Justia Colorado Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Proponents-respondents Monica Vondruska and Jon Caldara submitted proposed Initiative #315 to the Title Board for the setting of a title and submission clause. Initiative #315 proposed to add section 22 to article X of the Colorado Constitution and to amend certain statutory provisions in Titles 24 and 39 of the Colorado Revised Statutes in order to create a new preschool program. This program would be created by reallocating revenue generated by existing state taxes on tobacco products and tobacco litigation settlements and by levying a new sales tax on tobacco-derived nicotine vapor products. Petitioner Anna Jo Haynes then filed a motion for rehearing, asserting that the title did not satisfy either the single subject or clear title requirement. Upon review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the title that the Title Board set for Initiative #315 presented a single subject, namely, the creation and administration of a Colorado preschool program funded by state taxes on nicotine and tobacco products. Furthermore, the Court concluded the title satisfied the clear title requirement because it described Initiative #315’s central features succinctly, accurately, and fairly and in a manner that will not mislead voters. View "In re Title, Ballot Title & Submission Clause for 2019 (Initiative 315)" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Court of Appeals dismissed Christopher Sullivan's appeal, finding that it was barred by the plea proviso, rejecting Sullivan's claim the plea proviso did not apply because his appeal involved the manner in which the sentence was imposed, not "the propriety of the sentence." The appellate court surmised an appeal related to the manner in which the sentence was imposed was an appeal regarding the propriety of the sentence. The issue presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether "propriety of the sentence" as that phrase was used in C.R.S. 18-1-409(1), encompassed the manner in which the sentence was imposed. The Supreme Court held that “the propriety of the sentence,” as that phrase was used in the plea proviso, did not comprehend the manner in which the sentence was imposed (i.e., the propriety of the sentencing proceeding). Because Sullivan’s appeal concerned the manner in which his sentence was imposed, it was not barred by the plea proviso. Therefore, the Court reversed the appellate court's judgment. View "Sullivan v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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The Colorado State Engineer, and the Division Engineer for Water Division 3 (the “Engineers”), brought claims against Nick Meagher for injunctive relief, civil penalties, and costs, arising from Meagher’s failure to submit Form 6.1, "Water Use Data Submittal Form," as required by Rule 6.1 of the Rules Governing the Measurement of Ground Water Diversions Located in Water Division No. 3, The Rio Grande Basin (the “Measurement Rules”). Meagher appealed the water court’s orders denying his motion to dismiss the Engineers’ claims and granting the Engineers summary judgment on those claims, contending the court erred by: (1) denying his motion to dismiss because the Engineers’ claims were mooted by his ultimate submission of Form 6.1; (2) granting summary judgment for the Engineers based on an erroneous interpretation of Rule 6.1 and section 37-92-503, C.R.S. (2019), and notwithstanding the existence of genuine issues of material fact as to his culpable mental state and the amount of the civil penalties to be imposed; (3) enjoining future violations of Rule 6.1; and (4) awarding costs and fees to the Engineers. Finding no reversible error, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the water court's judgment. View "Colorado v. Meagher" on Justia Law

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Brittany Harrison was charged with possession of two controlled substances and drug paraphernalia. Before trial, she filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that she was entitled to immunity pursuant to section 18-1-711, C.R.S. (2019) because she had suffered an emergency drug overdose event that was reported by another person to the 911 system. Though the district court denied her motion, it allowed her to rely on that statute to raise an affirmative defense at trial. The jury found Harrison guilty as charged, but a division of the court of appeals vacated her judgment of conviction. In a matter of first impression for the Colorado Supreme Court, the Court reduced the issues presented on appeal as: (1) did the division correctly construe the requirement in section 18-1-711(1)(a) that a person must “report[] in good faith an emergency drug or alcohol overdose event;” and (2) did the division correctly conclude that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to disprove Harrison’s affirmative defense and, consequently, to support her convictions? Because the Court answered both questions in the negative, it reversed the division’s judgment. View "Colorado v. Harrison" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Shawna Hoggard and her ex-husband Javier were in the midst of a child-custody dispute when she forwarded an email she received from Javier to their court-appointed child and family investigator containing "concerning comments and an apparent threat." Javier claimed that while he had written parts of the email, he had not written the "concerning" portions. He then contacted law enforcement to report that Hoggard had falsified the email. The State charged Hoggard with attempt to influence a public servant and second-degree forgery. At trial, when the court instructed the jury on the charge of attempt to influence a public servant, it did not inform the jury that the mens rea of “with the intent” applied to all elements of the crime and not just a single element. Additionally, when the court instructed the jury on the charge of second-degree forgery, a class 1 misdemeanor, it included language in one element from the offense of felony forgery, a class 5 felony. Hoggard did not object to either instruction. The jury found her guilty of both original charges. Hoggard appealed, and the court of appeals upheld her convictions. Hoggard argued to the Colorado Supreme Court that the trial court’s instructions constituted reversible error. The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the conviction, finding that even if the instruction on attempt to influence a public servant was erroneous, any error was not plain. Furthermore, although the trial court erred in including language from the felony forgery statute when it instructed the jury, the instruction did not amount to a constructive amendment, and the error was not plain. Hence the Court affirmed the appellate court, but on different grounds. View "Hoggard v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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A driver for Colorado Cab Company LLC (“Colorado Cab”) picked up an intoxicated Curt Glinton and one of Glinton’s friends. After stopping at their destination, the driver told Glinton the total fare. Glinton became upset, started yelling at the driver, and eventually grabbed and punched the driver from behind. Meanwhile, Jose Garcia had called a cab from a house nearby. When he saw the cab occupied by Glinton drive by, he thought that it might be the cab he had called, and he began to follow it. When he was roughly a block away from the cab, he heard the driver screaming for help. Garcia ran to the cab and, through the cab’s open driver’s-side door, told Glinton to stop. Glinton shifted his aggression to Garcia, telling him to “mind his own business.” This gave the driver the chance to exit the vehicle. Glinton also exited the vehicle, escalated his aggression toward Garcia, and began to throw punches at Garcia. Garcia was then hit over the head, causing him to fall to the ground. Glinton then entered the driver’s seat of the still-running cab and started driving. He hit the still-down Garcia once with the cab, then backed up and again ran Garcia over. As a result, Garcia suffered several severe injuries. Garcia filed a negligence action against Colorado Cab, arguing that Colorado Cab had knowledge of forty-four passenger attacks on its drivers in the previous three years but had failed to install partitions or security cameras in its cabs. In asserting his claim, Garcia relied on the rescue doctrine. Colorado Cab countered that it owed no duty to Garcia to prevent intentional criminal acts, and that even if it was negligent, Garcia was comparatively negligent because he “[made] a decision to get involved in the situation.” The jury found for Garcia and awarded him $1.6 million in total damages. It allocated 45% of the fault to Colorado Cab (for a sum of roughly $720,000), 55% to Glinton, and 0% to Garcia. The trial court denied Colorado Cab's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The Colorado Supreme Court held that for a person to qualify as a rescuer under the rescue doctrine, he must satisfy a three-pronged test: plaintiff must have (1) intended to aid or rescue a person whom he, (2) reasonably believed was in imminent peril, and (3) acted in such a way that could have reasonably succeeded or did succeed in preventing or alleviating such peril. The Supreme Court concluded that, on the facts of this case, Garcia satisfied this test at trial. View "Garcia v. Colorado Cab Co." on Justia Law

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Forty-five-year-old Richard Manjarrez hired his friends’ teenage daughter to clean his house. The girl’s parents had consented to the housecleaning arrangement because they considered Manjarrez a family friend and trusted him. On the girl’s third cleaning visit, however, Manjarrez kissed her, touched her breast, and digitally penetrated her. He then drove her home. A jury convicted Manjarrez of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust in violation of section 18-3-405.3(1), C.R.S. (2019), and the court of appeals affirmed the conviction. Manjarrez acknowledged that the sexual contact took place but argued on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to show that he occupied a position of trust with respect to the victim because there was no evidence that he had any express duty of supervision over her. Finding he was implicitly responsible for her welfare and supervision while she was at his home to clean, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed Manjarrez's conviction. View "Manjarrez v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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The Town of Monument (the “Town”) purchased a piece of property on which it planned to build a water tower. Neighboring property owners objected, arguing that the property was subject to a restrictive covenant limiting construction to single-family residences. According to the property owners, if the Town were to violate that covenant by building a water tower, the Town would be taking the restrictive covenant from each of the covenant-subject properties, and it would therefore have to compensate the property owners for the diminution in value caused by that taking. The Colorado Supreme Court answered the question of whether a restrictive covenant diminished the value of property adjacent to the government property such that the change constituted a taking. In Smith v. Clifton Sanitation District, 300 P.2d 548 (Colo. 1956), the Court held that when state or local government acquires property subject to a restrictive covenant and uses it for purposes inconsistent with that covenant, “no claim for damages arises by virtue of such a covenant as in the instant case, in favor of the owners of other property” subject to the covenant. Petitioners asked the Supreme Court to confine "Smith" to its facts or overrule it entirely. The Court declined, instead reaffirming that where a government entity has obtained property for public purposes, the government may use that land for a purpose inconsistent with a restrictive covenant without compensating all of the other landowners who are subject to that restrictive covenant. View "Forest View Co. v. Town of Monument" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the 2015 mass shooting at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ (“PPRM’s”) Colorado Springs facility, which left three people dead and nine seriously injured. The issue narrowed for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether plaintiffs introduced sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Robert Dear’s conduct as the shooter was the “predominant cause” of plaintiffs’ injuries such that PPRM’s conduct, even if it contributed to such injuries, could not be a substantial factor in causing them. Further, the Court was asked to address whether the plaintiffs established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether PPRM’s parent organization, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (“PPFA”), owed them a duty of care. The Court concluded plaintiffs indeed presented sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Dear’s conduct was the predominant cause of their injuries; and as a matter of law, plaintiffs did not establish that PPFA owed them a legal duty. The Court affirmed judgment of the appellate court. View "Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, Inc. v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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Dr. Steven Jacobs, Casas Limited Partnership #4, LLP, and IQ Investors, LLC (collectively, “Jacobs”) contended the water court erred in: (1) granting summary judgment to the State Engineer and the Division Engineer for Water Division No. 2 (the “Engineers”) and partial summary judgment for the Park Forest Water District (“PFWD”); (2) imposing civil penalties for Jacobs’s violations of the Division Engineer’s order requiring Jacobs to cease and desist unlawfully storing state waters in two ponds on his properties; and (3) certifying its summary judgment rulings as final pursuant to C.R.C.P. 54(b). In 2012, Casas and IQ Investors acquired certain real properties, together with associated water rights and three ponds, in unincorporated El Paso County, Colorado. In order to satisfy the water needs of the properties, Jacobs negotiated with PFWD to join the properties to PFWD, and these parties formalized their arrangement in an Inclusion Agreement. Pursuant to the Inclusion Agreement, PFWD filed an application seeking to amend its augmentation plan to add Jacobs’s ponds to it. In seeking this amendment, PFWD made clear that it was not requesting new water storage rights for the ponds but rather was simply proposing to replace evaporative losses from them. The water court granted PFWD’s application and ruled that the ponds would be augmented consistent with the requirements of PFWD’s augmentation plan. Suspecting that the initial fill after reconstruction was thus not legally obtained, the commissioner requested that Jacobs provide him with the source of the initial fill and advised that if he did not receive such confirmation, then he would seek an order requiring the release of any illegally stored water. Discussion of this issue apparently went on for more than a year. In the course of such discussions, Jacobs took the position that the Inclusion Agreement covered the initial fill. PFWD, however, contended that that Agreement did not do so and that PFWD was not obligated to provide replacement water for the ponds. On December 23, 2016, having not received satisfactory proof that Jacobs’s initial fill of the ponds was lawful, the Division Engineer issued an administrative order (the “2016 Order”) to Jacobs. Jacobs did not comply with the 2016 Order by the deadline set forth therein. The Engineers thus filed a complaint in the water court for injunctive relief, penalties, and costs to enforce the 2016 Order. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the water court properly granted both the Engineers’ summary judgment motion and PFWD’s motion for partial summary judgment, and properly imposed civil penalties. View "Jacobs v. Colorado" on Justia Law