Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court

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Megan Parocha fled from New Jersey to Colorado to escape her abusive spouse. Her husband, who knew that she had come to join her family in Colorado, contacted her almost daily. When she expressed reservations about returning to New Jersey, the frequency and tone of his contact intensified. He called her, emailed her, and texted her repeatedly, and she felt threatened. When Megan sought a civil protection order, her husband claimed that Colorado courts had no jurisdiction to offer her this protection because he was an absent non-resident. This case presented the Colorado Supreme Court the first opportunity to address whether and when a civil protection order was available to a victim of alleged domestic abuse who comes to Colorado seeking refuge from a non-resident. The Court concluded an out-of-state party’s harassment of, threatening of, or attempt to coerce an individual known by the non-resident to be located in Colorado was a tortious act sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction under the state’s long-arm statute, section 13-1-124, C.R.S. (2017). The Court also concluded such conduct created a sufficient nexus between the out-of-state party and Colorado to satisfy the requisite minimum contacts such that the exercise of jurisdiction by a Colorado court to enter a protection order comports with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. View "Parocha v. Parocha" on Justia Law

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Appellee David Ehrnstein was convicted by jury of incest against L.E. He filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that one of his trial prosecutors and the victim advocate in his case had instructed L.E. to avoid a defense subpoena. Prior to holding a hearing on that motion, the trial court found that it was compelled by the rules of professional conduct to appoint a special prosecutor for purposes of the hearing. Pursuant to sections 16-12-102(2) and 20-1-107(3), C.R.S. (2017), the district attorney filed an interlocutory appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court, which was faced with deciding whether the trial court abused its discretion in appointing the special prosecutor. The Court concluded the trial court abused its discretion because it misapplied the law when it concluded that Colo. RPC 3.7 required the appointment of a special prosecutor for purposes of the hearing on the new trial motion in this case. View "Colorado v. Ehrnstein" on Justia Law

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The Jim Hutton Educational Foundation, a surface-water user, claimed that a statute prohibiting any challenge to a designated groundwater basin that would alter the basin’s boundaries to exclude a permitted well was unconstitutional. The water court dismissed that claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the surface-water user had to first satisfy the Colorado Groundwater Commission that the water at issue was not designated groundwater. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed that dismissal, because jurisdiction vests in the water court only if the Colorado Groundwater Commission first concludes that the water at issue is designated groundwater. Therefore, the water court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Foundation's claim. View "Jim Hutton Educ. Found. v. Rein" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the City of Aspen adopted an ordinance which imposed a regulatory scheme designed to meet the city council’s “duty to protect the natural environment and the health of its citizens and visitors.” Under the ordinance, grocery stores within Aspen’s city limits were prohibited from providing disposable plastic bags to customers, though they could still provide paper bags to customers, but each bag is subject to a $0.20 “waste reduction fee,” unless the customer was a participant in a “Colorado Food Assistance Program.” This case presented the question of whether Aspen’s $0.20 paper bag charge was a tax subject to voter approval under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (“TABOR”). The trial court held that this charge was not subject to TABOR because it was not a tax, but a fee. The court of appeals concurred with this holding. The Colorado Supreme Court also agreed, finding the bag charge was not a tax subject to TABOR. View "Colorado Union of Taxpayers Found. v City of Aspen" on Justia Law

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In an interlocutory appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court reviewed a district court order suppressing drug evidence that the defendant dropped on the ground when he was approached by the police on the street. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in suppressing the evidence because, at the time the defendant dropped the drugs, no seizure had taken place. The Court therefore reversed the trial court’s suppression order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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In an interlocutory appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court reviewed a district court order suppressing drug evidence that the defendant dropped on the ground when he was approached by the police on the street. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in suppressing the evidence because, at the time the defendant dropped the drugs, no seizure had taken place. The Court therefore reversed the trial court’s suppression order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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In this case the Colorado Supreme Court considered two issues: (1) whether defendant Adam Smith waived or invited error with respect to his claim of a prejudicial simple variance when defense counsel stated that the proposed jury instructions were generally acceptable; and (2) whether a jury instruction that did not identify the particular victim named in the charging document created a simple variance warranting reversal when the jury could potentially have deemed either of two people to be the victim. In light of the Court’s opinion in Colorado v. Rediger, 2018 CO 32, ___ P.3d ___, the Court concluded that Smith neither waived nor invited error with respect to his variance claim because the record did not indicate that he intentionally relinquished a known right or that he injected the alleged error into this case. Consequently, the Court reviewed Smith’s variance claim for plain error, and because the Court could not say that the evidence presented at Smith’s trial obviously would have allowed the jury to conclude that Smith menaced a victim not named in his charging document, the trial court did not plainly err in instructing the jury without specifying the victim. View "Colorado v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Alamosa County Department of Human Services interviewed Mother, who admitted that she was addicted to prescription medications, although she denied selling drugs from her home. Mother had a history of prior referrals to the Department, and her older children had previously been temporarily removed from her home due to her drug use. Meanwhile, the father of the children had been incarcerated following a criminal conviction and remained in custody at the time the Department conducted its investigation. Father had a history of methamphetamine use. In light of the foregoing, the Department filed a dependency and neglect petition with regard to E.M., L.M., and E.J.M. (the “Children”). Although both Mother and Father initially denied the allegations contained in the petition, they subsequently entered admissions, and the court adjudicated the Children dependent and neglected. This case called on the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether the State could seek to terminate a parent’s parental rights under the relinquishment provision of the Colorado Children’s Code (the “Code”), section 19-5-105, C.R.S. (2017), when the child is already subject to a dependency and neglect proceeding under Article 3 of the Code, sections 19-3-100.5 to -805, C.R.S. (2017). The Court concluded that when a dependency and neglect proceeding is pending, the State can terminate parental rights only through the procedures set forth in Article 3 of the Code and cannot use the more limited processes provided in Article 5. View "Colorado in Interest of L.M." on Justia Law

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David Rediger drove to the Rocky Mountain Youth Academy (the “Academy”) to speak with Stacey Holland, the Academy’s owner and director. Holland and her husband had accused Rediger of stealing hay from their property, and Rediger intended to speak with Holland about the theft charges against him. Holland characterized Rediger’s behavior as “very aggressive” and said that she “was very scared” and “felt really threatened” by Rediger’s conduct. Rediger conceded that he did not initially leave when asked to do so, but he said that he never stepped inside the school building and that he “was trying not to make a scene at the school.” Based on this incident, the State charged Rediger with intimidating a witness or victim, interference with a public employee in a public building, and interference with staff, faculty, or students of an educational institution. The Colorado Supreme Court granted the State’s petition and Rediger’s cross-petition for certiorari review of the court of appeals division’s decision affirming in part and reversing in part Rediger’s convictions for: (1) interference with a public employee in a public building and (2) interference with the staff, faculty, or students of an educational institution. With regard to the first conviction, the issue presented to the Supreme Court was whether the owner-director of a nonprofit school regulated by various governmental entities was a “public employee” within the meaning of section 18-9-110(1)., C.R.S. (2017). Based on the plain meaning of the phrase “public employee,” the Supreme Court agreed. With regard to the second conviction, the issue reduced to invited error and waiver. A majority of the appeals court concluded that Rediger had waived his right to challenge the constructive amendment of his criminal information when his defense counsel stated that he was “satisfied” with the proposed jury instructions. In the Supreme Court’s view, mere acquiescence to a jury instruction does not constitute a waiver without some record evidence that the defendant intentionally relinquished a known right. Likewise, the Court disagreed with the State’s contention that Rediger’s alleged acquiescence to the erroneous instructions tendered by the State constitutes invited error. Reviewing for plain error, the Supreme Court concluded the discrepancy between the charging document and the jury instructions in this case effected a constructive amendment of the charging document, and on the record presented, this error was plain and required reversal. View "Colorado v. Rediger" on Justia Law

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The Regional Transportation District and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District were funded by a broad sales tax with a few exemptions. Over time, Colorado lawmakers added and removed exemptions. As the exemptions for the State and the Districts gradually diverged, tax collection became increasingly complicated for both vendors and the revenue department. To make it easier for everyone, the General Assembly passed House Bill 13-1272, adding and removing exemptions on the Districts’ taxes to realign them with the State’s, which yielded a projected net increase in the Districts’ annual tax revenue. When the Districts began collecting the altered sales tax without holding a vote, the TABOR Foundation sued, arguing the Bill created a “new tax” or effected a “tax policy change” and therefore required voter approval under Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The trial court granted the Districts summary judgment on stipulated facts, and a division of the court of appeals affirmed. Through this opinion, the Colorado Supreme Court clarified that legislation causing only an incidental and de minimis tax-revenue increase does not amount to a “new tax” or a “tax policy change.” The Court held H.B. 13-1272 was such a bill: serving to simplify tax collection and ease administrative burdens. The Bill “only incidentally increases the Districts’ tax revenues by a de minimis amount.” Accordingly, the Court concluded H.B. 13-1272 did not violate the Colorado Constitution, and affirmed the court of appeals. View "TABOR Foundation v. Regional Transportation District" on Justia Law