Court Opinions- Dec 17, 2018

People v. Godinez

A jury convicted defendant Omar Ricardo Godinez of two counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of sexual assault and two counts of conspiracy to commit sexual assault for crimes Godinez committed when he was 15 years old. He was sentenced to a controlling term of imprisonment of 32 years to life in the custody of the Department of Corrections. 

At the time the case was filed, the district attorney had the sole authority to decide whether to file the charges in adult criminal court or in juvenile court, provided that the juvenile was at least 14 years of age. 

During the course of the district court direct-file proceedings, and well before the court entered the judgment of conviction, the General Assembly amended the direct-file statute by increasing the direct-filing minimum age from 14 to 16 and giving a direct-filed juvenile the right to have a “reverse-transfer” hearing, at which a district court judge, not the district attorney, makes the final decision whether to try the juvenile as an adult, or whether to proceed in juvenile court. 

After the enactment of the 2012 amendments, Godinez moved to dismiss the charges against him on the theory that the 2012 amendments divested the district court of subject matter jurisdiction because Godinez was only 15 years old when he allegedly committed the crimes. He also contended that the 2012 amendments should be applied retroactively to the charges against him. 

The trial court denied that motion and also denied Godinez’s alternative motion demanding a reverse-transfer hearing under the 2012 amendments. Godinez appealed his judgment of conviction, including the underlying orders addressing the application of the 2012 amendments.

The Court of Appeals held that the 2012 amendments are not applicable to the criminal proceedings filed against Godinez and that he was not entitled to a reverse-transfer hearing. The court affirmed Godinez’s convictions and sentences.

People v. Rigsby

Derek Michael Rigsby appealed his judgment of conviction of two counts of second-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault arising from his involvement in a bar fight. Rigsby contended that the district court erred in precluding prior consistent statements; his convictions were logically and legally inconsistent because they related to the same conduct yet contemplated separate mental states of culpability; and his multiple convictions for second-degree assault based on the same criminal act violated the double jeopardy clause. 

The court agreed with his second contention and reversed and remanded the case to the district court for a new trial. 

People In Interest of C.M.D.

C.M.D. was adjudicated delinquent based on an incident involving unlawful sexual contact. At sentencing, he was ordered to register as a sex offender under the Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act. Because C.M.D. had a previous adjudication for unlawful sexual contact, the magistrate was statutorily precluded from waiving the registration requirement, and C.M.D. was not eligible to petition to discontinue the registration. 

On appeal, C.M.D. contended that, as applied to him and similarly situated juveniles, the CSORA violates constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment and constitutional due process rights. 

The court disagreed and affirmed the order requiring C.M.D. to register as a sex offender. 

Lees v. James

Upon granting a C.R.C.P. 12(b) motion to dismiss a tort action in its entirety, a trial court is required to award attorney fees to the defendant. The Court of Appeals considered whether when doing so, the court has the authority to order that judgment be joint and several between the plaintiff and plaintiff’s counsel. 

For the first time in a published decision, the court answered that question yes. The Court of Appeals also made clear that a trial court may consider unpublished opinions of this court to the extent the trial court finds such opinions persuasive. 

Bank of New York v. Peterson

Bank of New York Mellon, formerly known as Bank of New York, filed an unlawful detainer action after acquiring title to a house through foreclosure. Timothy Peterson and Dyan Frances Parker appealed the district court’s judgment granting the bank possession. 

Peterson and Parker asserted that the 2015 foreclosure and the resulting judgment of possession could not be legally enforced because the six-year statute of limitations (for an action for default on a promissory note) had already expired. They claimed that the bank triggered the statute of limitations in 2008 when it accelerated the obligation on the note. 

The bank admitted that it accelerated the note in 2008 by initiating foreclosure proceedings, but it argued that it abandoned the acceleration in 2010 by withdrawing the foreclosure and providing Peterson’s son another opportunity to cure the default. The bank asserted that the abandonment restored the note’s original maturity date for purposes of accrual. The Court of Appeals agreed with the bank and affirmed. 

People v. Taylor

Christopher Joseph Taylor appealed the postconviction court’s order denying his second Crim. P. 35(c) motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed because the motion was successive. 

Answering an undecided question, the court held that Crim. P. 35(c)(3)(VII) supersedes the rule stated in People v. Naranjo that a defendant can file a second Crim. P. 35(c) motion raising new postconviction claims if the defendant filed an initial Crim. P. 35(c) motion pro se.

Marriage of Hogsett and Neale

Edi Hogsett and Marcia Neale, a same-sex couple, ended their 13-year relationship. Hogsett believed the parties were common law married and petitioned for dissolution. Neale disagreed and moved to dismiss the petition. The district court found that no common law marriage existed and granted Neale’s motion to dismiss. Both parties agree that Obergefell v. Hodges, which overturned laws banning same-sex marriage, applies retroactively in deciding whether a same-sex common law marriage exists between them.

This appeal raised a novel issue: does the test for determining whether a common law marriage exists, articulated in People v. Lucero, apply to a same-sex relationship? 

The Court of Appeals answered “yes” but concluded that the Lucero test should be applied consistently with the realities and norms of a same-sex relationship. 

The court also concluded that Obergefell provides same-sex couples in Colorado with the same right to establish common law marriages that opposite-sex couples enjoy. 

The district court, and also the Court of Appeals, concluded that by applying Lucero, the couple was not common law married. The court affirmed the judgment dismissing the petition for a dissolution of common law marriage and also reject other contentions Hogsett raised. This case is discussed in detail on page 6.

People In Interest of A.R., a Child

Mother, D.R., appealed the judgment terminating her parent-child legal relationship with the child, A.R. Although the county attorney offered minimal evidence, mother’s trial counsel did little to test this evidence. 

Mother, through appellate counsel, raised several arguments in support of her appeal. She contended the juvenile court lacked personal jurisdiction over her because the court did not enter a valid adjudication and erred in finding there was no less drastic alternative to termination. She also contended that she received ineffective assistance of trial counsel during the adjudicatory and termination hearings. The Court of Appeals disagreed with mother’s first contention but agreed that mother alleged sufficient facts to show that counsel’s deficient performance rendered the termination proceeding presumptively unfair and unreliable, and her less drastic alternative argument is closely intertwined. The court  reversed the judgment and remanded for a new termination hearing.

People In Interest of M.H-K., a Child

Mother, S.K., and father, M.C.H., appealed the judgment of adjudication that the juvenile court entered after a jury found their infant son, M.H-K., dependent and neglected. 

The parents raised several contentions of error. The Court of Appeals concluded that the juvenile court erred by incorporating the detailed allegations of the petition in dependency and neglect into its statement-of-the-case instruction to the jury and by admitting evidence that mother refused to submit herself and her child to drug testing before the petition had been filed. Because the errors are not harmless, the court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial.  

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