July 16, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Cannot Sua Sponte Certify Question for Interlocutory Review

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of M.K.D.A.L. on Thursday, October 23, 2014.

CAR 4.2—Sua Sponte Certification of an Issue for Interlocutory Review.

J.A.A.U., the biological father of M.K.D.A.L., petitioned under CRS § 15-14-304(1) for his appointment as a permanent guardian. According to the petition, “[r]espondent is unable effectively to communicate in the English language to the extent that he lacks the ability to satisfy essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care even with appropriate and reasonably available technological assistance.”

The trial court denied the petition, finding that, as a matter of law, speaking English is not a requirement for competency. The court also stated that, pursuant to CAR 4.2, it “will stay this order for 14 days and certify that there is no current case law on this point and that determination of this issue will determine the case.” Petitioner timely filed a petition for interlocutory appeal. There was no motion or stipulation for certification.

Under CAR 4.2(c), the appealing party must move for certification or submit a stipulation signed by all parties within fourteen days after the date of the order to be appealed. The trial court then has discretion to certify the order as immediately appealable; however, if all parties stipulate, the trial court must certify the order. No case interpreting CAR 4.2 has addressed a petition to appeal based on a trial court’s sua sponte certification.

The Court of Appeals concluded that a trial court cannot certify sua sponte an issue for interlocutory review.The Court recognized that a case may arise in which, despite the parties’ inaction, the trial court perceives that its order clearly involves “a controlling and unresolved question of law,” immediate review of which would “promote a more orderly disposition or establish a final disposition of the action,” as provided by CAR 4.2(b). However, the rule only empowers trial courts to grant or deny a motion for certification, not to initiate certification. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed.

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

Colorado Supreme Court: During Custodial Interrogation, Defendant Improperly Coerced to Testify by Threats of Deportation

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Ramadon on Monday, December 9, 2013.

CAR 4.1 Interlocutory Appeal in Criminal Case—Suppression of Defendant’s Statements as Involuntary.

The Supreme Court held that, in a suppression hearing, when a defendant makes a prima facie evidentiary showing of involuntariness, the prosecution bears the burden, by a preponderance of the evidence, of establishing that the statements were voluntary under the totality of the circumstances. Coercive physical or psychological conduct by the government renders an otherwise voluntary statement involuntary if the conduct plays a significant role in inducing the statement.

In this case, the trial court considered the voluntariness of defendant’s statements under the totality of the circumstances and concluded they were involuntary after the forty-two-minute mark of the interview. The Supreme Court held that the record supported the trial court’s finding that police conduct during the custodial interrogation played a significant role in inducing incriminatory statements defendant made starting at minute fifty-four. Therefore, defendant’s statements must be suppressed after minute fifty-four. The suppression order was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was returned to the trial court for further proceedings.

Summary and full case available here.

Tenth Circuit: Interlocutory Appeal Dismissed for Lack of Jurisdiction

The Tenth Circuit published its opinion in United States v. Copar Pumice Company on Monday, May 6, 2013.

This case involves the parties’ nearly ten-year legal dispute involving mining operations in the New Mexico Santa Fe National Forest. The claims are based on allegations that the Cooks and Copar removed and used undersized pumice from a mine in violation of a settlement agreement with the United States, the Jemez National Recreation Area Act (“JNRAA”), 16 U.S.C. § 460jjj, and applicable regulations. Although the case remains pending in the district court, the Cooks and Copar have filed an interlocutory appeal from discovery orders requiring their former and present law firms to produce documents containing legal advice counsel gave to them regarding the legality of mining, transporting, processing, and marketing pumice from their mine. Specifically, the Cooks and Copar appeal the denial of their motion for protective order and their motion to quash subpoenas, contending that this court has appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order, Perlman, and pragmatic finality doctrines. The United States has filed a motion to dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

This Court’s jurisdiction is limited to review of “final decisions of the district courts.” 28 U.S.C. § 1291. A decision is “‘final’ when it ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.” In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litig., 641 F.3d 470, 481 (10th Cir. 2011) (quotation omitted), cert. denied, 132 S. Ct. 1004 (2012). Also, orders for the production of documents during the course of litigation are not ‘final orders’ subject to immediate appellate review. In certain limited circumstances, however, the Court has exercised jurisdiction over an interlocutory appeal under the collateral order doctrine (also known as the Cohen doctrine), the Perlman doctrine, and the pragmatic finality doctrine. Cohen v. Beneficial Indus. Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541 (1949); Perlman v. United States, 247 U.S. 7 (1918). The Tenth Circuit concluded that none of these doctrines applied to this case.

Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit granted the government’s motion and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Tenth Circuit: Collateral Order Doctrine Does Not Apply to Denial of State Action Immunity

The Tenth Circuit published its opinion in Auraria Student Housing at the Regency, LLC v. Campus Village Apartments, LLC on Friday, January 4, 2013.

Defendant-Appellant Campus Village Apartments, LLC (“Campus Village”) appealed the denial of its motion to dismiss the complaint of Plaintiff-Appellee Auraria Student Housing at the Regency, LLC (“Regency”). Regency alleged Campus Village conspired with the University of Colorado (CU), Denver to monopolize the provision of student housing in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act. Most full-time CU students are required to live in the Campus Village Apartments for their first two semesters. Campus Village moved to dismiss on the basis that state action Parker immunity applied to it as a private party. The district court disagreed.

Regency moved to dismiss Campus Village’s appeal, arguing the Tenth Circuit lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the district court’s denial of Campus Village’s motion to dismiss was not a final order under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Campus Village argued that the court had jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine set forth in Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp. The collateral order doctrine allows interlocutory review in limited cases. The Tenth Circuit held that “[e]xtending the collateral order doctrine to private parties contesting an order denying Parker immunity does not serve a substantial public interest and would constitute precisely the type of expansion the doctrine discourages.” It therefore dismissed the appeal.

Colorado Supreme Court: In Interlocutory Appeal, Application of Exclusionary Rule Deemed Inappropriate; Evidence Should Not Have Been Suppressed

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Guthrie on Monday, October 1, 2012.

Criminal Law—Fourth Amendment—Suppression of Evidence—Inventory Search Subsequent to a Summary Contempt Conviction.

In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court considered whether the trial court erred in applying the exclusionary rule to suppress evidence of an illegal narcotic discovered during a routine inventory search of defendant’s personal effects. The search was performed after a judge of the El Paso County Court, in a previous proceeding, ordered a deputy sheriff to jail her for direct contempt of court. The district court used suppression as an ad hoc remedy for the due process violation it deemed the judge to have committed when conducting the contempt proceeding.

The Court held that no violation of the Fourth Amendment occurred here. The inventory search the police carried out resulted directly from the county court’s order to the deputy sheriff, based on a finding of criminal contempt of court, to jail defendant. Appeal of the summary contempt conviction, which might or might not result in reversal, would be the proper recourse for the county court’s alleged due process violation. Suppressing evidence of the illegal narcotic discovered as a result of the valid inventory search would not be an appropriate remedy even if the county court erred in convicting defendant of direct contempt of court. Accordingly, the district court’s suppression order was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Summary and full case available here.