Court Opinions – Oct 14, 2019

People v. Davis 


Deputies interrogated Jacob Davis in the basement of his parents’ home about an alleged sexual assault. During this questioning, Davis made incriminating statements. He later moved to suppress these statements, arguing they were obtained in violation of his Miranda rights. The trial court granted the motion to suppress, agreeing that Davis was subjected to custodial interrogation without having been given a Miranda advisement. 

Prosecutors then filed this interlocutory appeal seeking review of the court’s suppression order. Because the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that Davis was not in custody for purposes of Miranda, it reversed the trial court’s order suppressing the statements.

The ruling concluded that under the totality of the circumstances, the defendant was not in custody for purposes of Miranda because a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would not have felt deprived of his freedom of action to a degree associated with a formal arrest. Further, considering the factors identified in People v. Rodriguez and People v. Ball, the court concluded that the defendant’s detention did not escalate to an arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment. 

Deleon v. People 

Julian Deleon was charged with two counts of sexual assault on a child. During his trial, Deleon exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and elected not to testify. At the jury instruction conference prior to closing arguments, Deleon tendered an instruction regarding a defendant’s right to remain silent, which the trial court denied because it did not match the pattern instruction. 

Instead, the court indicated that it would give that pattern instruction. But at the close of evidence, the trial court never instructed the jury regarding Deleon’s right to remain silent either verbally or in writing. Deleon argues that this constituted reversible error.

The Colorado Supreme Court first concluded that, by tendering a jury instruction regarding a defendant’s right to remain silent, Deleon preserved the issue for appeal of whether the trial court erred in failing to give such an instruction. Next, the court concluded that the trial court erred by failing to provide an effective jury instruction regarding a defendant’s right to remain silent. Finally, the court concluded that the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Colorado Court of Appeals

Oct. 10

People v. Knox 

A division of the Court of Appeals considered whether police officers are “public servants” under section 18-8-306 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. The division concluded that the statute is ambiguous; thus, it relies on the statutory scheme to determine that the General Assembly intended to include police officers in the broader category of public servants for purposes of section 18-8-306. 

Ashley Knox appealed the judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding her guilty of criminal extortion and three counts of attempt to influence a public servant. Knox raises two contentions on appeal: first, the district court erred in concluding that police officers are public servants; and second, her threat of litigation absent settlement of a potential personal injury claim did not constitute criminal extortion. 

Because the division disagreed with her first contention, it affirmed her convictions for attempt to influence a public servant. However, because the division agreed with her second contention, they vacated her conviction for criminal extortion. 

Finally, the division concluded that a threat of litigation to cause economic hardship does not constitute criminal extortion because it is not an “unlawful act,” which is necessary to prove criminal extortion under section 18-3-207(1)(a), (b)(1), C.R.S. 2019. 

Accordingly, the division affirmed the judgment in part and vacated the criminal extortion conviction. 

In the Interest of NJC 

A division of the Court of Appeals held that deferred compensation in a nonqualified retirement plan is not income for child support purposes under the Uniform Parentage Act. Applying the definition of “income” in section 14-10-115 of the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act, the division concluded that the father’s deferred compensation is not income because he did not have the ability to use it to pay his expenses, including child support. 

The division also concluded that a magistrate did not abuse his discretion in determining not to reallocate to father 90% of the costs paid for parental responsibilities evaluations. In addition, the division affirmed the trial court’s decision not to reconsider the mother’s request for attorney fees paid by the maternal grandfather that were incurred in connection with the father’s motion to modify parenting time. 

As a matter of first impression, the mother urged the division to conclude that deferred compensation in a nonqualified plan is income for child support purposes if it is being earned during a period when a parent is obligated to pay child support. The division disagreed with her arguments and affirmed the juvenile court’s order adopting the magistrate’s order modifying mother’s child support award from the father. The division also affirmed the juvenile court’s order denying the mother’s request to reallocate costs paid for parental responsibilities evaluations. 

However, the division reversed the portion of the juvenile court’s order denying the mother’s request for attorney fees and remanded the case to the juvenile court for it to determine the amount. The division further remanded for the juvenile court to consider the mother’s request for appellate attorney fees under section. 

Nesbitt v. Scott 

This case arose out of a property dispute between petitioner Rita Nesbitt, trustee of the Rita A. Nesbitt Trust, and respondents, Kathryn Scott, Rodney Scott and Vicki Scott. The dispute led to protracted litigation, including an action in trespass and private condemnation proceedings, that lasted nearly a decade and involved two reversals by divisions of the Court of Appeals. 

The division considered whether Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 121, section 1-22(2)(b) requires that a written fee agreement, or some other materials evidencing the fee agreement, accompany every motion for attorney fees and costs brought under section 38-1-122(1) of the Colorado Revised Statutes. The division concluded that C.R.C.P. 121 section 1-22(2)(b) does not impose such a requirement. 

Ultimately, the trial court awarded the Scotts $400,431.85 in attorney fees and $35,066.25 in costs. Nesbitt mounted two challenges to this award of attorney fees and costs. 

First, she contended that the trial court abused its discretion by awarding attorney fees and costs to the Scotts because C.R.C.P. 121, section 1-22(2)(b) required that the Scotts attach a written fee agreement, or some other materials evidencing the fee agreement, to their motion for attorney fees and costs, but they did not do so. 

Second, she contended that she should not have to pay the award associated with a summary judgment motion that was ultimately unsuccessful because the motion “unnecessarily increased the length of the case.” 

The division disagreed with each of Nesbitt’s contentions and therefore affirmed.

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