Court Opinions- Jun 15, 2020

People in Interest of J.D.

After charging J.D., a minor, with delinquent conduct that would amount to trespassing and arson if committed by an adult, the People sought review of the Court of Appeals’ judgment reversing the district court’s order voiding a ruling of the juvenile magistrate. 

The district court found that the juvenile magistrate lacked jurisdiction to grant J.D.’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea and that J.D.’s sole remedy for a failure of his counsel to render effective assistance in advising him concerning his deferred adjudication was to file a petition with the court for reinstatement of his review rights nunc pro tunc. 

The Court of Appeals, however, found that the juvenile magistrate had jurisdiction to entertain J.D.’s Crim. P. 32(d) motion to withdraw his guilty plea because it was a motion in a delinquency case the magistrate had been appointed to hear, and it was not a motion seeking review of any prior order of the magistrate. 

Because a juvenile magistrate is not prohibited, either by statute or court rule, from revisiting his prior rulings, decrees or other decisions in a case he has been properly appointed to hear, unless and until the proceedings have culminated in a final order or judgment, and because a guilty plea, prior to sentencing and entry of a judgment of conviction, does not constitute a final judgment or order, the district court erred in ruling that the magistrate lacked jurisdiction over the juvenile’s Crim. P. 32(d) motion to withdraw his guilty plea. On different grounds, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Campbell v. People

During Brandon Campbell’s trial for burglary, an expert from the Denver Crime Lab testified that a DNA sample taken from Campbell matched a DNA profile developed from a soda can found at the burglary scene as well as a profile developed from a partially eaten plum found at another residential burglary. The plum profile had been developed at an out-of-state lab and the technician who tested the plum did not testify. Although Campbell objected to evidence of the other burglary on CRE 404(b) grounds, he did not argue that allowing the Denver Crime Lab expert to testify about the plum profile violated his confrontation rights. The jury convicted Campbell of second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal trespass. 

The People also charged Campbell with three habitual offender counts. In its amended complaint, the prosecution identified one of Campbell’s prior felony convictions by case number, jurisdiction and date, but mislabeled the conviction in that case as “Possession of a Schedule IV Controlled Substance” when instead he had been convicted of felony trespass. At the habitual criminal hearing, the prosecution presented the records associated with the case number identified in the amended complaint and established that Campbell had been convicted of felony trespass. Although the defense acknowledged receiving the records in discovery and did not object to their admission, it argued that the prosecution constructively amended the charging document by failing to prove Campbell had been convicted of possession of a controlled substance as alleged in the amended complaint. The trial court found that, despite the mislabeled offense, Campbell had adequate notice of the charges. It therefore adjudicated Campbell a habitual offender.

Campbell appealed, arguing for the first time that the admission of the Denver Crime Lab expert’s surrogate testimony about the plum DNA profile violated his confrontation rights. Campbell also renewed his contention that the trial court erroneously allowed the prosecution to constructively amend the habitual offender charge against him. The Court of Appeals rejected both contentions but the Colorado Supreme Court granted Campbell’s petition for a writ of certiorari to review his confrontation clause and constructive amendment claims. 

The Supreme Court held that any error in allowing the Denver Crime Lab expert to testify about the plum DNA profile was not plain, and the mislabeled offense in the habitual offender count did not result in a constructive amendment requiring reversal. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded with directions to return the case to the trial court for resentencing and correction of the mittimus in accordance with the Court of Appeals’ decision.

Jacobs v. People

Dr. Steven Jacobs, Casas Limited Partnership #4, LLP and IQ Investors, LLC contended that the water court erred in granting summary judgment for the State Engineer and the Division Engineer for Water Division No.2 and partial summary judgment for the Park Forest Water District; 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 certifying its summary judgment rulings as final pursuant to C.R.C.P.54(b).

Because the issue pertains to the jurisdiction of the state supreme court, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded first that the water court properly exercised its discretion in certifying its summary judgment orders pursuant to C.R.C.P.54(b). Next, the Supreme Court concluded that the water court properly granted both the Engineers’ summary judgment motion and PFWD’s motion for partial summary judgment because the summary judgment record established, as a matter of law, that Jacobs did not comply with the Division Engineer’s order to cease and desist the unlawful storage of water in the ponds on his properties and PFWD did not breach a so-called Inclusion Agreement between it and Jacobs. Last, the court concluded that the water court properly imposed civil penalties under section 37-92-503(6)(a)(II), C.R.S. (2019). Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the water court, concluded that both the Engineers and PFWD are entitled to an award of the reasonable attorney fees that they incurred in this appeal, and remanded this case to the water court to allow that court to determine the amount of fees to be awarded.

Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, Inc. v. Wagner

In this case arising from the 2015 shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, the Colorado Supreme Court had to decide two narrow questions. First, the court needed to determine whether Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains has introduced sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Robert Dear’s conduct was the “predominant cause” of the plaintiffs’ injuries such that the facility’s conduct, even if it contributed to such injuries, could not be a substantial factor in causing them. Second, the court had to address whether the plaintiffs have established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether PPRM’s parent organization, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, owed them a duty of care. 

As to the first question, the Supreme Court concluded, without expressing any opinion on the merits of this case, that PPRM presented sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Dear’s conduct was the predominant cause of their injuries. Accordingly, the court concluded the division of the Court of Appeals correctly determined that summary judgment was inappropriate on this issue. As to the second question, the court concluded, as a matter of law, that PPRM did not establish PPFA owed them a legal duty. The Supreme Court concluded that the division correctly affirmed the entry of summary judgment for the parent organization on this claim.

Forest View Co. v. Town of Monument

The Town of Monument 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 reduction in value caused by that taking.

It is well settled that property owners adjacent to a government project that diminishes the value of their property are not entitled to compensation from the government for that reduction. But does the existence of a restrictive covenant change the analysis? 

The Colorado Supreme Court answered this question over half a century ago in the negative, holding in Smith v. Clifton Sanitation District, 300 P.2d 548 (Colo. 1956), 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. The property owners here asked the court to confine Smith to its facts or to overrule it entirely. The Supreme Court reaffirmed 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.

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