August 13, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: Board Correctly Ruled that Contiguous Vacant Parcel Not “Used As a Unit” Within Residential Parcel

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Twilight Ridge, LLC v. Board of County Commissioners on Thursday, July 27, 2018.

Property Tax—C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a)Used as a UnitVacant Land.

The Robinsons are the sole members of Twilight Ridge, LLC (Twilight), a Colorado limited liability company. In 2013 Twilight purchased two contiguous platted parcels of land in La Plata County. The first parcel has a home on it (the Residential Parcel). The second parcel is a 0.763 acre buildable but undeveloped lot (the Subject Parcel).

The La Plata County Assessor classified the Subject Parcel as vacant land. Twilight appealed the decision for the 2014 to 2015 tax years to the Board of County Commissioners of La Plata County and it appealed the decision for the 2016 tax year to the Board of Equalization for La Plata County, arguing to both bodies (collectively, the County) that the Subject Parcel should be reclassified as residential land. The County upheld the County Assessor’s classification.

Twilight appealed to the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA). At a consolidated hearing, Mr. Robinson testified that he and his wife bought the two parcels together so that the Subject Parcel would give them privacy, serve as a buffer to prevent any potential house built on the subject property from impeding their views, and provide a place for their grandchildren to play when they visited. Further, although he was currently offering only the Residential Parcel for sale, Robinson intended to sell both parcels together.

Twilight also offered testimony by the Colorado Division of Property Taxation’s deputy director, who was designated by the Property Tax Administrator (PTA) to testify regarding the Division’s policies as embodied in the PTA’s Assessors’ Reference Library (ARL). The County provided the testimony of its appraisers, who had visited the parcels and seen no activity or evidence of use on the Subject Parcel when she visited. The La Plata County Assessor also testified that using the Subject Parcel as a place for children to play and protect a view were “incidental” uses and not the “integral” use of the Subject Parcel in conjunction with the residential improvements that would warrant classifying it as residential. The BAA upheld the County’s classification.

On appeal, Twilight argued that the BAA misconstrued the “used as a unit” element of C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a) and made clearly erroneous findings of fact. The BAA’s conclusion that Twilight did not satisfy its burden of proving that the Subject Parcel was used as a unit with the residential parcel is consistent with the ARL and the testimony at the hearing that “used as a unit” contemplates integral, not merely incidental, use.

The orders were affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant’s Refusal to Leave Ex-Girlfriend’s Residence Could Leave him Subject to Prosecution for Trespass and Burglary

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Murray on Thursday, July 27, 2018.

Criminal Law—Trespass—Burglary—Assault—Landlord–Tenant Agreement—Evidence—Doctrine of Completeness—Credibility.

Defendant’s ex-girlfriend (the victim) asked him to come to her house to help with an errand. The couple had dated “on and off” for about two years, and defendant had stayed frequently at the house, but the two had broken up about two-and-a-half weeks earlier. Defendant entered the victim’s house, and the two got into an argument. The victim told defendant to leave. Defendant threatened the victim, ripped off her clothes, and tried to sexually assault her. At that moment, a friend of the victim showed up. Defendant chased him into the street. The victim locked the door behind defendant and called 911. Defendant yelled at the victim to let him back in the house, but she refused. He then broke a window on the front door trying to get back inside. Defendant was found guilty of first degree burglary, trespass, third degree assault, false imprisonment, attempted sexual assault, attempted second degree burglary, and criminal mischief.

On appeal, defendant contended that the court provided an inaccurate jury instruction defining “enters unlawfully” and “remains unlawfully,” and that it abused its discretion by refusing his tendered instruction explaining those concepts. The basis for defense counsel’s objection to the prosecutor’s added instruction and for his requested instruction was his argument that defendant wasn’t on the premises unlawfully because he lived there. However, defendant failed to present any evidence of a landlord–tenant agreement between him and the victim, and he didn’t pay rent. Therefore, defendant was not a tenant and didn’t have a possessory interest in the premises other than that the victim allowed. The district court did not need to provide the type of instruction that defense counsel tendered.

Defendant further contended that the district court erred by denying his motions for a judgment of acquittal based on insufficiency of the evidence. The record contains sufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that defendant knowingly entered or remained in the victim’s house unlawfully with the intent to assault and sexually assault the victim, and that he attempted to sexually assault the victim.

Defendant also contended that the district court erred by ruling that if he introduced certain of his recorded statements pursuant to the doctrine of completeness, his credibility would be implicated, and the prosecution could use his Montana deferred judgment to impeach his credibility. He argued that as a result of these rulings, the district court infringed on his right to a fair trial and to confront witnesses, because he was dissuaded from introducing his statements and cross-examining the prosecution’s investigator. Defendant’s statements were self-serving and were inadmissible under the doctrine of completeness. Further, defendant waived his contention that his testimony couldn’t be impeached by the Montana judgment. Alternatively, had defendant not waived this issue, the Montana judgment constituted an admissible felony conviction, and any error wasn’t plain.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Attorneys Who Withheld Information About Appraiser Properly Sanctioned

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinions in Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Summit Park Townhome Association on March 30, 2018. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals VACATED its original opinions and issued the following revised opinions: Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Summit Park Townhome Ass’n, No. 16-1638, and Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Summit Park Townhome Ass’n, No. 16-1352.

Two attorneys, Mr. William Harris and Mr. David Pettinato, represented Summit Park Townhome Association against its insurer. The two attorneys were sanctioned for failing to disclose information to the district court. The attorneys appealed the sanction on these five arguments:

  1. The district court lacked authority to require the disclosure requirements.
  2. The attorneys did not violate the court’s disclosure requirements.
  3. The district court awarded attorneys’ fees beyond the scope of an earlier sanctions order.
  4. The district court’s award of attorneys’ fees resulted in a deprivation of due process.
  5. The amount of attorneys’ fees awarded was unreasonable.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals AFFIRMED the district court’s actions in issuing sanctions, determining the scope of the sanctions, and calculating the amount of the sanctions.

The initial lawsuit was related to an insurance dispute following a claim filed by Summit Park with Auto-Owners Insurance for hail damage. The parties disagreed on the dollar amount of the damages, and Auto-Owners sued for a declaratory judgement to decide the value.

Summit Park attorneys Harris and Pettinato moved to compel an appraisal following the insurance policy requirements. Auto-Owners asked the district court to resolve the dispute over the dollar amount by ordering an “appraisal agreement.” The district court ordered the appraisal agreement and warned both parties that if the parties and/or counsel did not comply, the court would impose sanctions.

George Keys was the appraiser for Summit Park, and Auto-Owners questioned his impartiality. Mr. Keys and the court-appointed umpire both agreed on an appraisal award of over $10 million. Auto-Owners then objected to Mr. Keys based on impartiality and that Summit Park had failed to disclose evidence bearing on his impartiality. The court disqualified Mr. Keys and vacated the appraisal award. Auto-Owners then moved for sanctions against Mr. Harris and Mr. Pettinato, including attorney fees and expenses. The district court assessed sanctions against the two attorneys for $354,350.65 in fees and expenses.

Attorneys Harris and Pettinato questioned the district court’s authority to enter the disclosure order, and they refused to comply with the order. They could have sought reconsideration or a writ, but they could not violate the order. See Maness v. Meyers, 419 U.S. 449, 458 (1975) (“If a person to whom a court directs an order believes that order is incorrect the remedy is to appeal, but, absent a stay, he must comply promptly with the order pending appeal.”). Orders issued by a court must be obeyed by the parties until “reversed by orderly and proper proceedings.” United States v. United Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 258, 293 (1947); See United States v. Beery, 678 F.2d 856, 866 (10th Cir. 1982); and see also GTE Sylvania, Inc. v. Consumers Union of U.S., Inc, 445 U.S. 375, 386 (1980). Failure to comply with the court order could trigger sanctions. See United Mine Workers, 330 U.S. at 294 (quoting Howat v. Kansas, 258 U.S. 181, 190 (1922)), so Mr. Harris and Mr. Pettinato were obligated to comply in the absence of an appellate challenge, and could be sanctioned for noncompliance.

Attorneys Harris and Pettinato challenged the district court’s conclusion that they had violated the disclosure order by arguing that the district court misinterpreted the term “impartial” and that Harris and Pettinato disclosed sufficient information about Mr. Keys.

Because Mr. Harris and Mr. Pettinato urged a legal error consisting of misinterpretation of the term “impartial,” the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals engaged in de novo review. Hamilton v. Boise Cascade Express, 519 F.3d 1197, 1202 (10th Cir. 2008), and it otherwise confined the review sanctions under the abuse-of-discretion standard. Russell v. Weicker Moving & Storage Co., 746 F.2d 1419, 1420 (10th Cir. 1984) (per curiam).

The district court requested disclosure of (1) the appraiser’s “financial or personal interest in the outcome of the appraisal,” (2) any “current or previous relationship” between the appraiser and Summit Park’s counsel, and (3) any other facts subsequently learned that “a reasonable person would consider likely to affect” the appraiser’s impartiality.

Harris and Pettinato made two disclosures:

  1. “Mr. Keys does not have any significant prior business relationship with [Merlin], Summit Park, or C3 Group. Mr. Keys has acted as a public adjuster and/or appraiser on behalf of policyholders that [Merlin] has represented in the past, however, this obviously does not affect his ability to act [as] an appraiser in the matter.” Appellant’s App’x, vol. 2 at 292.
  2. “Mr. Keys has acted as a public adjuster and/or appraiser on behalf of policyholders that [Merlin] has represented in the past. Mr. Keys has no financial interest in the claim, and has no previous relationship with the policyholder in this matter.” Id. at 298.

Mr. Keys made the following disclosure: “I do not have a material interest in the outcome of the Award and have never acted either for or against Summit Park Townhome Association. My fee agreement is based upon hourly rates plus expenses. . . . I do not have any substantial business relationship or financial interest in [Merlin]. There have been cases where both [Merlin] and Keys Claims Consultants acted for the same insured but under separate contracts.” Id. at 307-08.

Regardless of the district court’s definition of “impartial,” attorneys Harris and Pettinato failed to disclose that (1) other attorneys in their firm (Merlin Law Group) had worked with Mr. Keys on appraisals for at least 33 clients, (2) Merlin attorneys had represented Mr. Keys on various matters for over a decade, (3) Merlin’s founder and Mr. Keys had co-founded a Florida lobbying operation, and (4) Merlin attorneys had served as the incorporator and registered agent for one of Mr. Key’s companies.

Attorneys Harris and Pettinato claim they disclosed sufficient information about Mr. Keys’ impartiality and that they lacked personal knowledge about the undisclosed facts. Both of these arguments failed. The district court could reasonably find that the undisclosed information was meaningful, and Harris and Pettinato knew about some of Mr. Keys and Merlins contacts, and they had an obligation to inquire about contacts with other Merlin attorneys. Therefore, the district court acted within its discretion on Mr. Harris’ and Mr. Pettinato’s failure to disclose information.

As far as Mr. Harris’ and Mr. Pettinato’s argument over the district court’s definition of “impartial,” the disclosure order issued by the district court defined “impartial” by stating: “An individual who has a known, direct, and material interest in the outcome of the appraisal proceeding or a known, existing, and substantial relationship with a party may not serve as an appraiser.” Id. at 245.

Using the definition of “impartial” provided in the district court’s order, the district court required disclosure of any facts that a reasonable person would view as likely to affect the appraiser’s impartiality. Mr. Harris and Mr. Pettinato argued that evidence of an appraiser’s advocacy was unlikely to affect the appraiser’s impartiality. See Owners Ins. Co. v. Dakota Station II Condominium Ass’n, 2017 WL 3184568, at *4 (Colo. App. July 27, 2017), cert. granted, 2018 WL 948601 (Colo. Feb. 20, 2018). Even if Mr. Harris and Mr. Pettinato were correct, the district court could have reasonably viewed Mr. Keys’ undisclosed prior statements as likely to affect his impartiality based on a known, direct, and material interest in the outcome. Additionally, in an advertisement on Mr. Keys’ website, Mr. Pettinato endorsed Mr. Keys, saying: “Both Mr. Keys and his staff have assisted me as well as my firm in resolving an untold number of large multi-million dollar losses to an amicable resolution and settlement to the policyholders’ benefit and satisfaction.” Id. at 704. And a profile on Merlin’s website reported that Mr. Keys “ha[d] dedicated his professional life to being a voice for policyholders in property insurance claims.” Id. at 723. In this profile, Mr. Keys stated: “I was taught to always handle a claim as if my momma was the insured.” Id.

Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding that Mr. Harris and Mr. Pettinato had violated the disclosure order.

Mr. Harris and Mr. Pettinato argued that Auto-Owners waived the right to object by failing to object despite their knowledge of past relationships between Merlin and Mr. Keys. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, because without the undisclosed information, Auto-Owners would not have had full knowledge of the relationship.

For the sanction against the two attorneys, the district court invoked 28 U.S.C. § 1927. Under § 1927, an attorney “who so multiplies the proceedings in any case unreasonably and vexatiously may be required by the court to satisfy personally the excess costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct.” 28 U.S.C. § 1927. The two attorneys argued that these three items fell outside of the initial sanctions order: (1) Auto-Owners’ preparation of the motion for sanctions ($51,309.50), (2) Auto-Owners’ preparation of the application for attorneys’ fees and expenses ($16,960.50), and (3) Auto-Owners’ other related work ($61,662.50).

The Tenth Circuit disagreed with those arguments, because the district court explained the attorney fees in the sanctions order. Therefore, the Tenth Circuit deferred to the district court’s interpretation of its own order. See, e.g., Chi., Rock Island & Pac. R.R. v. Diamond Shamrock Ref. & Mktg. Co., 865 F.2d 807, 811 (7th Cir. 1988) (“We shall not reverse a district court’s interpretation of its own order ‘unless the record clearly shows an abuse of discretion.’” (quoting Arenson v. Chicago Mercantile Exch., 520 F.2d 722, 725 (7th Cir. 1975))). The Tenth Circuit found it reasonable for the district court to consider these litigation expenses.

The fifth area that Mr. Harris and Mr. Pettinato questioned was a deprivation of due process based on an inability to respond to the district court’s inclusion of litigation activities outside of the initial sanctions order. The Tenth Circuit disagreed because they could have objected to any of the attorney fees included on the Auto-Owners application that was filed. This opportunity supplied due process. See Resolution Tr. Corp. v. Dabney, 73 F.3d 262, 268 (10th Cir. 1995); see also Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Summit Park Townhome Ass’n, No. 16-1352, slip op. at 17-19 (10th Cir. Mar. 30, 2018) (to be published) (discussing a similar argument made by Summit Park Townhome Association).

The last argument was that the court awarded an unreasonable about of attorney fees. The Tenth Circuit reviewed a determination of attorney fees for an abuse of discretion. See AeroTech, Inc. v. Estes, 110 F.3d 1523, 1528 (10th Cir. 1997). In applying the abuse-of-discretion standard, the Circuit considered whether the district court’s determination appeared reasonable in light of the complexity of the case, the number of strategies pursued, and the responses necessitated by the other party’s maneuvering. See Robinson v. City of Edmond, 160 F.3d 1275, 1281 (10th Cir. 1998). The district court was not required to identify and justify every hour allowed or disallowed. See Malloy v. Monahan, 73 F.3d 1012, 1018 (10th Cir. 1996).

Based on the Tenth Circuit’s review, the district court considered three areas when determining reasonableness of fees. First, the district court concluded that it was reasonable for Auto-Owners’ counsel to spend long hours because “Auto-Owners had over $30 million at stake” and the issues were complex. Appellants’ App’x, vol. 3 at 673-74. Second, the court considered the local market, the qualifications of the attorneys, and the contentiousness of the litigation. These considerations led the district court to find that the billing rates had been reasonable. Third, the court considered the use of billing judgment by Auto-Owners’ counsel through concessions such as staffing with lower-billing attorneys, declining to charge for all hours worked, and discounting hours worked by paralegals and secretaries. The district court acted reasonably in considering these concessions. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in calculating the amount of the sanction ($354,350.65).

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the district court did not err in sanctioning Mr. Harris and Mr. Pettinato, that Mr. Harris and Mr. Pettinato violated the district courts order by failing disclose information bearing on Mr. Key’s impartiality, and that the amount set by the district court was reasonable.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Child Care Center Not Eligible for Property Tax Exemptions

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Children’s Hospital Colorado v. Property Tax Administrator on Thursday, June 28, 2018.

Child Care Center—Property Tax—Exemption—Sliding Scale—Charitable Purpose.

Children’s Hospital Colorado (the Hospital) owns and operates a child care facility (the Center) on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical School (CU Anschutz) campus. The Center provides child care to constituents of the Hospital and CU Anschutz as an employee benefit. The Center has a written tuition assistance policy that gives all families with an income below 150% of the federal poverty level a flat 10% discount. It also provides a flat 5% discount for siblings of enrolled children, regardless of the family’s income. The Hospital filed an application for exemption from property tax for the Center, which the Division of Property Tax considered under the charitable purposes exemption, C.R.S. § 39-3-108(1)(a), and an exemption for qualified child care centers, C.R.S. § 39-3-110. The Property Tax Administrator denied the application, and the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA) upheld the order.

On appeal, the Hospital argued that the BAA exceeded its authority in interpreting C.R.S. § 39-3-110(1)(e) to conclude that the Center’s tuition discount policy did not qualify the Center for an exemption under that section. It argued that the BAA misinterpreted the rule regarding the definition of “charges on the basis of ability to pay.” C.R.S. § 39-3-110(1)(e) requires that the Center charge for its services based on the recipient’s ability to pay. Here, the family tuition reduction policy was based solely on whether a family’s income falls above or below the federal poverty line; it was not a scale that provides a range of tuition options, and it did not account for more than one factor in determining a family’s ability to pay. Similarly, the sibling discount is provided regardless of income or another factor indicating ability to pay. The BAA properly interpreted C.R.S. § 39-3-110(1)(e) to conclude that the Center’s tuition discount policy did not qualify as offering services “on the basis of ability to pay.”

The Hospital also contended that the BAA erred by finding that the Center is not operated for strictly charitable purposes. Here, the Center was operating for a business purpose—providing an employee benefit and recruitment tool—and not for a charitable purpose. Additionally, the Center did not benefit an indefinite number of persons and did not lessen the burdens of government. Therefore, it was not operated strictly for charitable purposes, as required by C.R.S. § 39-3-108(1).

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Municipality’s Condemnation of Land Proper to Create Open Space Buffer but Not to Prevent Grocery Store Relocation

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in City of Lafayette v. Town of Erie on Thursday, June 14, 2018.

Municipal Law—Eminent Domain—Public Use Purpose—Necessity—Bad Faith.

Lafayette is a home rule municipality, and Erie is a statutory town. Erie annexed Nine Mile Corner, entered into a disposition and development agreement, and identified King Soopers as a potential tenant. Thereafter, Lafayette determined it would condemn 22 acres of the southern portion of Nine Mile Corner to create an open space community buffer and leave the remaining 23 acres of Nine Mile Corner for Erie. Lafayette filed a petition in condemnation, and Erie responded by filing a motion to dismiss, arguing that Lafayette’s condemnation lacked a proper public purpose, thereby depriving the court of jurisdiction. The district court granted Erie’s motion.

On appeal, Lafayette argued that its condemnation had a proper public purpose and that no bad faith motivated its condemnation decision. A municipality may condemn a statutory town’s property because an open space community buffer could be a valid public purpose. Here, Erie met its burden of showing that Lafayette’s condemnation decision was motivated by bad faith, and the district court properly examined Lafayette’s finding of necessity. The district court indicated that Lafayette was motivated to keep King Soopers and its tax revenue within Lafayette and determined that Lafayette’s primary interest in the property was to interfere with Erie’s proposed commercial development. The record supported the determination that the taking for an open space community buffer was pretextual and was not a lawful public purpose.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Landowner’s Potential Future Sale of Lot Irrelevant to Determination of Whether Property Residential

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Hogan v. Board of County Commissioners on Thursday, June 14, 2018.

Property Tax—Residential Property.

The Hogans own three connected and contiguous parcels of land in Summit County (the County). Lot 1 has a home built on it. The Hogans built a deck extending from their home across the boundary line onto Lot 2. Lot 3 is located in a subdivision and has an underground sewer line and an unpaved driveway installed by the original developer of the subdivision, but otherwise remains undeveloped. The Summit County Assessor denied the Hogans’ request to reclassify Lot 3 as residential, determining it to be vacant land for purposes of taxation. The Hogans appealed, and the Board of County Commissioners of Summit County (Board) upheld the Assessor’s classification. The Hogans appealed to the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA), which upheld the Assessor’s classification.

On appeal, the Hogans asserted that the BAA erred in determining that Lot 3 was not “used as a unit in conjunction with the residential improvements.” The primary factor for determining property classification for property tax purposes is the property’s actual use on the relevant assessment date. Here, the BAA considered the likelihood of the parcel being conveyed separately, whether the parcel’s use was necessary or essential to qualify as integral, and whether the use of the parcel was active as opposed to passive. The BAA misapplied the law by relying on the possible future conveyance of Lot 3 as a separate unit without reference to how that possibility related to the Hogans’ current use of the parcel. The BAA further erred in interpreting the statute to require that the parcel’s use be a necessary or essential part of the residence. Finally, the use of the contiguous parcel need not be “active” as opposed to “passive.” Here, there is no evidence in the record that Lot 3 was used for a nonresidential purpose.

Lastly, the court of appeals rejected the BAA’s and the County’s arguments that the case could be affirmed on different grounds.

The BAA’s order was reversed and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Foundational Documents Insufficient to Create Homeowners Association for Common Land

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in McMullin v. Hauer on Monday, June 18, 2018.

Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act—Common Interest Communities—Homeowners’ Associations.

The supreme court reviewed the court of appeals’ opinion affirming the trial court’s order finding that the recorded instruments in this case were sufficient to create both a common interest community by implication and an unincorporated homeowners’ association. The court held that the recorded instruments were insufficient under the Colorado Community Interest Ownership Act to create a common interest community by implication. Accordingly, the court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Lieutenant Governor Lynne Signs Final Bills of 2018 Legislative Session

On Wednesday, June 6, 2018, Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne signed the final bills of the 2018 legislative session into law in Governor Hickenlooper’s absence. Lt. Gov. Lynne signed 35 bills into law. During the 2018 legislative session, 421 bills were signed into law, 9 were vetoed, and 2 were sent to the Secretary of State without a signature. The bills signed Wednesday are summarized here.

  • SB 18-015 – “Concerning the ‘Protecting Homeowners and Deployed Military Personnel Act,'” by Sens. Bob Gardner & Owen Hill and Reps. Dave Williams & Larry Liston. The bill directs a peace officer to remove a person from a residential premises and to order the person to remain off the premises if the owner or owner’s authorized agent (declarant) swears to a declaration making specified statements concerning ownership of the premises and the lack of authority for the person or persons who are on the premises to be there.
  • SB 18-038 – “Concerning the Allowable Uses of Reclaimed Domestic Wastewater, and, in Connection Therewith, Allowing Reclaimed Domestic Wastewater to be Used for Industrial Hemp Cultivation and Making an Appropriation,” by Sens. Kerry Donovan & Don Coram and Reps. Daneya Esgar & Yeulin Willett. The bill codifies rules promulgated by the water quality control commission of the Colorado department of public health and environment concerning allowable uses of reclaimed domestic wastewater, which is wastewater that has been treated for subsequent reuses other than drinking water.
  • SB 18-068 – “Concerning Criminalizing False Reports,” by Sens. John Cooke & Kevin Van Winkle and Rep. Jeff Bridges. Under current law, there is a crime of false reporting to authorities. The bill creates a crime of false reporting of an emergency by criminalizing an act of false reporting to authorities that includes a false report of an imminent threat to the safety of a person or persons by use of a deadly weapon.
  • SB 18-225 – “Concerning the Definition of an Early College for Purposes of the ‘Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act,'” by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Millie Hamner. Under the existing statute, an early college is not subject to the requirements of the ‘Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act’. The bill amends the definition of ‘early college’ to specify that an early college must provide only a curriculum that is designed to be completed within 4 years and includes concurrent enrollment in high school and postsecondary courses such that, when a student completes the curriculum, the student has attained a high school diploma and a postsecondary credential or at least 60 credit hours toward completion of a postsecondary credential.
  • SB 18-245 – “Concerning the Disposal of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials,” by Sen. John Cooke and Rep. Jeni James Arndt. Current law allows the state board of health to adopt rules concerning the disposal of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) only after the federal environmental protection agency has adopted rules concerning the disposal of NORM. The EPA has not adopted the rules. The bill repeals this prohibition and requires the state board to adopt rules, which must also regulate technologically enhanced NORM (TENORM), by December 31, 2020.
  • SB 18-250 – “Concerning the Provision of Jail-based Behavioral Health Services, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Sens. Bob Gardner & Kent Lambert and Reps. Pete Lee & Dave Young. The bill continues to allow the correctional treatment cash fund to be used to provide treatment for persons with mental and behavioral health disorders who are being served through the jail-based behavioral health services program.
  • SB 18-251 – “Concerning Establishing a Statewide Behavioral Health Court Liaison Program, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Sens. Bob Gardner & Kent Lambert and Reps. Dave Young & Pete Lee. The bill establishes in the office of the state court administrator a statewide behavioral health court liaison program. The purpose of the program is to identify and dedicate local behavioral health professionals as court liaisons in each state judicial district to facilitate communication and collaboration among judicial, health care, and behavioral health systems.
  • SB 18-255 – “Concerning the Use of Electronic Formats in the Issuance of Certificates of Title for Vehicles,” by Sen. Jack Tate and Reps. Jeni James Arndt & Edie Hooten. Current law provides that a record may not be denied effect merely because it is electronic. The bill clarifies that this applies to documents needed to obtain a certificate of title and electronic signatures.
  • SB 18-259 – “Concerning the Taxation of Retail Marijuana by Local Governments, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Sen. Jim Smallwood and Rep. Dan Pabon. The bill imposes general taxation requirements on local government.
  • SB 18-267 – “Concerning the Creation of the Justice Center Maintenance Fund,” by Sens. John Kefalas & Randy Baumgardner and Reps. Jon Becker & Chris Hansen. The bill creates the justice center maintenance fund that consists of money appropriated by the general assembly to the maintenance fund from the justice center cash fund to be used for controlled maintenance needs of the Ralph L. Carr Colorado judicial center.
  • SB 18-269 – “Concerning Providing Funding for Local Education Providers to Implement School Security Improvements to Prevent Incidences of School Violence, and, in Connection Therewith, Creating the School Security Disbursement Program,” by Sens. Tim Neville & Dominick Moreno and Reps. Patrick Neville & Jeff Bridges. The bill creates the school security disbursement program in the department of public safety. A school district, charter school, institute charter school, or board of cooperative services may apply for a disbursement by submitting an application to the department. A disbursement recipient may use the money for one or more of the purposes specified in the bill, which include building improvements to enhance security and training for school personnel.
  • SB 18-280 – “Concerning a Transfer from the General Fund to the Tobacco Litigation Settlement Cash Fund to be Allocated to the Programs, Services, and Funds that Currently Receive Tobacco Litigation Settlement Money,” by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill requires the state treasurer to transfer $19,965,068 from the general fund to the tobacco litigation settlement cash fund on July 1, 2018. This money is allocated for the 2018-19 fiscal year to the programs, services, and funds that receive tobacco litigation settlement money to supplement the allocation of settlement money that those programs, services, and funds will otherwise receive.
  • HB 18-1042 – “Concerning the Creation of a Program to Authorize Private Providers to Register Commercial Vehicles as Class A Personal Property, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing an Appropriation,” by Reps. Jon Becker & Joann Ginal and Sens. Ray Scott & Rachel Zenzinger. The bill creates the expedited registration program. The program authorizes the department of revenue to promulgate rules authorizing private providers to register interstate commercial vehicles. The provider may collect and retain a convenience fee.
  • HB 18-1077 – “Concerning the Penalty for a Person who Commits Burglary to Acquire Firearms, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Reps. Larry Liston & Donald Valdez and Sens. Leroy Garcia & Ray Scott. In current law, second degree burglary is a class 4 felony, but it is a class 3 felony under 2 specified circumstances. The bill designates a third type of second degree burglary as a class 3 felony: that is, a burglary, the objective of which is the theft of one or more firearms or ammunition.
  • HB 18-1146 – “Concerning the Continuation Under the Sunset Law of the Measurement Standards Law,” by Rep. Jovan Melton and Sen. Don Coram. The bill implements the recommendations of the department of regulatory agencies in its sunset review and report on the measurement standards law by extending the law for 15 years.
  • HB 18-1156 – “Concerning Limitations on Penalties for Truancy,” by Rep. Pete Lee and Sen. Chris Holbert. The bill clarifies in the Colorado Children’s Code and in the ‘School Attendance Law of 1963’ that a ‘delinquent act’ does not include truancy or habitual truancy. A child who is habitually truant and who refuses to follow a plan to rehabilitate his or her truancy may be subject to various sanctions by the court in a truancy proceeding.
  • HB 18-1200 – “Concerning Cybercrime, and, in Connection Therewith, Criminalizing Using a Computer to Engage in Prostitution of a Minor, Criminalizing Skimming Payment Cards, Making Changes to the Penalty Structure for Cybercrime, and Making an Appropriation,” by Reps. Paul Lundeen & Alec Garnett and Sens. Rhonda Fields & Don Coram. The bill changes the name of the crime computer crime to cybercrime. The bill makes soliciting, arranging, or offering to arrange a situation in which a minor may engage in prostitution, by means of using a computer, computer network, computer system, or any part thereof, a cybercrime.
  • HB 18-1218 – “Concerning the Definition of a Charitable Organization for Purposes of State Sales and Use Tax, and, in Connection Therewith, Removing the Limitation that a Veterans’ Organization Only Gets the Charitable Organization Exemption for Purposes of Sponsoring a Special Event, Meeting, or Other Function in the State, So Long as Such Event, Meeting, or Function is Not Part of the Organization’s Regular Activities in the State,” by Reps. Terri Carver & Jovan Melton and Sens. Nancy Todd & Larry Crowder. The bill makes state law consistent with federal law and will treat veterans’ organizations registered under section 501 (c)(19) of the federal internal revenue code the same way as veterans’ organizations registered under section 501 (c)(3) of the federal internal revenue code.
  • HB 18-1234 – “Concerning Clarification of the Laws Governing Simulated Gambling Activity,” by Reps. KC Becker & Paul Lundeen and Sen. Kent Lambert. The bill amends the definitions of key terms such as ‘gambling’, ‘prize’, and ‘simulated gambling device’ as used in the criminal statutes governing simulated gambling devices and specifies that unlawful offering of a simulated gambling device occurs if a person receives payment indirectly or in a nonmonetary form for use of a simulated gambling device.
  • HB 18-1302 – “Concerning the Allowance of the Department of Public Health and Environment to Waive Certification Requirements for Toxicology Laboratories that have been Accredited by an Entity Using Recognized Forensic Standards,” by Reps. Joann Ginal & Lois Landgraf and Sen. Vicki Marble. Current law allows the department of public health and environment to waive certain certification requirements for toxicology laboratories that are accredited by the American board of forensic toxicology or the international standards organization. The bill changes the waiver requirement to allow the department to waive certification requirements if the laboratory is accredited by an entity using nationally or internationally recognized forensic standards.
  • HB 18-1303 – “Concerning Exemption of Nonprofit Youth Sports Organization Coaches from the ‘Colorado Employment Security Act,'” by Reps. Cole Wist & Alec Garnett and Sen. Jack Tate. The bill exempts from the definition of ’employment’ under the ‘Colorado Employment Security Act’ nonprofit youth sports organization coaches if there is a written agreement between the coach and the organization that meets certain requirements, including a statement that the coach is an independent contractor.
  • HB 18-1313 – “Concerning the Allowance of a Pharmacist to Serve as a Practitioner under Certain Circumstances,” by Reps. Joann Ginal & Jon Becker and Sens. Irene Aguilar & Kevin Priola. The bill clarifies that a licensed and qualified pharmacist may serve as a practitioner and prescribe over-the-counter medication under the ‘Colorado Medical Assistance Act’ and a statewide drug therapy protocol pursuant to a collaborative pharmacy practice agreement.
  • HB 18-1314 – “Concerning Prohibiting the Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems to Obstruct Public Safety Operations,” by Reps. Joann Ginal & Polly Lawrence and Sen. John Cooke. The bill states that, as used in the existing criminal offense of obstructing a peace officer, firefighter, emergency medical service provider, rescue specialist, or volunteer, the term ‘obstacle’ includes an unmanned aircraft system.
  • HB 18-1335 – “Concerning the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, and, in Connection Therewith, Establishing Eligibility Requirements for All Counties and Creating a New Formula to Determine the Amount of Block Grants to Counties,” by Rep. Dave Young and Sen. Kevin Lundberg. For providers under the Colorado child care assistance program, the bill requires the state department of human services, in consultation with the counties, annually to contract for a market rate study of provider rates for each county.
  • HB 18-1342 – “Concerning a Requirement that a Common Interest Community Created in Colorado Before July 1, 1992, Comply with a Provision of the ‘Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act’ that Allows a Majority of the Unit Owners in a Common Interest Community to Veto a Budget Proposed by the Executive Board of the Common Interest Community,” by Rep. Jovan Melton and Sen. Nancy Todd. The bill requires a common interest community that predates the Act to allow its unit owners to veto, by majority vote, a budget proposed by the common interest community’s executive board; except that the bill does not apply to a common interest community that predates the Act if the common interest community’s declaration sets a maximum assessment amount or provides a limit on the amount that the common interest community’s annual budget may be increased.
  • HB 18-1350 – “Concerning the Sales and Use Tax Treatment of Equipment Used to Manufacture New Metal Stock from Scrap or End-of-Life-Cycle Metals, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Sen. Kevin Priola. Purchases of machinery or machine tools to be used in Colorado directly and predominantly in manufacturing tangible personal property are currently exempt from state sales and use tax. Manufacturing is currently defined to include the processing of recovered materials. The bill expands the definition of recovered materials to include materials that have been derived from scrap metal or end-of-life-cycle metals for remanufacturing, reuse, or recycling into new metal stock that meets applicable standards for metal commodities sales.
  • HB 18-1363 – “Concerning Legislative Recommendations of the Child Support Commission, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Reps. Jonathan Singer & Lois Landgraf and Sen. Larry Crowder. The bill implements several recommendations from the child support commission.
  • HB 18-1373 – “Concerning the Use of the State Telecommunications Network by Private Entities Through Public-Private Partnerships, and, in Connection Therewith, Relocating Laws Related to the State Telecommunications Network from the Department of Public Safety’s Statutes to the Statutes Regarding Telecommunications Coordination within State Government,” by Reps. Jon Becker & Chris Hansen and Sens. Randy Baumgardner & John Kefalas. The bill authorizes private entities to use the state telecommunications network through public-private partnerships considered, evaluated, and accepted by the chief information officer and relocates laws related to the state telecommunications network from the department of public safety’s statutes to the statutes regarding telecommunications coordination within state government.
  • HB 18-1402 – “Concerning Authorization for the State Treasurer to Invest State Money in Investment Grade Securities Issued by Sovereign, National, and Supranational Entities,” by Reps. Polly Lawrence & Dave Young and Sens. Bob Gardner & Angela Williams. The bill authorizes the state treasurer to invest state money in securities issued by a sovereign, national, or supranational entity that are rated at least investment grade by a nationally recognized rating organization.
  • HB 18-1405 – “Concerning an Exception from the Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Persons Providing Legal Assistance to Area Agencies on Aging,” by Rep. Pete Lee and Sen. Bob Gardner. Under current law, staff, and staff of contracted providers, of area agencies on aging are mandatory reporters of the mistreatment of an at-risk elder or an at-risk adult with an intellectual and developmental disability. The bill creates a mandatory reporter exception for attorneys at law providing legal assistance to individuals pursuant to a contract with an area agency on aging, the staff of such attorneys at law.
  • HB 18-1410 – “Concerning Measures to Address Prison Population Increases,” by Reps. Pete Lee & Leslie Herod and Sens. Kevin Lundberg & Daniel Kagan. The bill requires the department of corrections to track the prison bed vacancy rate in both correctional facilities and state-funded private contract prison beds on a monthly basis. If the vacancy rate falls below 2% for 30 consecutive days, the department shall notify the governor, the joint budget committee, the parole board, each elected district attorney, the chief judge of each judicial district, the state public defender, and the office of community corrections in the department of public safety.
  • HB 18-1421 – “Concerning the Procurement Process for Major Information Technology Projects Undertaken by State Agencies, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Rep. Bob Rankin and Sens. Kent Lambert & Jack Tate. The bill requires internal process changes in connection with the procurement process for major information technology (IT) projects as specified.
  • HB 18-1422 – “Concerning Requirements for Marijuana Testing Facilities,” by Rep. Matt Gray and Sen. Cheri Jahn. The bill requires medical and retail marijuana testing facilities to be accredited pursuant to the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission 17025:2005 standard by a body that is itself recognized by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation by January 1, 2019.
  • HB 18-1429 – “Concerning the Exemption of the Workers’ Compensation Cash Fund from the Maximum Reserve,” by Rep. Millie Hamner and Sen. Kent Lambert. Prior to July 1, 2017, the workers’ compensation cash fund was exempt from the maximum reserve for a cash fund, which limits the year-end uncommitted reserves in a cash fund to 16.5% of the amount expended from the cash fund during the fiscal year. The bill once again exempts the workers’ compensation cash fund from the maximum reserve.
  • HB 18-1437 – “Concerning Eliminating the Requirement that a Person who Participates in College-level Academic Programs through the Correctional Education Program in the Department of Corrections must Bear Entirely the Costs Associated with such Programs,” by Rep. Leslie Herod and Sen. Tim Neville. Under current law, the correctional education program in the department of corrections is required to provide every person in a correctional facility who demonstrates college-level aptitudes with the opportunity to participate in college-level academic programs that may be offered within the correctional facility. The bill removes this stipulation concerning costs and states instead that such costs may be borne through private, local, or federally funded gifts, grants, donations, or scholarships, or by such persons themselves, or through any combination of such funding.

For a list of the governor’s 2018 legislative decisions, click here.

Colorado Supreme Court: No Fraud Where Assignment Clause Made Clear that Buyers Could Assign Interests

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Rocky Mountain Exploration, Inc. v. Davis, Graham & Stubbs, LLP on Monday, June 11, 2018.

Undisclosed Principals—Fraud—Breach of Fiduciary Duty—Restatement (Third) of Agency.

This case arose out of a sale of oil and gas assets by petitioners to a buyer who was acting as an agent for a third company. The third company was represented by respondents, but due to a prior, contentious business relationship between petitioners and the third company, neither the buyer, the third company, nor respondents disclosed to petitioners that the buyer was acting on behalf of the third company in the sale.

After the sale was complete, petitioners learned of the third company’s involvement and sued respondents, among others, for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and civil conspiracy. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment for respondents, and a division of the court of appeals affirmed.

The supreme court here decided whether (1) petitioners could avoid their sale agreement for fraud when the buyer and respondents purportedly created the false impression that the buyer was not acting on behalf of the third company; (2) an assignment clause in the transaction documents sufficiently notified petitioners that the buyer was acting on behalf of others, such that the third company would not be considered an undisclosed principal under the Restatement provision on which petitioners’ contract avoidance argument is exclusively premised; (3) petitioners stated a viable claim for fraud against respondents; and (4) prior agreements between petitioners and the third company negated any joint venture relationship or fiduciary obligations between them.

The court first concluded that the assignment clause in the pertinent transaction documents made clear that the buyer had partners in the transaction to whom it could assign a portion of its interests. As a result, the third company was not an undisclosed principal under the Restatement provision on which petitioners’ rely, and petitioners’ contract avoidance argument and the civil conspiracy claim that flows from it fail as a matter of law. The court further concluded that, even if the Restatement provision did apply, the record did not support a finding that either the buyer or respondents created a false impression that the buyer was not acting on behalf of an undisclosed principal. For this reason as well, petitioners’ civil conspiracy claim failed as a matter of law.

The court next concluded that, as a matter of law, petitioners did not demonstrate the requisite false representation or reasonable reliance to support a viable claim for fraud against respondents.

Finally, the court concluded that the controlling agreements between petitioners and the third company expressly disavowed any pre-existing joint ventures and fiduciary obligations between the parties, and therefore the district court properly granted summary judgment for respondents on petitioners’ claim for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty.

Accordingly, the court affirmed the court of appeals division’s judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Determining Ownership Requires Examining Right to Possess, Use, and Control Property

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Kelly v. Board of County Commissioners on Thursday, May 31, 2018.

Property Tax—Residential Land—Common Ownership—Vacant Land—C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a).

Kelly purchased two adjacent parcels of land in Summit County. She built a home on one parcel and left the subject parcel vacant. Sometime later, Kelly placed the residential parcel in an irrevocable trust and the subject parcel in a revocable family trust. Kelly was the settlor, trustee, and beneficiary of both trusts.

For tax purposes, the Summit County Assessor classified the residential parcel as residential land but the subject parcel as vacant land, which is taxed at a higher rate. In 2016, Kelly appealed the subject parcel’s classification to the Summit County Board of County Commissioners, requesting that it be reclassified as residential under C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a), and sought a tax abatement for the tax years 2014 and 2015. The County denied the petition. The Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA) affirmed, finding that because the two parcels were owned by two separate trusts, they were not commonly owned and therefore the subject parcel did not qualify under the statutory section.

On appeal, Kelly contended that the BAA erred in concluding that the subject parcel was not residential land. She argued that the BAA misconstrued the “common ownership” element of C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a). The statute does not define common ownership, and the Property Tax Administrator has neither defined nor offered guidance to assessors on determining whether parcels are under common ownership. The BAA and the County interpreted “common ownership” to mean the same record titleholder. The court of appeals focused its analysis on the meaning of “ownership,” noting that ownership goes beyond mere record title and focuses on who has the power to possess, use, enjoy, and profit from the property. It concluded that ownership of contiguous parcels for purposes of C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a) depends on a person’s or entity’s right to possess, use, and control the contiguous parcels. Here, the unchallenged testimony that Kelly was the beneficiary, trustee, and settler of both trusts established that Kelly held legal title to and was the equitable owner of both parcels. Further, Kelly testified that she only placed the parcels in the trusts on the advice of counsel for tax and estate planning purposes and that she possessed, controlled, and used the parcels before and after they were placed in trust. The Assessor testified that she considered the parcels separate simply because the names on the trusts were different. The court of appeals concluded that the parcels were under common ownership for tax years 2014 and 2015 and the BAA erred in denying the request to reclassify the subject property.

Kelly also argued that the BAA abused its discretion when it rejected the parties’ stipulation that the contiguous parcels element was not at issue. The BAA’s decision to reject the signed stipulation two months after the close of evidence and without notice to the parties was manifestly unfair.

The BAA’s order was reversed and the case was remanded with directions for the BAA to reclassify the subject parcel as residential land.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Single Notice Addressed to Married Homeowners Deemed Constitutionally Adequate

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Cordell v. Klingsheim on Thursday, May 31, 2018.

Tax Sale—Adequate Notice—Treasurer’s Deed—Due Process—Reinstatement Order.

The Cordells owned a tract of land in La Plata County. After they failed to pay taxes for several years, Heller purchased a tax lien for the property and assigned it to Klingsheim, who later requested a deed from the La Plata County Treasurer. Before issuing the deed, the Treasurer sent the Cordells a copy of the notice of application for a treasurer’s deed by certified mail. The notice was mailed to the Cordells in one envelope, using a New Mexico address listed for the Cordells in the county tax records. A return receipt was received indicating the notice had been received by Mr. Cordell’s mother. The Cordells did not redeem, and the Treasurer issued a treasurer’s deed to Klingsheim.

Sometime later the Cordells learned of the notice and filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that they were the owners of the property and the treasurer’s deed was void. The trial court ruled that the Treasurer had not made a “diligent inquiry” in attempting to notify the Cordells that their land might be sold to satisfy the tax lien and voided the deed. The alternative basis for the decision was that the deed was void because no “separate notice” was mailed to Ms. Cordell. The Court of Appeals previously affirmed the voiding order but did not address the “separate notice” argument. On certiorari review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the Treasurer fulfilled the diligent inquiry duty and the Treasurer’s transmission of the notice by certified mail satisfied due process, and the Court reversed and remanded the case. On remand to the Court of Appeals, the Cordells requested the division to consider the separate notice argument. The division declined to do so, and a mandate was issued reversing the voiding order and remanding the case to the trial court. On remand, the trial court issued a reinstatement order without substantive analysis of its own.

On appeal of the reinstatement order, the Cordells argued that the trial court was not required to reinstate the treasurer’s deed on remand because the Supreme Court’s holding reached only one of the two grounds on which the trial court rested the voiding order. Neither the Supreme Court nor the trial court reached the separate notice issue. Because the issue was not resolved, the Court of Appeals considered whether the trial court’s failure to consider the issue warrants reversal. Here, the Cordells were married and both were receiving mail at the same address. The Court concluded that notice mailed to both record owners in a single piece of mail is constitutionally adequate. Thus, the reinstatement of the treasurer’s deed on remand was proper.

The reinstatement order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Including Landowners in Special District Violated Owners’ Rights to Due Process

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Landmark Towers Association, Inc. v. UMB Bank, N.A. on Thursday, May 31, 2018.

Special District—Taxation—Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights—Due Process—Injunction—Uniform Tax Clause of the Colorado Constitution—Mill Levy—Misappropriation of Bond Sales.

A developer created the Marin Metropolitan District, a special district, to comprise two separate projects, the Landmark Project and the European Village Project. The developer created the District as a means to use owners of condominiums in the Landmark Project to pay for improvements in the European Village Project. As part of his application to Greenwood Village for approval of the District, the developer submitted a Service Plan. Using dubious means and without notice to the Landmark Project buyers, the developer and his associates then voted in an election to organize the District and approve bonds and “taxes” to pay for the bonds. The District sold bonds to Colorado Bondshares. UMB Bank, N.A. held the bond sales proceeds in trust. Among other things, the Service Plan capped the debt service levy for the bonds at 49.5 mills, but the District imposed a levy of 59.5 mills. The developer drew on the funds, but the European Village Project infrastructure was never built.

Landmark Towers Association, Inc., a homeowners association, sued UMB, Bondshares, and the District (collectively, defendants), challenging the creation of the District. Landmark asserted that the special district can’t levy Landmark owners’ properties to pay for bonds issued by the special district, which funded improvements on other property, because the election organizing the special district, approving the bonds, and approving the levies paying for the bonds violated the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) and the Landmark owners’ rights to due process. The district court ruled that the election was illegal; Landmark is entitled to injunctive relief preventing the District’s levy; the District’s mill levy rate exceeds the legal limit; Landmark owners are entitled to a refund of excessive assessments; and Landmark owners are entitled to a “refund” of misappropriated bond sale proceeds. It enjoined the District from trying to collect levies from the Landmark owners and ordered that the owners may recover bond proceeds misappropriated by the District’s creator under TABOR.

On appeal, defendants asserted that the district court erred in finding that including the Landmark Project in the District violated the Landmark owners’ rights to due process. Specifically, defendants argued that the levy was a tax, and property subject to a tax does not need to receive any benefit in return for the tax payments. Colorado law is clear that imposing a special assessment on property that doesn’t specially benefit from the funded improvements violates the due process rights of those property owners. Here, the Landmark project was included in the District only to use it as a payment source for improvements to other property, and Landmark receives no benefit from those improvements. Further, the “tax” is in substance a special assessment because it doesn’t defray the general expenses of government but funds a private venture’s infrastructure. Because the Landmark owners derive no benefit from the improvements, the special assessments violated the owners’ rights to due process.

Defendants also argued that the district court erred in weighing the equities in imposing the injunction. The district didn’t abuse its discretion in balancing the equities.

Defendants further contended that the injunction violated the Uniform Tax Clause of the Colorado Constitution because it means that only some of the property in the district can be taxed. First, it is undisputed that defendants raised this issue for the first time in their motion for reconsideration, which was too late. Second, the Uniform Tax Clause applies only to taxes, not special assessments. Third, the injunction doesn’t obligate the District to do anything with respect to other persons or property outside the Landmark Project. Fourth, the violation of the Landmark owners’ rights to due process under both the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions entitles them to the injunctive relief they request, as a matter of law. Therefore, the district court correctly ruled on this issue.

Defendants also contended that the district court erred in ruling that the District may not levy property taxes in excess of 50 mills. The mill levy rate imposed by the District exceeds that allowed by the statutorily required service plan approved by the City of Greenwood Village. Furthermore, it did not comply with the District’s Service Plan or the financing plan. Therefore, the 59.5-mill-rate levy was illegal.

Finally, defendants contended that the district court erred in ruling that the misappropriation of bond sale proceeds violated TABOR and in ordering a refund of those proceeds because the bond proceeds aren’t “revenue.” The bond proceeds at issue are borrowed funds, not “revenue” within the meaning of the relevant TABOR provision. Further, they aren’t subject to refund because they were lent to the District by a private, outside entity and not collected from property owners. Therefore, the owners may not recover bond proceeds misappropriated by the District’s creator under TABOR. Nor may the owners recover those misappropriated funds under other provisions of the Colorado Constitution because the District is not subject to those provisions. Therefore, the district court erred in ordering refunds of the misappropriated money.

The portion of the judgment ordering TABOR refunds was reversed. The remainder of the judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.