April 23, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Presumption of Regularity Applied to 20-Year-Old Default Judgment; Error to Place Burden on Plaintiff to Prove Valid Service

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Tallman v. Aune on Thursday, January 24, 2019.

Default Judgment—Presumption of Regularity—Lost or Destroyed Records—C.R.C.P. 60(b)(3).

In 1996, Tallman obtained a default judgment against Aune. About 15 years after the judgment entered, the district court destroyed the case file under its records retention policy. In 2016, Tallman filed writs of garnishment to enforce the judgment and the writs issued. Shortly after, Aune filed a motion to vacate the default judgment and quash the writ of garnishment, asserting that he had not been aware that a judgment had been entered against him and he had not been served. In response, Tallman admitted he could not produce the affidavit of service, but he attached copies of the default motion and default judgment and cited the register of actions entry noting service had been made. The district court granted Aune’s motion to vacate, finding that Tallman failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that Aune was properly served. It also denied Tallman’s motion to revive the default judgment as moot. Tallman moved for reconsideration, arguing that the presumption of regularity must apply. The district court dismissed the case.

On appeal, Tallman argued that the district court erred in vacating the default judgment and it should have applied the presumption of regularity to presume the default judgment was entered with jurisdiction. Here, though the return of service is no longer available, the register of actions, the limited record, and the 1996 default judgment show service was effectuated, so the presumption of regularity applies. The district court erred in declining to apply the presumption of regularity to the default judgment when it granted the motion to vacate. Further, the burden remained on Aune to overcome the presumption as to the default judgment. At most, Aune provided the district court with an unsworn assertion that he had not been served two decades ago. These inferences do not constitute sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption of regularity. For the same reason, Aune didn’t satisfy his burden of proof to present clear and convincing evidence to set aside the default judgment

Tallman also requested the court of appeals to direct the district court to “grant a nunc pro tunc order for revival of judgment,” arguing he complied with the procedural requirements to revive the default judgment. Because the default judgment must be reinstated, the motion to revive is not moot.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded to reinstate it and to consider Tallman’s request to revive the default judment.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Defendant Did Not Overcome Presumption of Regularity Regarding Incorrect Verdict Forms in Record on Appeal

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in LePage v. People on Monday, February 24, 2014.

Presumption of Regularity.

The Supreme Court considered whether the court of appeals correctly applied the presumption of regularity when it determined that the jury did not receive the correct verdict forms. The trial judge read to the jury the correct elemental instructions and verdict forms; therefore, it can be inferred that the jury received the correct verdict forms. When the record was certified on appeal, however, one of the verdict forms was stapled to a refused jury instruction that was not given to the jury, raising the inference that the jury in fact may not have received the correct verdict forms.

The Court held that defendant failed to show that the jury did not receive the correct verdict forms. The court of appeals had affirmed the trial court’s judgment, holding that failure to give the jury the verdict form for the lesser included offense was not reversible error. The Supreme Court, however, affirmed the trial court’s judgment because defendant did not show that the trial court erred. Therefore, the Court affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment on other grounds.

Summary and full case available here.