Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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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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 Arvada, Colorado police officers responded to a reported domestic disturbance in Terry Ross’s home, Ross went into a bedroom and shot himself. Officers radioed for an ambulance whose crew delivered him to the hospital. There, doctors treated Ross’s wounds as Arvada officers kept watch over him. When Ross, and later his estate, could not pay for his care, the hospital billed the City of Arvada nearly $30,000. The question presented by this case was essentially whether Arvada had to pay the tab. The trial court and court of appeals said yes; both read Colorado’s “Treatment while in custody” statute as entitling the hospital to relief. Relying on Poudre Valley Health Care Inc. v. City of Loveland, 85 P.3d 558 (Colo. App. 2003), the trial court decided the statute assigned police departments (or any agency that detains people) a duty to pay healthcare providers for treatment of those in custody. The court of appeals affirmed on essentially the same grounds. The Colorado Supreme Court, however, concluded the statute did not create any duty to a healthcare provider. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the hospital’s claim for unjust enrichment survived. Because that claim was contractual, the Court concluded the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act did not prohibit it. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Arvada ex rel. Arvada Police Department v. Denver Health" on Justia Law

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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

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In this case, a hearing officer found that claimant Laurie Gomez, who was terminated from her position as public services manager with the Mesa County Public Library District (the “Library”), suffered from acute stress disorder and depression and was mentally unable to perform the work required of her. The hearing officer nevertheless disqualified Gomez from receiving unemployment benefits under section 8-73-108(5)(e)(XX), C.R.S. (2016) because the officer determined that Gomez’s mental condition was caused by her own poor job performance, and therefore, Gomez was ultimately at fault for her separation from employment. Gomez appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (“ICAO”), which reversed. The panel adopted the hearing officer’s finding that Gomez was mentally unable to perform her job duties, but concluded that the hearing officer’s findings regarding the etiology of Gomez’s medical condition were too remote from the proximate cause of her separation, and that scant evidence supported the conclusion that Gomez committed a volitional act to cause her mental incapacity. The court of appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed: neither the text of section 8-73-108(4)(j) nor related case law contemplated further inquiry into the origin or root cause of a claimant’s mental condition, and such an inquiry is beyond the scope of the simplified administrative proceedings to determine a claimant’s eligibility for benefits. View "Mesa Cty. Public Library Dist. v. Indus. Claim Appeals Office" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari review to determine whether “Blunt Wraps,” a type of cigar wrapper made in part of tobacco and designed to be filled with smoking material and smoked, could be taxed as “tobacco products,” as that term was defined in section 39-28.5-101(5), C.R.S. (2016). The Court concluded Blunt Wraps fell within the plan language of the definition of “tobacco products” in the statue at issue, and are taxable accordingly. View "Colo. Dep't of Revenue v. Creager" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Carestream Health, Inc. began purchasing gas transportation services from Public Service Company of Colorado. In 2013, Public Service discovered that it had undercharged Carestream by approximately $1.26 million for those services. When Public Service sought to recover a portion of that amount, Carestream refused to pay. Carestream filed a complaint with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, claiming that Public Service had violated its tariff by failing to use “all reasonable means” to prevent billing errors, as required by the tariff. The Commission disagreed, and the district court affirmed the Commission’s decision. Carestream appealed, arguing that the Commission in effect, improperly added language to the tariff, thereby exceeding the Commission’s constitutionally and statutorily granted authority. Specifically, Carestream contended that the Commission added a requirement that billing errors be foreseeable before Public Service was required to take means to prevent them. Carestream also argued that the district court erred when it held that Carestream lacked standing to pursue a separate claim that Public Service violated its tariff by recovering from its general customer base that portion of the undercharge it was unable to recover from Carestream. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the district court, finding : (1) the Commission properly interpreted the tariff and acted pursuant to its authority; and (2) Carestream lacked standing to challenge Public Service’s recovery of the undercharge from its general customer base because Carestream suffered no injury from the action. View "Carestream Health, Inc. v. Colo. Pub. Utils. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in this matter addressed appeals from two related cases: Gallegos Family Properties, LLC’s petition to de-designate a portion of the Upper Crow Creek Designated Ground Water Basin, and an order awarding the Well Owners a portion of their litigation costs. At issue was whether Gallegos satisfied the statutory standard for de-designating a portion of the Basin set forth in section 37-90-106(1)(a), C.R.S. (2003), and as interpreted by this the Court in Gallegos v. Colorado Ground Water Commission, 147 P.3d 20 (Colo. 2006), and whether Gallegos should have bourne the Well Owners’ costs. The designated groundwater court concluded that Gallegos had failed to make new showings sufficient to justify de-designating a portion of the Basin and taxed Gallegos for a portion of the Well Owners’ costs. The Supreme Court concluded that Gallegos failed to prove by evidence not before the 1987 Commission that the Well Owners were pumping water connected to Crow Creek such that future conditions and factual data justify de-designating a portion of the Basin. Because a party must show connectivity to prove impact, Gallegos failed to meet its burden, and de-designation was improper. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the designated groundwater court’s order denying Gallegos’s petition. Furthermore, because the designated groundwater court properly denied Gallegos’s petition for de-designation, the Supreme Court concluded that the court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the Well Owners were prevailing parties for purposes of C.R.C.P. 54(d), that the costs awarded were reasonable and necessary, and that Gallegos should pay these costs pursuant to Rule 54(d). View "Gallegos Family Properties, LLC v. Colorado Groundwater Commission" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the statutory scheme property taxation of oil and gas leaseholds authorized the retroactive tax assessment in this case. Petitioner Kinder Morgan CO2 Company, L.P., operated oil and gas leaseholds in Montezuma County, Colorado. In 2009, the assessor for Montezuma County issued a corrective tax assessment on these leaseholds for the previous tax year, retroactively assessing over $2 million in property taxes, after an auditor concluded that Kinder Morgan underreported the value of gas produced at the leaseholds. Kinder Morgan appealed, arguing the assessor lacked authority to retroactively assess these taxes because Colorado law did not authorize a retroactive assessment when an operator has correctly reported the volume of oil and gas sold but has underreported the selling price at the wellhead. In affirming the court of appeals in this matter, the Supreme Court further concluded that the Board of Assessment Appeals did not err in determining that Kinder Morgan underreported the selling price by claiming excess transportation deductions, given Kinder Morgan’s relationship to the owner of the pipeline through which the gas was transported. View "Kinder Morgan CO2 Co., L.P. v. Montezuma Cty. Bd. of Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Scott Smith and D. Michael Kopp, both registered electors, appealed the actions of the Ballot Title Setting Board (“Title Board”) regarding the setting of the title and ballot title and submission clause for Proposed Initiative 2017–2018 #4 (“Initiative #4”). Issues for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review were: (1) Initiative #4 contained a single subject; and (2) whether the Supreme Court had authority to review an abstract prepared and submitted to the Title Board as required by section 1-40-105.5, C.R.S. (2016). The Court concluded: (1) the initiative indeed contained a single subject (the limitation of housing growth in Colorado); and (2) section 1-40-107 authorized the Court to review such an abstract. View "In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2017" on Justia Law