by
Petitioner Jamey Robert Page entered the home of an eighty-six-year-old woman late at night and sexually assaulted her. During the assault, the victim bit Page’s tongue, causing him to bleed on her clothing. A DNA analysis of the victim’s blood-stained clothing revealed that a mixture of DNA was present and that Page’s DNA was the source of a major component. The People charged Page with several crimes related to the assault. As relevant here, the jury found Page guilty of both sexual assault involving an at-risk adult and unlawful sexual contact involving an at-risk adult. The trial court sentenced Page to twenty-four years to life in the custody of the Department of Corrections on the sexual assault charge and eighteen months concurrently on the unlawful sexual contact charge. The issue presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether a conviction for unlawful sexual contact involving an at-risk adult merged with a conviction for sexual assault involving an at-risk adult. The Court concluded that it did. Hence, it reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded this case to the court of appeals with instructions to return the case to the trial court to vacate the defendant’s conviction for unlawful sexual contact. View "Page v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
In this case, the supreme court considers whether a prospective juror’s silence in response to rehabilitative questioning constitutes evidence sufficient to support a trial court’s conclusion that the juror has been rehabilitated. Defendant Bradley Clemens chased his girlfriend out of their home and attacked her with a golf club on the street. He also attacked a bystander who attempted to intervene and stop the assault. The State charged Clemens with second-degree assault, felony menacing, and third-degree assault. Clemens pleaded not guilty, and the matter was tried before a jury. During Clemens’s portion of voir dire, defense counsel questioned the venire members, asking for their thoughts on relevant legal principles. Juror 25 commented that there are “always two sides to the story” and that he would need to hear both sides before making a judgment call. Defense counsel followed up by asking, “if you don’t hear from [Clemens] you have some real concerns as to whether or not you can find him not guilty?” Juror 25 said that was correct. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that a juror has been rehabilitated when, in light of the totality of the circumstances, the context of the silence indicates that the juror will render an impartial verdict according to the law and the evidence submitted to the jury at the trial. Applying this test, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defense counsel’s challenges for cause. View "Colorado v. Clemens" on Justia Law

by
Ryan Frazier ran as a Republican candidate for United States Senate. After the Colorado Secretary of State determined that Frazier had not gathered enough sufficient signatures to appear on the ballot, Frazier challenged the Secretary’s determination under section 1-1-113, C.R.S. (2017), arguing that the Secretary improperly invalidated hundreds of signatures that substantially complied with the Colorado Election Code. Frazier also brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 (2012) arguing that certain Colorado statutes prohibiting non-resident circulators from gathering signatures violated the First Amendment. Frazier filed an accompanying request for attorney’s fees as authorized by 42 U.S.C. 1988 (2012). The district court ruled that the Secretary had properly invalidated certain signatures such that Frazier could not appear on the primary ballot. Frazier then appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which remanded for reconsideration of a number of signatures under the appropriate standard. On remand, the district court found that additional signatures substantially complied with the code, providing Frazier with sufficient signatures to appear on the Republican primary ballot for United States Senate. No ruling was made on Frazier’s section 1983 claim. Frazier then sought attorney’s fees pursuant to section 1988. The Secretary opposed the fee request, arguing that federal claims such as section 1983 may not be brought in summary proceedings under section 1-1-113. The district court disagreed, finding Frazier was entitled to an award of attorney’s fees. The Colorado Supreme Court held that where the language of section 1-1-113 allows a claim to be brought against an election official who has allegedly committed a "breach or neglect of duty or other wrongful act" under the Colorado Election Code, it refers to a breach of duty or other wrongful action under the Colorado Election Code, not a section 1983 claim. "Colorado courts remain entirely open for the adjudication of section 1983 claims, including on an expedited basis if a preliminary injunction is sought, and that therefore section 1-1-113 does not run afoul of the Supremacy Clause." View "Frazier v. Williams" on Justia Law

by
Gordon Roy Butt sought to run for Colorado senate for the Libertarian Party in a 2013 recall election. The Secretary of State denied his request to circulate a petition because his request came after the deadline as then set by section 1-12-117(1). Butt and the Libertarian Party (collectively, “the Party”) sued the Secretary under section 1-1-113, C.R.S. (2017), alleging that the statutory deadline conflicted with the Colorado Constitution. Within the section 1-1-113 proceeding, the Party also raised a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 (2012), and an accompanying request for an award of attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988 (2012), alleging, inter alia, a First Amendment violation. The district court found for the Party on the state constitutional claim, and did not address the section 1983 claim. After the Colorado Supreme Court denied appellate review on a split vote, further proceedings occurred before the district court. The case was appealed once again, and the Supreme Court denied review again. Nine months later, the Party returned to district court seeking summary judgment on its section 1983 claim and, in the alternative, an attorney’s fee award under section 1988 on the ground that the Party had been successful on its state constitutional claim. The district court denied the Party’s request for attorney’s fees, finding that it had not pursued fees in a timely manner. It also dismissed the section 1983 claim as moot due to the General Assembly’s 2014 amendment of section 1-12-117(1). The court of appeals reversed the district court, holding that although the Party’s section 1983 claim was moot, the request for attorney’s fees under section 1988 was appropriate so long as the section 1983 claim was substantial, stemmed from the same nucleus of operative facts as the state constitutional claim, and was reasonably related to the plaintiff’s ultimate success. The court remanded the case to the district court to apply this test to determine whether the Party was entitled to fees. The Colorado Secretary of State appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed: a section 1983 claim may not be brought in a section 1-1-113 proceeding. The language of that section repeatedly refers to "this code," meaning the Colorado Election Code. Therefore, a section 1-1-113 proceeding is limited to allegations of a “breach or neglect of duty or other wrongful act” under the election code itself. § 1-1-113(1). We emphasize that Colorado courts remain entirely open for adjudication of section 1983 claims, including on an expedited basis if a preliminary injunction is sought, and that therefore section 1-1-113 does not run afoul of the Supremacy Clause. View "Williams v. Libertarian Party" on Justia Law

by
Gilbert Naranjo was charged with two counts of felony menacing for pointing a handgun from his vehicle toward the two occupants of another vehicle during a road-rage incident. Naranjo admitted at trial that he handled the gun during the incident but testified that he merely moved the weapon from the front passenger seat to the glove compartment to prevent it from sliding onto the floor and accidentally discharging. At the close of evidence, Naranjo tendered a jury instruction for the lesser non-included offense of disorderly conduct, which, in relevant part, prohibited the intentional, knowing, or reckless display of a deadly weapon in a public place "in a manner calculated to alarm." The trial court refused, and the jury convicted Naranjo of both counts of felony menacing. On appeal, the court of appeals concluded that Naranjo was entitled to the instruction, and reversed the judgment of conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. The State appealed. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded there was no rational basis for the jury to simultaneously acquit Naranjo of felony menacing and convict him of disorderly conduct. Accordingly, the Court reversed the court of appeals. View "Colorado v. Naranjo" on Justia Law

by
The State sought review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing defendant Priscilla Rock’s convictions for second degree burglary and theft. The trial court denied Rock’s request for an additional, lesser-included-offense instruction on second degree criminal trespass, on the ground that second degree criminal trespass was not an included offense of second degree burglary. The court of appeals reversed, concluding both that the trial court erred in denying Rock’s requested instruction and that the error was not harmless with regard to either of Rock’s convictions. The Colorado Supreme Court determined the district court erred in denying the defendant her requested instruction on second degree criminal trespass on the ground that it was not a lesser included offense of the charged offense of second degree burglary, and because erroneously denying Rock’s requested instruction was not harmless with regard to either of her convictions, the judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed. View "Colorado v. Rock" on Justia Law

by
In 2008, Petitioners, five Colorado companies, entered into separate contracts to buy to-be-built condominium units from Respondent, developer One Ski Hill Place, LLC (“OSHP”). Petitioners paid earnest money and construction deposits of fifteen percent of the purchase price of each unit. But Petitioners were unable to obtain financing and failed to close by the agreed-upon 2010 deadline, thereby breaching the Agreements. Each Agreement contained an identical provision governing default (the “Damages Provision”), which provided, in sum, that if a purchaser of a unit defaulted, then OSHP had the option to retain all or some of the paid deposits as liquidated damages or, alternatively, to pursue actual damages and apply the deposits toward that award. This case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review of whether the liquidated damages clause was invalid because the contract gave the non-breaching party the option to choose between liquidated damages and actual damages. The Court held that such an option does not invalidate the clause and instead parties are free to contract for a damages provision that allows a non-breaching party to elect between liquidated damages and actual damages. However, such an option must be exclusive, meaning a party who elects to pursue one of the available remedies may not also pursue the alternative remedy set forth in the contract. View "Ravenstar v. One Ski Hill Place" on Justia Law

by
Parish Carter was convicted of conspiracy to commit first degree murder. The district court denied his motion to suppress statements made in a videotaped interrogation, including his assertion he had not been adequately advised of his Miranda rights. In a “fractured” opinion, the court of appeals affirmed with regard to both of these assignments of error. The Colorado Supreme Court found the Miranda advisement of defendant reasonably conveyed that he had a right to consult with counsel, both before and during any interrogation by the police, and because the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the jury unrestricted access to both a video recording and transcript of the defendant’s custodial interrogation, the judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed. View "Carter v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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