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Believing that the decision to stop paying teachers for English Learning Acquisition (ELA) training violated a series of the parties’ Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs), the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) pursued a grievance against the District that was referred to nonbinding arbitration and resulted in a recommendation in favor of the DCTA. Because the District declined to adopt that recommendation, however, the DCTA brought this suit asserting a breach-of-contract claim against the District. The trial court ruled that the relevant provisions of the CBAs were ambiguous and that their interpretation was, therefore, an issue of fact for the jury. The jury, in turn, found the District liable for breach of contract and awarded damages to the DCTA. A division of the court of appeal subsequently affirmed the judgment of the trial court. After its review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded interpretation of the CBAs was properly submitted as an issue of fact to the jury because the CBAs were ambiguous regarding payment for ELA training. “[B]ecause the CBAs are fairly susceptible to being interpreted as expressly requiring compensation for ELA training, we cannot conclude that the management rights clause includes the right to refuse to pay for ELA training.” View "School Dist. No. 1 v. Denver Classroom Teachers Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission properly declined to engage in rulemaking to consider a rule by Respondents, a group of youth activists who proposed a rule that, among other things, would have precluded the Commission from issuing any permits for drilling oil and gas wells “unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent, third-party organization confirms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife, and land resources, does not adversely impact human health, and does not contribute to climate change.” The Commission declined to engage in rulemaking to consider this proposed rule because, among other things: (1) the rule would have required the Commission to readjust the balance purportedly crafted by the General Assembly under the Act and conditioned new oil and gas drilling on a finding of no cumulative adverse impacts, both of which the Commission believed to be beyond its statutory authority; and (2) the Commission was already working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (“CDPHE”) to address the concerns to which the rule was directed and other Commission priorities took precedence over the proposed rulemaking at this time. Respondents challenged the Commission’s ruling in the Denver District Court, but that court ultimately upheld the Commission’s decision. Respondents appealed, and, in a split, published decision, a division of the court of appeals reversed the district court’s order. The Supreme Court concluded the Commission properly declined to engage in rulemaking to consider Respondents' proposed rule: (1) deferring to the agency's decision; (2) finding the Commission correctly determined that, under the applicable language of the Act, it could not properly adopt the rule proposed by Respondents; and (3) the Commission reasonably relied on the facts that it was already working with the CDPHE to address the concerns underlying Respondents’ proposed rule and that other Commission priorities took precedence at this time. View "Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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In 2014, the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services (the Department) was ordered to take custody of D.Z.B. and house him in a particular facility pending his delinquency adjudication. Believing that the district court order imposed a duty on it that was in violation of statutory requirements, the Department appealed that order. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal, concluding that the Department, as a non-party to the delinquency proceedings, lacked standing to appeal the order. In reaching that conclusion, the Colorado Supreme Court determined the district court conflated the test to evaluate whether a plaintiff has standing to bring a lawsuit with the test to determine whether a non-party has standing to appeal a decision of a lower court. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the division to apply the correct standing analysis and to consider any other remaining arguments. View "Colorado in Interest of D.Z.B." on Justia Law

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Whites Corporation donated a conservation easement (CE), and transferred a portion of the resulting CE tax credit to John and Debra Medved. In 2006, the Medveds filed a return claiming the credit. In 2007, Whites Corporation claimed the credit. In 2011, the Colorado Department of Revenue (the Department) disallowed the credit in its entirety. The Medveds claimed the Department acted too late because their 2006 filing triggered the four-year limitations period within which the Department could invalidate a CE tax credit. The Department disagreed, claiming that Whites Corporation’s 2007 filing triggered the limitations period, and therefore the disallowance stood. The Colorado Supreme Court determined that the plain language of the applicable regulation meant the statute of limitations period began when the CE donor claimed the CE tax credit. This accrual applied to and bound any transferees of the credit. So, the limitations period here began when Whites Corporation filed its tax return in 2007, and the Department’s disallowance occurred before the period expired. The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Medved" on Justia Law

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While driving down a highway, a Colorado State Patrol (CSP) trooper observed another driver flash her turn signal twice over a distance of less than 200 feet and then change lanes. Apparently believing he’d just witnessed an illegal lane change, the trooper stopped the car in which defendant Devon Burnett rode as passenger. A subsequent search of the car revealed a handgun, drug paraphernalia, and suspected methamphetamine. As a result, Burnett was charged with multiple offenses, including possession with intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance and possession of a weapon by a previous offender. Burnett filed a motion to suppress the evidence found during the search that flowed from the stop for the allegedly illegal lane change. He argued that the applicable statute governing turning movements and required signals, didn't signaling at a minimum distance before changing lanes; therefore, the trooper did not have reasonable suspicion to stop the car. The trial court agreed and suppressed the fruits of the search. The State appealed, but the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the suppression order, finding the trooper's construction of the applicable statue was objectively unreasonable: the plain language of the statute clearly distinguished between turns and lane changes, and the statute did not require a driver to signal continuously for any set distance before changing lanes on a highway - it only required a driver use a signal before changing lanes. View "Colorado v. Burnett" on Justia Law

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Nineteen-year-old J.L. was reported missing after she failed to return home on the evening of October 10, 2008. Following a search of the family computer, officers from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPCS) determined that J.L. received a message through an online social–network platform, from a person with the username “Rex290.” The message suggested that the two “get together” the following day. The police identified “Rex290” as defendant Robert Hull Marko, a soldier stationed at Fort Carson. Marko would ultimately be convicted by jury of J.L.'s first degree murder and sexual assault. Marko appealed, arguing: (1) the trial court impermissibly denied his request to strike a juror for cause because of that juror’s views on the defense of not guilty by reason of insanity; and (2) he was in custody and under interrogation before he was informed of his Miranda rights such that certain statements he made should have been excluded at trial. Because the Colorado Supreme Court disagreed with both of Marko’s contentions, it affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, though on different grounds. View "Marko v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Jared Cowen owned a semi-truck that needed extensive maintenance. To pay the $37,485.65 repair bill, Cowen borrowed $15,000 from his brother and wrote two checks from his company’s bank account, one for $9,327.65 and the other for $13,158.00. Cowen admitted at trial that he knew he did not have sufficient funds to cover the checks when he wrote them, and his bank records corroborated his testimony. Believing it had been paid in full when it received Cowen’s checks, the repair shop released the semi-truck to him. A few days later, it learned that both of Cowen’s checks had failed to clear and that Cowen had issued a stop-payment on them. Cowen was thereafter charged with two counts of fraud by check: one count for each of the checks. He defended against the charges by asserting that he did not intend to defraud the repair shop. The jury convicted Cowen of the charge related to the first check, but acquitted him of the charge related to the second check. As part of Cowen’s sentence, the State requested restitution in the amount of $22,485.65, the total amount of the two checks. Cowen objected to any restitution being imposed for pecuniary losses suffered by the repair shop as a result of the second check because he was acquitted of the charge involving that check. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the State's request, finding that they had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Cowen had written both checks knowing he had insufficient funds in his company’s account to cover them. The trial court acknowledged Cowen’s acquittal of the charge related to the second check, but explained that it was “absolutely convinced . . . , by far more than a preponderance of the evidence,” that Cowen knew he had failed to secure the financing company’s loan to fund that check. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether Colorado’s restitution statutes authorized a trial court to order a defendant who has been acquitted of a charge to pay restitution for pecuniary losses caused by the conduct that formed the basis of that charge. A division of the court of appeals upheld the restitution order in an unpublished, unanimous decision. The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate division, however, and reversed. View "Cowen v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review were the insurance proceeds owed to petitioners Rosalin Rogers and Mark Thompson because of a failed property investment orchestrated by their broker-dealer, United Securities Alliance. Ten years into litigation, the issue of the amount of debt at issue has remained at issue, and unresolvable by the courts. United's insurer, Catlin Insurance, was ordered to pay petitioners under a professional liability policy; an appellate court upheld a district court's determination of attorney fees and costs that Catlin could deduct from the liability limit under the policy. The Supreme Court first addressed whether the "Thompson IV" division erred when it upheld the district court’s decision to consider new evidence on remand from Thompson v. United Securities Alliance, Inc. (Thompson III), No. 13CA2037, (Colo. App. Oct. 16, 2014). And Secondly, the Supreme Court addressed whether the Thompson IV division erred when it held that there was no legal basis for awarding prejudgment interest in a garnishment proceeding. As to the first issue, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals; as to the second, it reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Thompson v. Catlin" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a district court’s order compelling production of a recording of petitioner Kayla Fox’s initial consultation with her attorney. The district court determined that the recording was not subject to the attorney-client privilege because her parents were present during the consultation and their presence was not required to make the consultation possible. Further, the district court refused to consider several new arguments Fox raised in a motion for reconsideration. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the presence of a third party during an attorney-client communication ordinarily destroys the attorney-client privilege unless the third party’s presence was reasonably necessary to the consultation, unless another exception applies. On the facts of this case, the district court did not err when it found that Fox had not shown the requisite necessity to preserve her claim of privilege. Nor did the district court abuse its discretion in declining to consider Fox’s new arguments raised for the first time in her motion for reconsideration. View "In re Fox v. Alfini" on Justia Law

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Christopher Mountjoy was convicted of reckless manslaughter, illegal discharge of a firearm, and tampering with physical evidence after he shot and killed V.M. outside of a motorcycle clubhouse. During sentencing, the trial court found that each crime involved extraordinary aggravating circumstances. As a result, the trial court doubled the statutory presumptive maximum of each sentence. Mountjoy appealed, arguing his sentences violated his constitutional rights to due process and trial by jury under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004). The court of appeals avoided the question of whether Apprendi and Blakely had been satisfied and concluded that, even assuming they were not satisfied, any error was harmless. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds: the trial court did not deny Mountjoy his rights to due process and trial by jury when it relied on facts found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt on charges related to the offenses for which the aggravated sentences were imposed. View "Mountjoy v. Colorado" on Justia Law