, Governor Hickenlooper has 15 days from June 1 in which to select one of the nominees for appointment. Comments regarding any of the nominees may be submitted to the governor at gov_judicialappointments@state.co.us. For more information about the nominees, click here.

Application Period Open for New Judgeship on Twelfth Judicial District Court Bench

The governor signed HB 15-1034 on Friday, March 20, 2015, which increased the number of district court judges in the Twelfth Judicial District from three to four, effective July 1, 2015. The Colorado State Judicial Branch announced on Friday, March 27, 2015, that applications are now being accepted for the forthcoming vacancy. Eligible applicants must be qualified electors of the Twelfth Judicial District (Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande, and Saguache counties) and must have been admitted to practice law in Colorado for five years. Application forms are available from the State Judicial website, and from the ex officio chair of the Twelfth Judicial District Nominating Commission, Justice Hood. Applications must be received no later than 4 p.m. on May 4, 2015, and anyone wishing to nominate another person must do so no later than 4 p.m. on April 27, 2015.

For more information about the vacancy, click here.

HB 15-1034: Adding a District Court Judge in the Twelfth Judicial District

On January 7, 2015, Rep. Edward Vigil and Sen. Larry Crowder introduced HB 15-1034 — Concerning an Increase in the Number of District Court Judges in the Twelfth Judicial District. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

Effective July 1, 2015, the bill increases the number of district court judges in the twelfth judicial district from 3 to 4.

The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary and Appropriations Committees. The bill has passed out of the Judiciary Committee unamended and was referred to Appropriations.