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The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the district court misinterpreted the “special circumstances” prong of section 20-1-107(2), C.R.S (2016), in finding that the circumstances at issue satisfied the high burden required to bar an entire district attorney’s office from prosecuting a defendant. Prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial District (the “District Attorney”) twice brought the defendant, Maurice Kendrick, to trial on numerous charges related to allegations that he threatened several women with a gun and then fired the gun at two occupied houses. Each trial ended in a mistrial, and after ordering the second mistrial, the district court found “special circumstances” rendered it unlikely that Kendrick would receive a fair trial if he were again tried by the District Attorney. Accordingly, the court disqualified the District Attorney from re-prosecuting the case and ordered that a special prosecutor be appointed to try Kendrick a third time. The Supreme Court found the district court ordered the disqualification of the District Attorney based on the court’s “lingering concern that because the People have [the defense memorandum] in hand, . . . there clearly is at least an appearance that the defendant would not receive a fair trial, if not an actual problem of him not receiving a fair trial.” Insofar as the district court based its ruling on a perceived “appearance” of impropriety, we conclude that the court applied an incorrect legal standard because, as noted above, the appearance of impropriety is no longer a valid basis for disqualifying a district attorney. View "Colorado v. Kendrick" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court held that under section 2(5)(a)(IV) of the Colorado Constitution, a campaign “contribution” required that: (1) something of value (2) be given to a candidate, directly or indirectly, (3) for the purpose of promoting the candidate’s nomination, retention, recall, or election. Here, a school district commissioned and paid for a "white paper" report supportive of the district’s reform agenda using public funds. Petitioner Julie Keim was a candidate for one of four open seats in the 2013 school board election. According to Keim, after the 2009 school board election, the District began implementing a conservative “reform agenda,” which she characterized as “[school] choice-focused” and supportive of charter schools. The 2011 election brought in three additional reform agenda board members; thereafter, the entire board and the District’s superintendent unanimously supported the reform agenda. In 2013, four school board seats were up for election. In February of that year, the District contracted with the American Enterprise Institute (“AEI”) to prepare a white paper about the school system. Shortly thereafter, Keim filed a campaign finance complaint against the District with the Secretary of State alleging the District “violated the [Fair Campaign Practices Act, "FCPA"] . . . by using district resources to influence the outcome of the school board election.” Because the school district did not give something, directly or indirectly, to any candidate when it publicly disseminated an email containing a link to the report, the Supreme Court concluded the school district did not make a prohibited “contribution” under Colorado campaign finance provisions. View "Keim v. Douglas County School District" on Justia Law

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In 2011, a jury convicted Susan Stock of third degree burglary and theft for stealing money from vending machines at the hotel where she worked. The court of appeals reversed Stock’s convictions, concluding that the trial court erroneously denied Stock’s motion to suppress statements she made to a police officer who had entered the hotel room where she lived. Stock’s father, who was Stock’s invited guest in the room, had opened the door on Stock’s behalf in response to the officer’s knock, and moved aside to allow the officer to step a few feet inside the hotel-room door. The officer then requested and obtained Stock’s express permission to come further into the room to speak with her. The court of appeals reasoned that the police officer’s entry into the hotel room was unlawful because Stock’s father lacked authority to consent to the officer’s entry into the hotel room. In reviewing the court of appeals’ decision, the issue presented to the Colorado Supreme Court was whether the officer’s entry into Stock’s hotel room violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. Importantly, this case did not require the Court to decide whether Stock’s father had authority to consent to a full-blown search of the room; rather, the narrower question was whether Stock’s father could consent to the officer’s limited entry a few feet inside the door. On the facts of this case, the Colorado Court concluded Stock conferred authority on her father to consent to the officer’s limited entry. The trial court therefore properly denied Stock’s motion to suppress, and her statements to the officer were admissible at trial. View "Colorado v. Stock" on Justia Law

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While walking past respondent Alexander Trujillo’s home on his way to the playground, petitioner N.M. became frightened when Trujillo’s two pit bulls rushed at the front-yard fence. Although the dogs did not get out of the yard or touch N.M., N.M. ran across the street and was struck by a passing van, which seriously injured him. N.M., by and through his parent and legal guardian, sued Trujillo for, as pertinent here, negligence. Trujillo moved to dismiss that claim, contending that N.M. had not sufficiently pleaded the requisite element of duty. The district court agreed and dismissed the case, and in a split, published decision, a division of the court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari, and found given the circumstances presented here, concluded Trujillo did not owe N.M. a duty of care. Because N.M.’s claim against Trujillo was predicated on Trujillo’s alleged nonfeasance, or failure to act, and because this case was distinguishable from cases in which a dangerous or vicious animal attacks and directly injures someone, N.M. was required to plead a special relationship between himself and Trujillo in order to establish the duty of care necessary to support a negligence claim. View "N.M. v. Trujillo" on Justia Law

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In this case, a hearing officer found that claimant Laurie Gomez, who was terminated from her position as public services manager with the Mesa County Public Library District (the “Library”), suffered from acute stress disorder and depression and was mentally unable to perform the work required of her. The hearing officer nevertheless disqualified Gomez from receiving unemployment benefits under section 8-73-108(5)(e)(XX), C.R.S. (2016) because the officer determined that Gomez’s mental condition was caused by her own poor job performance, and therefore, Gomez was ultimately at fault for her separation from employment. Gomez appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (“ICAO”), which reversed. The panel adopted the hearing officer’s finding that Gomez was mentally unable to perform her job duties, but concluded that the hearing officer’s findings regarding the etiology of Gomez’s medical condition were too remote from the proximate cause of her separation, and that scant evidence supported the conclusion that Gomez committed a volitional act to cause her mental incapacity. The court of appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed: neither the text of section 8-73-108(4)(j) nor related case law contemplated further inquiry into the origin or root cause of a claimant’s mental condition, and such an inquiry is beyond the scope of the simplified administrative proceedings to determine a claimant’s eligibility for benefits. View "Mesa Cty. Public Library Dist. v. Indus. Claim Appeals Office" on Justia Law

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The department of corrections petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing a district court order denying Raymond Fetzer’s petition pursuant to C.R.C.P. 106(a)(2). Fetzer’s petition sought an order compelling the recalculation of his parole eligibility date, asserting that the department’s “governing sentence” method, which calculated his parole eligibility date solely on the basis of the longest of his concurrent sentences, violated the statutory requirement that his multiple sentences be treated as one continuous sentence. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for recalculation, reasoning both that, contrary to the department’s understanding, the statutory continuous sentence requirement applies to concurrent as well as consecutive sentences and that the department’s “governing sentence” method of calculation could not apply to Fetzer’s sentences because they were all subject to the same statutory parole provisions. Because Fetzer’s multiple sentences were not all subject to the same statutory parole provisions, as indicated in the court of appeals’ opinion, reference to a governing sentence, or some comparable means of determining the applicable incidents of his parole, may have remained necessary to the calculation of Fetzer’s parole eligibility date. The judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court’s order was therefore affirmed. Its remand order, directing the department to recalculate Fetzer’s parole eligibility date in accordance with its opinion, however, was reversed, and the case remanded with directions that it be returned to the district court. View "Exec. Dir. of the Colo. Dept. of Corr. v. Fetzer" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari review to determine whether “Blunt Wraps,” a type of cigar wrapper made in part of tobacco and designed to be filled with smoking material and smoked, could be taxed as “tobacco products,” as that term was defined in section 39-28.5-101(5), C.R.S. (2016). The Court concluded Blunt Wraps fell within the plan language of the definition of “tobacco products” in the statue at issue, and are taxable accordingly. View "Colo. Dep't of Revenue v. Creager" on Justia Law

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The district court affirmed petitioner Monica Robert’s county court conviction for harassment. She appealed, arguing that pursuant to the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in Colorado v. Pickering, 276 P.3d 553 (Colo. 2011), self-defense was an affirmative defense to all crimes requiring intent, knowledge or willfulness. The Supreme Court concluded that “Pickering” did not establish the “broad, bright-line rule” that Roberts contended, and was thus unpersuaded by her argument. View "Roberts v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Under Amendment 64, extracting hash oil from marijuana is manufacturing marijuana—not processing marijuana plants—and therefore does not fall within Amendment 64’s protected personal uses of marijuana. When Austin Lente tried to extract hash oil from marijuana using butane, the butane exploded, engulfing his laundry room in flames. He would later be charged with processing or manufacturing marijuana or marijuana concentrate in violation of section 18-18-406(2)(a)(I), C.R.S. (2016). The district court dismissed the charge, reasoning Amendment 64 decriminalized processing marijuana and therefore rendered section 18-18-406(2)(a)(I) unconstitutional as applied to Lente. The State appealed directly to the Colorado Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in turn, disagreed with the district court. When Amendment 64 was approved, “processing” marijuana had a settled meaning that excluded hash-oil extraction, and the Court assumed Amendment 64 adopted that meaning. Accordingly, the district court erred in dismissing the charge. View "Colorado v. Lente" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Carestream Health, Inc. began purchasing gas transportation services from Public Service Company of Colorado. In 2013, Public Service discovered that it had undercharged Carestream by approximately $1.26 million for those services. When Public Service sought to recover a portion of that amount, Carestream refused to pay. Carestream filed a complaint with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, claiming that Public Service had violated its tariff by failing to use “all reasonable means” to prevent billing errors, as required by the tariff. The Commission disagreed, and the district court affirmed the Commission’s decision. Carestream appealed, arguing that the Commission in effect, improperly added language to the tariff, thereby exceeding the Commission’s constitutionally and statutorily granted authority. Specifically, Carestream contended that the Commission added a requirement that billing errors be foreseeable before Public Service was required to take means to prevent them. Carestream also argued that the district court erred when it held that Carestream lacked standing to pursue a separate claim that Public Service violated its tariff by recovering from its general customer base that portion of the undercharge it was unable to recover from Carestream. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the district court, finding : (1) the Commission properly interpreted the tariff and acted pursuant to its authority; and (2) Carestream lacked standing to challenge Public Service’s recovery of the undercharge from its general customer base because Carestream suffered no injury from the action. View "Carestream Health, Inc. v. Colo. Pub. Utils. Comm'n" on Justia Law