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The district court found that the initial contact with both defendants in a parked car constituted an investigatory stop for which the police lacked reasonable articulable suspicion, and it suppressed all evidence acquired after the point of initial contact as the fruit of an unlawful stop. The Colorado Supreme Court found that because the district court failed to appreciate that the officers’ initial contact with the defendants fell short of a stop, and by the point at which the contact progressed to a seizure within the contemplation of the Fourth Amendment, the officers had acquired the requisite reasonable articulable suspicion, and subsequently probable cause, to justify their investigative conduct, or inevitably would have lawfully arrested the defendants and discovered the contraband. The Court reversed both suppression orders and remanded the respective cases for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Fields" on Justia Law

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After Respondent-cross-petitioner Brian Rowland was cited for drunk driving, he argued at his license revocation hearing that section 42-2-126(8)(c) C.R.S. (2017) barred the hearing officer from considering an analyst’s report on his blood alcohol content (“BAC”) because the report was an affidavit and the analyst had not signed it under penalty of perjury. The court of appeals ultimately held that: (1) section 42-2-126(8)(c) required all written statements from non-law enforcement sources to be presented in affidavit form and sworn to under penalty of perjury before they can be considered as evidence in driver’s license revocation hearings; but (2) BAC test results may be admitted at a driver’s license revocation hearing through a law enforcement officer’s testimony even if the laboratory report on which the officer’s testimony is based is inadmissible. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari on both issues, and reversed as to issue one and, as a result, decline to reach the second issue. The Court found that the plain language of section 42-2-126(8)(c) did not require all written statements from non-law enforcement sources to be presented in affidavit form and sworn to under penalty of perjury before they could be considered as evidence in driver’s license revocation hearings. Specifically, no section of the revocation statute expressly required all written reports to be sworn to under penalty of perjury or to meet any other affidavit requirements. However, the Court found the statute did not define the term “affidavit,” and concluded the BAC report in this case was not an affidavit. View "Dep't. of Revenue v. Rowland" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was the narrow issue of whether sovereign immunity barred an award of attorney’s fees against a public entity. The trial court found that the Moffat County Department of Social Services (“the Department”) committed a discovery violation in the course of a dependency and neglect proceeding, and it awarded attorney’s fees to Petitioner C.K. pursuant to Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 37. The court of appeals vacated the fee award, holding that it was barred by sovereign immunity. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed. There are two additional relevant, yet distinct, issues that remained to decide whether an award of attorney’s fees is proper in this case: (1) whether, under the facts of this case, C.R.C.P. 37 applied to proceedings governed by the Children’s Code, and, if it did, (2) whether C.R.C.P. 37 contained the express language required to authorize attorney’s fees against a public entity. While the Court discussed these issues briefly to give context to its holding, ultimate resolution was left to be addressed on remand. View "C.K. v. Colorado in the Interest of L.K." on Justia Law

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The District Attorney brought Joshua Epps to trial on charges related to allegations that Epps had threatened his probation officer. Shortly after a mistrial was declared, the alleged victim’s husband (who was also a witness called by the prosecution at trial) had an antagonistic encounter with Epps in the courtroom. The deputy district attorney prosecuting the case witnessed the encounter and later spoke to the alleged victim’s husband about it. Epps subsequently endorsed the deputy district attorney as a witness both to the encounter and to the statements made to him by the alleged victim’s husband. Epps then sought to disqualify the deputy district attorney on the basis of his expected testimony, which was to be offered to impeach the husband. The State opposed both the effort to call the deputy district attorney as a witness and the motion to disqualify. The district court, however, ruled that Epps would be allowed to call the deputy district attorney to testify at trial and disqualified the entire district attorney’s office, based, in large part, on the State’s alleged failure to object to that proposed action. The State filed an interlocutory appeal. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order because it found the district court relied on an erroneous understanding that the State had not objected to the disqualification. Moreover, the Supreme Court could not say the deputy district attorney’s proffered testimony would have been of sufficient consequence to deny Epps a fair trial. View "Colorado v. Epps" on Justia Law

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Ervin Isom was convicted of sexual assault on a child, adjudicated a habitual sex offender against children, and sentenced to an indeterminate term of forty years to life. The Colorado Supreme Court held that to calculate the maximum permissible minimum end of an indeterminate sentence for a defendant sentenced as a habitual sex offender against children, trial courts must triple the maximum of the presumptive range for the offense and may then double the resulting figure if the court finds extraordinary aggravating circumstances under section 18-3-401(6), C.R.S. (2017). Here, the Court affirmed the court of appeals and concluded the bottom end of Isom’s indeterminate sentence had to be no lower than eighteen years, and could be extended up to thirty-six years if the trial court found extraordinary aggravating circumstances. Isom’s sentence of forty years to life was vacated and the matter remanded for resentencing. View "Isom v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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In 2009, XTO Energy, Inc., filed an interpleader action, seeking to resolve competing claims to oil and gas proceeds held by XTO. XTO named several potential claimants as defendants in the interpleader action, including Seawatch Royalty Partners, LLC (managed by Chester Ellsworth) and several alleged heirs of the record owner of the relevant oil and gas interests. After a bench trial, the court concluded that a group of individuals (deemed the true heirs of the record owner) were entitled to the proceeds. Of relevance to this appeal, the trial court also ruled that Seawatch’s claims and defenses were frivolous; that Seawatch was an alter ego of Ellsworth; and that Seawatch and Ellsworth were jointly and severally liable for any future award of attorneys’ fees. Ellsworth was subsequently joined as a party under C.R.C.P. 21 and served via substituted service. The post-judgment sanctions proceedings continued for another several years. During that time, Ellsworth contested his individual liability, arguing that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over him; that he had been improperly served; and that Seawatch was not, in fact, his alter ego. The trial court rejected these arguments and entered judgment jointly and severally against Seawatch and Ellsworth for approximately $1 million in attorneys’ fees. Ellsworth appealed pro se. In an unpublished opinion, the court of appeals vacated the judgment against Ellsworth, holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hold him jointly and severally liable for the attorneys’ fee award because, as a nonparty, Ellsworth did not have notice and opportunity to contest his individual liability. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded Ellsworth had adequate notice and opportunity to challenge the alter ego findings that established his liability, and reversed the appellate court's judgment. View "Stockdale v. Ellsworth" on Justia Law

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The State of Colorado filed an interlocutory appeal of a district court order suppressing statements made by, and contraband seized from defendant-appellee Brandy Ball. Although the district court found her initial stop to be supported by reasonable articulable suspicion, it nevertheless found that before she made any inculpatory statements, the seizure of her person had exceeded the permissible scope of an investigatory stop; that she was already under arrest by the time she was interrogated without the benefit of Miranda warnings; and that her subsequent consent to search her purse and car was not voluntary. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that the district court either misapprehended or misapplied the controlling legal standards governing investigatory stops, arrests, and custodial interrogations, and because the warrantless searches of the defendant’s car and purse were justified on the basis of probable cause and exigent circumstances, without regard for the voluntariness of her consent or compliance with the dictates of section 16-1-301, C.R.S. (2017), the statute governing consensual vehicle searches in this jurisdiction. View "Colorado v. Ball" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Marin Metropolitan District (the “District”) was a special district created as a vehicle to finance the infrastructure of a proposed residential community. In late 2007, the organizers of the District held an election and approved the creation of the District. At the same time, pursuant to Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (“TABOR”), the organizers voted to approve the issuance of bonds and to impose property taxes to pay the bonds on landowners within the District. A group of condominium owners subsequently learned that their properties had been included in the District under what they believed to be suspicious circumstances and that they had been assessed property taxes to pay the bonds. Acting through their homeowners’ association, respondent Landmark Towers Association, Inc., (“Landmark”) the owners brought two lawsuits: one to invalidate the creation of the District and the other (this case) to invalidate the approval of the bonds and taxes and to recover taxes that they had paid to the District, among other things. The district court ultimately ordered a partial refund of the taxes paid by the condominium owners and enjoined the District from assessing future taxes on the owners in order to pay its obligations under the bonds. Both sides appealed, and the court of appeals concluded, in pertinent part, that Landmark’s challenge to the bond and tax election was timely and that the election violated TABOR and applicable statutes. At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court was whether Landmark’s challenge to the bond and tax election was timely and the election was validly conducted. The Supreme Court reversed, finding Section 1-11-213(4), C.R.S. (2017), required a party seeking to contest an election like that present here to file a written statement of intent to contest the election within ten days after the official survey of returns has been filed with the designated election official. Without that statement, no could had jurisdiction over the contest. Landmark’s challenge to the bond and tax election at issue was time barred, and thus, the Court reversed the judgment below and remanded for further proceedings. View "UMB Bank, N.A. v. Landmark Towers Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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When police officers went to Defendant Sylvia Garcia’s house to do a welfare check on a child, they found an elderly woman in distress on the living room floor. They noticed a padlock on the refrigerator in the kitchen and feces and bugs throughout the house. Medical personnel, additional police officers, firefighters, and a building inspector were called to the residence. Garcia made several statements to the officers at the house, including that she was a caretaker of the elderly woman (her mother) and that the padlock was to keep her brother from eating food in the refrigerator. Garcia was later charged with two offenses relating to neglect of her mother and one count of child abuse. The trial court granted Garcia’s motion to suppress the statements she made during this encounter with the police at her house, concluding Garcia had been subjected to custodial interrogation and had not received a Miranda advisement. The State appealed that order. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded Garcia was not in custody for Miranda purposes during the encounter, and as such, reversed the trial court’s order suppressing the statements. View "Colorado v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether a juvenile court validly terminated a mother’s parent-child legal relationship without first entering a formal written order adjudicating her children as dependent or neglected. The juvenile court accepted the mother’s admission that her children were neglected or dependent, but did not enter a formal order before it terminated the mother’s parental rights approximately a year later. The court of appeals held that the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to terminate the mother’s parental rights because it had not entered the order. The Supreme Court disagreed with the court of appeals that the trial court’s failure to enter an order adjudicating the children’s status as neglected or dependent divested the trial court of jurisdiction. Because the trial court accepted the parents’ admission, the Supreme Court concluded the purpose of the adjudicative process was met and the children’s status as neglected or dependent was established, thus permitting state intervention into the familial relationship. Moreover, both the Department and the mother proceeded as if the court had adjudicated the status of the children: the mother participated in subsequent hearings and attempted to comply with the trial court’s treatment plan; she never sought to withdraw her admission; and she never challenged the trial court’s jurisdiction or otherwise objected below to the trial court’s verbal or written termination orders finding that the children had been adjudicated neglected or dependent. Under these circumstances, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court’s failure to enter an adjudicative order confirming the children’s status as neglected or dependent did not impair the fundamental fairness of the proceedings or deprive the mother of due process. View "Colorado in Interest of J.W." on Justia Law