Court Opinions: Colorado Court of Appeals Opinions for Dec. 15

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

People v. Martinez 

The Colorado Court of Appeals unanimously reversed an order and remanded a case involving probation and restitution payments.

In 2016, Andrea Martinez pleaded guilty to vehicular assault and was sentenced to four years of supervised probation and ordered to pay $150,553.07 in restitution. Because Martinez couldn’t pay the full amount of restitution at the time, a collections investigator established a payment schedule under Colorado Revised Statute 16-18.5-104(4)(a)(I). It required her to pay $50 a month and was later increased to $100 a month. 

Martinez appealed a trial court’s order that extended her probation based on her failure to pay the full restitution by the end of her probation period. Martinez had made all the required payments, but at the end of the initial four-year probationary period, the balance of her restitution judgment had gone up because the payments hadn’t offset the accrued interest. The trial court extended Martinez’s probation another five years and indicated it would review her progress paying off the restitution at the end of that time period.

The Colorado Court of Appeals addressed two issues involving a court’s authority to extend probation for failure to pay a full amount of restitution. The appeals court concluded the section of 16-18.5-105(3)(d)(III) doesn’t authorize an extension of probation when a defendant has made all the payments that are required under a payment schedule that’s established under 16-18.5-104(4)(a)(I) simply because the restitution hasn’t been paid in full. The appeals court also concluded the circumstances of the case didn’t establish “good cause” to extend probation under 18-1.3-204(4)(a).

The appeals court reversed the trial court’s order extending the defendant’s probation and remanded the case with directions to terminate Martinez’s probation. 

Roane v. Archuleta

The Colorado Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed an order concerning the Colorado Open Records Act.

Matt Roane filed a declaratory judgment action against the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners for an alleged violation of Colorado’s open meetings statute. The declaratory judgment case was subject to procedures under C.R.C.P. 16.1 which required the parties to make disclosures specified in C.R.C.P. 16.1(k)(1) and allow limited discovery under C.R.C.P. 16.1(k)(4). Under C.R.C.P. 16.1(k)(4)(B), Roane and the board were each limited to five document requests. Neither exchanged disclosures nor shared discovery requests.

The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment and while those motions were pending, Roane submitted a CORA request to Kristy Archuleta who is the clerk and recorder for Archuleta County. In that request, Roane wanted a recording of the public board meeting and an email and attachments concerning the agenda for an earlier work session in which the board discussed a local medical center’s request for public funds to buy COVID-19 test kits. The appeal is only for Roane’s recording request.

According to Roane, the board didn’t record the substance of the discussion during the work session and at the public board meeting, it made a quick decision to fund the test kits. Roane alleged the board engaged in “substantive hard work” regarding the funding request behind closed doors at the work session.

The parties don’t dispute the recording is public record, that it’s relevant to the declaratory judgment case or that Roane didn’t submit the request to circumvent the limit of five documents specified. Roane said he needed it in order to get information for his reply in support of his pending motion for summary judgment.

Archuleta denied Roane’s request, arguing under Colorado Revised Statutes 24-72-203(1) and 24-72-204(1)(c), the recording was not open to inspection as otherwise provided by law according to a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in Martinelli v. District Court, the request was prohibited by the rules promulgated by the Supreme Court pursuant to Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 34 and was prohibited by the order of any court pursuant to the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling in Martinelli.

Since Archuleta denied the request, Roane filed a separate action against her under 24-72-204(5) of CORA to get, among other relief, an order that required Archuleta to make the recording available for Roane’s inspection.

A district court agreed Roane could inspect the recording and Archuleta had to produce it for him. The court explained Roane could have used the discovery process to get the information he sought in the CORA request, but the discovery process wasn’t the only means for getting that information. The court noted nothing in the record showed that any statute, rule or court order prevented Roane from making that request.

Archuleta appealed, contending the court erred because the inspection order was in contradiction to the Colorado Supreme Court’s decisions in Martinelli and City of Colorado Springs v. White.

The Colorado Court of Appeals considered whether an individual litigating against a public entity who didn’t put forward discovery requests in that litigation has the right to get relevant documents from the public entity through CORA. The appeals court rejected Archuleta’s contention that the decisions in Martinelli and City of Colorado Springs preclude Roane from using CORA to get relevant documents from a public entity that is an adverse party in pending litigation.

The appeals court held that the lack of a pending litigation exception in CORA provided further support for the decision in the case. The appeals court affirmed the district court’s inspection order.

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