Justia Colorado Supreme Court Opinion Summaries
Fine v. Ward
The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on proposed Initiatives #67 (2021-2022), #115 (2021-2022) and #128 (2021-2022), and whether they violated the single-subject requirement of the Colorado Constitution. Each indicative included provisions that would allow food retailers already licensed to sell beer to also sell wine, and provisions that would authorize third-party delivery services to deliver all alcoholic beverages sold from licensed retailers to consumers at their homes. After review, the Supreme Court determined the Initiatives violated the single-subject requirement, and the Title Board lacked jurisdiction to set titles for them. Accordingly, the Board’s actions were reversed. View "Fine v. Ward" on Justia Law
Chan v. HEI Resources, Inc.
Between 2004 and 2008, respondents HEI Resources, Inc. (“HEI”), and the Heartland Development Corporation (“HEDC”), both corporations whose principal place of business is Colorado, formed, capitalized, and operated eight separate joint ventures related to the exploration and drilling of oil and gas wells. They solicited investors for what they called Los Ojuelos Joint Ventures by cold calling thousands of individuals from all over the country. Those who joined the ventures became parties to an agreement organized as a general partnership under the Texas Revised Partnership Act. In 2009, the Securities Commissioner for the State of Colorado (“the Commissioner”) initiated this enforcement action, alleging that respondents had violated the Colorado Securities Act (CSA) by, among other things, offering and selling unregistered securities to investors nationwide through the use of unlicensed sales representatives and in the guise of general partnerships. The Commissioner alleged that HEDC and HEI used the general partnership form deliberately in order to avoid regulation. Each of the Commissioner’s claims required that the Commissioner prove that the general partnerships were securities, so the trial was bifurcated to permit resolution of that threshold question. THe Colorado Supreme Court granted review in this matter to determine how courts should evaluate whether an interest in a “general partnership” is an “investment contract” under the CSA. The Court concluded that when faced with an assertion that an interest in a general partnership is an investment contract and thus within the CSA’s definition of a “security,” the plaintiff bears the burden of proving this claim by a preponderance of the evidence. No presumption beyond that burden applies. Accordingly, the Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment on the question of whether courts should apply a “strong presumption,” and the Court remanded the case to the trial court for further findings. View "Chan v. HEI Resources, Inc." on Justia Law
Colorado v. Smith
Colorado State Patrol Trooper Christian Bollen, acting on a hunch, initiated a traffic stop on what ended up being a rental car. The vehicle had out of state plates, and because it was a rental, the trooper though the car might be involved in the transportation of illegal narcotics. The driver informed him that she and her passengers were traveling from California to Maryland, but the trooper did not believe that story. Asking the passengers, their respective stories did not match the driver’s. A drug detection dog made no alert on a sniff of the vehicle. Acting on a hunch, the trooper searched the vehicle to find a kilogram of cocaine in the glove box and some fentanyl in a prescription bottle. In this interlocutory appeal brought by the prosecution, the parties agreed that Trooper Bollen performed a lawful traffic stop. The question before the Colorado Supreme Court was whether the district court erred in granting the defendant’s motion to suppress on the ground that Trooper Bollen lacked probable cause to search the vehicle. “Because probable cause to search was measured against an objective standard of reasonableness and cannot be established by piling hunch upon hunch or by ignoring facts that militate against it,” the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Smith" on Justia Law
Colorado in interest of My.K.M. and Ma. K.M.
This termination of parental rights case concerned the “active efforts” required under the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs to assist a parent in completing a court-ordered treatment plan. A division of the Colorado court of appeals reversed a juvenile court’s judgment terminating Mother’s parent-child legal relationship with her two Native American children, holding that the Denver Department of Human Services (“DHS”) did not engage in the “active efforts” required under ICWA to assist Mother in completing her court-ordered treatment plan because it did not offer Mother job training or employment assistance, even though Mother struggled to maintain sobriety and disappeared for several months. The Colorado Supreme Court held that “active efforts” was a heightened standard requiring a greater degree of engagement by agencies, and agencies must provide a parent with remedial services and resources to complete all of the parent’s treatment plan objectives. The Court was satisfied the record supported the juvenile court’s determination that DHS engaged in active efforts to provide Mother with services and programs to attempt to rehabilitate her and reunited the family. The appellate court’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for that court to address Mother’s remaining appellate contentions. View "Colorado in interest of My.K.M. and Ma. K.M." on Justia Law
Parental Responsibilities of: E.K.
The Colorado Supreme Court granted review in this case to consider whether a district court erred in dismissing a a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities (“APR”) filed by Steven Cook (“Stepfather”) for lack of standing. The Court reaffirmed that neither exclusive physical care nor parental consent was required for a nonparent to establish standing to petition for an APR under section 14-10-123(1)(c), C.R.S. (2021), of Colorado’s Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act (“UDMA”). Thus, the Court vacated the district court’s order dismissing Stepfather’s APR petition and its award of attorney fees against Stepfather pursuant to section 13-17-102, C.R.S. (2021), and remanded for further proceedings. View "Parental Responsibilities of: E.K." on Justia Law
Ford Motor Company v. Walker
The plaintiff in this product liability case obtained a money judgment to compensate him for personal injuries he sustained in a car accident. The judgment debtor, the manufacturer of plaintiff’s car, appealed, and a division of the court of appeals reversed the judgment. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the division’s judgment on different grounds and remanded the matter for a new trial. On remand, plaintiff prevailed again, obtaining a new money judgment. The parties agreed that the nine percent interest rate applied from the date of the accident until the date of the appealed judgment (the first judgment). But the parties disagreed on the applicable interest rate between entry of that judgment and satisfaction of the final judgment (the second judgment). The Colorado Supreme Court held that whenever the judgment debtor appeals the judgment, the interest rate switches from nine percent to a market-based rate. "The outcome of the appeal is of no consequence; the filing of any appeal of the judgment by the judgment debtor triggers the shift in interest rate." Further, the Court held that the market-based postjudgment interest on the sum to be paid had to be calculated from the date of the appealed judgment. Thus, the market-based postjudgment interest rate applied from the date of the appealed judgment (the first judgment) through the date the final judgment (the second judgment) is satisfied. View "Ford Motor Company v. Walker" on Justia Law
Owens v. Carlson
The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on the method of calculation employed by the Colorado Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to determine the parole eligibility date for Nathanael Owens, who was serving three consecutive prison sentences. There was no dispute that Colorado law required that Owens’s sentences be treated as a single continuous sentence for purposes of calculating his parole eligibility date. What complicated matters was that one of Owens’s sentences was subject to a statutory provision that rendered him parole eligible after serving 50% of the sentence, while the other two sentences are subject to a statutory provision that rendered him parole eligible after serving 75% of those sentences. The DOC applied the 75% rule to all three of Owens’s consecutive sentences, reasoning that two of them were subject to that rule. But, in so doing, it applied the 75% rule to the sentence that was subject to the 50% rule. A division of the court of appeals nevertheless approved this methodology. Because the division erroneously approved the non-hybrid methodology used by the DOC to calculate Owens’s parole eligibility date, the Supreme Court reversed. However, because the DOC has since recalculated Owens’s parole eligibility date, and because the new calculation was consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion, no further action was required. Accordingly, the Court remanded this case with instructions to simply return the case to the district court. View "Owens v. Carlson" on Justia Law
Colorado v. Trujillo-Tucson
While in police custody, during a pause in an interrogation, Isaiah Trujillo-Tucson waited in an interview room with a non-interrogating officer while the interrogating officer was off getting Trujillo-Tucson a soda. The non-interrogating officer was patting Trujillo-Tucson down without pressing for information while Trujillo-Tucson repeatedly initiated mostly casual conversation. Shortly thereafter, Trujillo-Tucson asked, “Am I able to get a phone call? . . . To my lawyer, [E.K.]?” The officer spoke over Trujillo-Tucson during the latter portion of his question to say, “Yeah.” After a brief silence, casual conversation continued. When the interrogating officer joined the two men in the room to continue questioning, Trujillo-Tucson made incriminating statements. After the State charged Trujillo-Tucson with various offenses, Trujillo-Tucson moved to suppress his statements, arguing that questioning should have ceased because he had invoked his right to counsel. The trial court agreed. The State filed an interlocutory appeal of the trial court’s suppression order arguing that Trujillo-Tucson’s question, posed to the non-interrogating officer, was not an unambiguous and unequivocal invocation of his right to counsel. Based on its independent review of the video- and audio-recorded interrogation, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded Trujillo-Tucson’s question about a phone call to an attorney did not constitute an unambiguous and unequivocal request for counsel during the interrogation. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s suppression order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Trujillo-Tucson" on Justia Law
Chronos Builders v. Dept. of Labor
In the November 2020 election, Colorado voters approved Proposition 118, which established the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (“the Act”). This case concerned whether the Division of Family and Medical Leave Insurance's (“the Division”) collection of premiums under the Act violated section (8)(a) of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (“TABOR”), specifically, whether the premium was an unconstitutional “added tax or surcharge” on income that was not “taxed at one rate.” And, if so, the Colorado Supreme Court was asked whether the Act’s funding mechanism was severable from the rest of the Act. The Supreme Court concluded the premium collected by the Division did not implicate section (8)(a) because the relevant provision of that section concerned changes to “income tax law.” The Act, a family and medical leave law, was not an income tax law or a change to such a law. Moreover, the premium collected pursuant to the Act was a fee used to fund specific services, rather than a tax or comparable surcharge collected to defray general government expenses. View "Chronos Builders v. Dept. of Labor" on Justia Law
McBride v. Colorado
One night, while surveilling an area near a hotel for illegal drug trafficking, a sheriff’s deputy in an unmarked patrol car watched a Lincoln Town Car with two occupants pull into the hotel’s parking lot, park for less than ten minutes without anyone exiting the vehicle, and drive away. As she followed the Lincoln, a second deputy noticed that the car’s tail lamps were broken and that someone had tried to fix them with red tape but that the tape had melted, allowing the bulbs to emit “some white light.” The second deputy also observed the driver of the Lincoln commit what she perceived to be a second traffic infraction, namely, failing to use a turn signal when exiting a roundabout. At that point, the second deputy relayed to a third deputy, what she had seen and asked the third deputy to execute a traffic stop. Petitioner Timothy McBride was identified as the Lincoln's driver, and police found he had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Incident to the arrest, a search of the car netted a baggie containing methamphetamine and a handgun. McBride was charged on weapons and drug possession charges; he moved to suppress all evidence, arguing among other things, that the stop was unlawful because the deputies did not have a reasonable suspicion that McBride had committed any traffic offenses. Specifically, as pertinent here, McBride asserted that section 42-4-206(1) required that a vehicle’s tail lamps emit a red light plainly visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear. He argued that even if the deputies observed a white light, it was inconceivable that they did not also observe a red light, and “there is no statutory prohibition to any white light so long as the red light is visible.” The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the statute was plain and unambiguous: there is liability under that section when a motor vehicle’s tail lamps do not “emit a red light plainly visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear.” Nothing in that section mandated that a vehicle’s tail lamps must “shine only red light.” And because the prosecution did not present substantial and sufficient evidence that would have allowed a reasonable jury to find that the tail lamps of the car that McBride was driving failed to emit a red light plainly visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear, the Supreme Court concluded the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for a tail lamp violation. View "McBride v. Colorado" on Justia Law