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Centennial Water and Sanitation District appealed a water court order dismissing its objection to the Well Augmentation Subdistrict’s ("WAS") proposal to use additional sources of replacement water for its previously decreed augmentation plan. Centennial had asserted that WAS failed to comply with the notice requirements of the decree itself and that this failure amounted to a per se injury, for which it was entitled to relief without any further showing of operational effect. The water court heard Centennial’s motion objecting to WAS’s proposed addition of new sources of replacement water and, without requiring WAS to present evidence, found that Centennial failed to establish prima facie facts of WAS’s inability to deliver augmentation water in quantity or time to prevent injury to other water users. Referencing C.R.C.P. 41 as the appropriate procedural vehicle, the water court dismissed Centennial’s objection. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the water court: the water court’s jurisdiction was statutorily limited to preventing or curing injury to other water users, and the evidence presented by Centennial failed to establish that WAS would be unable, under the conditions imposed by the Engineer for approval of the additional sources of replacement water, to deliver augmentation water sufficient to prevent injury to other water users. View "Well Augmentation Subdist. v. Centennial Water & Sanitation Dist." on Justia Law

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A district court denied Elizabeth Tafoya a preliminary hearing. Tafoya was accused of a class four felony, DUI (fourth or subsequent offense). She requested a preliminary hearing on that charge, but the district court found the DUI count was substantively a misdemeanor that could only be elevated to felony by a sentence enhancer--here, as a fourth or subsequent offense. The Colorado Supreme Court determined, however, under the plain language of the applicable statute, Tafoya was entitled to a preliminary hearing, and the district court erred in denying her request. View "In re Colorado v. Tafoya" on Justia Law

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Brooks Tower was comprised of 566 residential units, 13 commercial units, and 297 associated garage units. Plaintiff Anthony Accetta and his wife owned a condominium in the Tower. All Brooks Tower unit owners are governed by a Declaration, which allocated condominium fees among the unit owners based on the “value” of each unit. As pertinent here, this value (1) “may or may not be the list price of the Unit as quoted to prospective third-party purchasers” as of the date of the declaration; (2) was determined “in Declarant’s sole and arbitrary discretion”; (3) was to be used for the purpose of computing the unit owners’ percentage interests in Brooks Tower’s common elements; and (4) “shall be final and conclusive.” Accetta claimed his unit was allocated association dues that were over fifty percent higher than the dues allocated to comparable units, and that this misallocation resulted in hundreds of dollars in monthly overcharges. Accordingly, he filed the underlying action against the Brooks Towers Residences Condominium Association, Inc. seeking, among other things, a declaratory judgment invalidating the portion of the Declaration allowing the Declarant to allocate values in its “sole and arbitrary discretion,” rather than by way of a formula that allocates percentage ownership consistently among comparable units. The district court ordered plaintiff to join the approximately 500 individual unit owners in Brooks Tower as indispensable parties to his suit, rather than proceeding solely against the Association. The Colorado Supreme Court determined the Association could adequately represent the interests of the absent unit owners for the purposes of Accetta's declaratory judgment claim in this case, and according, he needed not to join those owners as parties. The Court reversed the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Accetta v. Brooks Towers" on Justia Law

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Police witnessed a car driven by Respondent Simon Kubuugu exit a parking lot, pull into traffic, and make a U-turn that forced other drivers to swerve to avoid hitting him. Kubuugu drive slowly past the police car, and parked in an apartment complex. Kubuugu's seven-year-old child was in the car. The officer went over to Kubuugu’s car to make contact with him, and Kubuugu reacted by backing his car over a bush, apparently in an attempt to leave the apartment complex. That attempt failed because the exit was blocked by a second police car that had responded to a call for assistance. Kubuugu then got out of his car and quickly walked away with a beer can in his hand, leaving his child in the car. Eventually, Kubuugu was stopped. Another deputy searched Kubuugu’s car and found two or three empty beer cans. The record did not reflect a breath or blood alcohol test or any sobriety test was performed, but Kubuugu was arrested and charged with criminal impersonation, child abuse, driving under restraint, reckless driving, and driving under the influence. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the trial court abused its discretion when it allowed the officer to testify as a lay witness about his ability to detect the smell of metabolized alcohol and, based on that metabolized odor, opine on how much alcohol the defendant ingested and when he did so. The Court found that while there was properly admitted evidence suggesting that Kubuugu was drinking and driving, such as his erratic driving, the beer can in his hand, and the empty beer cans in his car, there was also evidence to suggests that Kubuugu was not intoxicated, such as his speech not being slurred and that his walking did not indicate any alcohol impairment. Ultimately, the Court concluded the trial court improperly admitted the officer's testimony as expert testimony. Because that testimony was the only evidence that specifically refuted Kubuugu’s testimony that he began drinking after he parked his car in the apartment complex, the error was not harmless. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals which affirmed the trial court, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Kubuugu" on Justia Law

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H.J. completed her grocery shopping at a Target store in Arvada and walked to her car. Defendant-appellee, sixteen year old Dominic Barrios was also at the Target. After H.J. entered her vehicle, Barrios opened the back door, got in the back seat, put his arm around H.J.’s throat, pulled out a knife, and told her to drive. During the encounter, Barrios took money from H.J. and drove her car to several different locations before ending up at a secluded area, where he demanded that she undress, fondled her intimate parts, and forced her to fondle his. After driving to another isolated area, Barrios disabled H.J.’s phone and left her with her keys and her car. H.J. then drove to a friend’s house and contacted the police. Fingerprint evidence found on the car matched those for Barrios, who was found at his great-grandmother's home. At the police station, over the course of just under an hour, Barrios told police his version of what happened and corroborated much of what H.J. had told police. At times, Barrios disagreed with H.J.’s version of events, especially the allegations that he used a knife and sexually assaulted her. By the end of the interview, however, Barrios implicated himself in several serious offenses. Ultimately, the State charged Barrios as an adult with eighteen criminal counts, including kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and sexual assault. At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court was whether the police sufficiently advised Barrios and his legal guardian of his rights before he waived his Miranda rights and agreed to talk to the police, and whether his waiver was reliable under the totality of the circumstances. The trial court found that the prosecution failed to establish a reliable Miranda waiver for Barrios under section 19-2-511, C.R.S. (2018), and it ordered that his statements be suppressed. The Supreme Court held that the police detective complied with section 19-2-511 when he advised Barrios and his legal guardian prior to Barrios’s waiver and that, under the totality of the circumstances, the concerns identified by the trial court did not undermine the reliability of the waiver. Therefore, the Court reversed the suppression order, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Barrios" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Della Gallegos had to undergo three cranial surgeries after her radiologist, Dr. Steven Hughes, failed to detect an obvious brain tumor on an MRI scan three years earlier. Had Dr. Hughes discovered the tumor in 2006, Gallegos could have treated it with cheaper, and less invasive, radiosurgery. The highly invasive cranial surgeries damaged Gallegos’s vision, hearing, and memory. Gallegos retained attorney Patric LeHouillier to sue Dr. Hughes for medical malpractice. But LeHouillier later decided not to proceed with the suit, concluding it did not make economic sense. He and Gallegos disagreed over whether he actually informed her of this decision, and the statute of limitations lapsed on the claims Gallegos could have brought against Dr. Hughes. Gallegos thereafter brought this attorney malpractice case against LeHouillier and his firm, claiming that LeHouillier’s negligence prevented her from successfully suing Dr. Hughes for medical malpractice. The question before the Colorado Supreme Court involved who bore the burden to prove that any judgment that could have been obtained against Dr. Hughes would have been collectible. The Supreme Court concluded that because the collectibility of the underlying judgment was essential to the causation and damages elements of a client’s negligence claim against an attorney, it held the client-plaintiff bore the burden of proving that the lost judgment in the underlying case was collectible. Here, the record reflected Gallegos failed to present sufficient evidence of collectibility. However, given the absence of a clear statement from the Supreme Court regarding plaintiff's burden to prove collectibility at the time of trial, and because the issue was not raised in this case until after Gallegos had presented her case-in-chief, the Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded for a new trial. View "LeHouillier v. Gallegos" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court in this case was whether Patrick Wood suffer simultaneous convictions for first-degree felony murder (a class 1 felony) and second-degree murder (a class 2 felony) in 1987 for the death of the same victim. In addressing Wood’s double jeopardy claim, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit answered the first question in the affirmative and addressed the second question by conditionally granting Wood’s habeas corpus petition. As a result, it remanded the case to the federal district court with instructions to vacate the first-degree murder conviction and allow the second-degree murder conviction to remain in place, unless the state district court decided within a reasonable time which of the two murder convictions to vacate. The Colorado Supreme Court determined the Tenth Circuit misread Wood’s mittimus, and that error set in motion a "Palsgrafian chain of rippling events" that ultimately landed the case back before the Colorado Supreme Court. Wood’s mittimus actually reflected a single murder conviction: for first-degree felony murder. Thus, no double jeopardy error existed, and no remedy was necessary. "[T]he only error was in believing there was an error." View "Colorado v. Wood" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether a water court had jurisdiction to consider a claim for inverse condemnation alleging a judicial taking of shares in a mutual ditch company. The water court dismissed plaintiff-appellant Sam Allen’s inverse condemnation claim, concluding that his claim was “grounded in ownership and the conveyance of that ownership, not use,” and therefore the claim was not a water matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of the water court. The Supreme Court agreed, and thus affirmed the water court’s dismissal order. View "Allen v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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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