Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court

by
Defendant met his victim "ML" while standing in line at a store. A few days later, he and ML went out for dinner and drinks. Instead of driving ML to her car at the end of the date, defendant drove ML to a secluded location and sexually assaulted her. A jury would convict defendant of felonious sexual assault for which he was sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of eight years to life, and designated as an SVP. Defendant appealed his conviction, sentence, and SVP designation to the court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed the sexual assault conviction, but held that the trial court erred when it designated defendant as an SVP without making the factual findings required by the SVP statute. The court of appeals remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to make the factual findings of whether defendant was an SVP. Defendant took issue with the trial court's finding that he "established a relationship" with the victim with the intent of assaulting her to satisfy that criterion of the SVP statute. After applying its interpretation of the relationship criterion to the record in this case, the Court held that the trial court made the appropriate specific findings and correctly designated defendant as a SVP. View "Candelaria v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether the appellate court erred including that where reasonable attorney fees were provided for in a contract, and the judgment based on that contract was reduced by a counterclaim arising out of the transaction, the trial court must apportion the fees according to the amount recovered on the contract less the amount received in the counterclaim. The Court concluded that under the circumstances of this case, determining whether and how to apportion fees between the parties is within the trial court's discretion, and can only be overturned by an abuse of that discretion. View "Planning Partners Int'l, LLC v. QED, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Defendant Rhoderick Flockhart was convicted of distribution of marijuana and possession of eight ounces or more. On appeal, the appellate court ruled on three issues: (1) the court reversed defendant's convictions because the trial court instructed the jury before deliberating; (2) the trial court erred by requiring defendant to raise and argue his challenges for cause in front of the prospective jurors; and (3) affirmed the trial court's order denying defendant's motion to disqualify the judge. The Supreme Court, after its review of the trial court proceedings, concluded: (1) that the trial court erred in giving pre-deliberation instructions, but that the error was harmless; (2) the trial court can, in its discretion, conduct venire challenges for cause in open court; and (3) the trial court did not err in denying defendant's motion to disqualify the trial judge. View "Colorado v. Flockhart" on Justia Law

by
This case arose from Petitioner Brandon Allen's designation as a sexually violent predator (SVP). The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's SVP designation and held that the trial court could designate an offender as an SVP even if the offender was deemed unlikely to recidivate based on his low score on the Sex Offender Management Board's risk assessment screening instrument. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court makes the ultimate SVP designation, but should give substantial deference to the scored Screening Instrument. A trial court that deviates from the results of the scored Screening Instrument must make specific findings on the record to demonstrate the necessity of the deviation. View "Allen v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ ruling in favor of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ interpretation of CRS 39-4-102. The Court held that Qwest Corporation as a public utility, is valued centrally and therefore was not entitled to the intangible property exemption or the cost cap valuation method found elsewhere in Colorado’s tax statutes. The Court also held that this valuation method did not violate Qwest’s constitutional guarantee under the Equal Protection Clause nor did it violate Qwest’s rights under the Uniform Taxation Clause of the Colorado Constitution. View "Qwest v. Colorado Division of Property Taxation" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that CRCP 26(b) requires a trial court take an active role managing discovery on questions of scope. The trial court must determine the appropriate scope of discovery in light of the reasonable needs of the case and tailor discovery to those needs. To resolve a dispute regarding the proper scope of discovery, the trial court should, at a minimum, consider the cost–benefit and proportionality factors set forth in CRCP 26(b)(2)(F). The Court also held that title opinions may contain privileged attorney–client communications if the parameters of that doctrine are met. View "In re DCP Midstream, LLP v. Anadarko Petroleum Corporation" on Justia Law

by
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on two water rights cases involving Raftopoulos Brothers (Raftopoulos) and Vermillion Ranch Limited Partnership (Vermillion). In Case No. 11SA86, the Court vacated the portions of the water court’s order interpreting the phrase "all other beneficial uses" in a 1974 change decree regarding Raftopoulos’s absolute water rights and whether Raftopoulos had abandoned any right to use the decreed water for commercial or industrial purposes. The Court reversed the portion of the water court’s order decreeing Raftopoulos’s requested new conditional water storage rights to the extent the decree permits the water to be used for industrial and commercial purposes. In Case No. 11SA124, the Court reversed the water court’s order granting Vermillion’s application for a finding of reasonable diligence for previously decreed conditional water storage rights and granting Vermillion’s application for a new conditional water storage right. View "Vermillion Ranch Limited Partnership v. Raftopoulos Brothers" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Dennis Shaw and First Horizon Home Loan Corporation challenged an appellate court's ruling that "constructive fraud" was sufficient to void a request for release of a deed of trust, arguing that actual fraud is required under CRS 38-39-102(8). The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the statute creates a narrow exception that voids the public trustee’s release of a deed of trust only when proof of actual fraud is demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence. View "Shaw v. 17 West Mill St." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court considered a reformulated certified question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit: whether Colorado’s premises liability statute applied as a matter of law only to activities and circumstances directly or inherently are related to the land. The Supreme Court held that the statute is not restricted solely to activities and circumstances that are directly or inherently related to the land. Instead, the Court held that the premises liability statute applied to conditions, activities, and circumstances on the property that the landowner is liable for in its legal capacity as a landowner. View "Larrieu v. Best Buy Stores, L.P." on Justia Law

by
Creditors-plaintiffs sued a Colorado LLC claiming the LLC authorized a distribution to members that bankrupted the company and left it unable to pay them. The defendants moved to dismiss plaintiffs' claims of unlawful distribution and breach of fiduciary duty, arguing that no creditor had a right to sue for the distribution, nor a right to claim breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court granted the defendants' motion; the appellate court reversed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that under Colorado law, LLC members are liable to the LLC, but not the LLC's creditors. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the manager of an insolvent LLC does not owe the creditors the same duty an insolvent corporation's directors owe a corporation's creditors. Accordingly, the Court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the trial court's order. View "Weinstein v. Colborne Foodbotics, LLC" on Justia Law