Court Opinions- Jun 22, 2020

Manjarrez v. People


Forty-five-year-old Richard Manjarrez hired his friends’ teenage daughter to clean his houseThe girl’s parents had consented to the arrangement because they considered Manjarrez a family friend and trusted him. On the girl’s third cleaning visit, however, Manjarrez sexually assaulted her. 

A jury convicted Manjarrez of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust and the Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. Manjarrez acknowledged that the sexual contact took place but argued that the evidence was insufficient to show that he occupied a position of trust with respect to the victim because there was no evidence that he had any express duty of supervision over her. One in a “position of trust” includes but is not limited to a person charged with any duty or responsibility for the welfare or supervision of a child. 

Colorado case law has made clear that this duty or responsibility need not be expressed but can be implied from the circumstances. In People v. Roggow, the Colorado Supreme Court held that “a defendant may occupy a position of trust with respect to [a] victim where an existing relationship or other conduct or circumstances establish that the defendant is entrusted with special access to the child victim.” The court clarified, explaining a defendant’s “special access” to the victim by virtue of “an existing relationship or other conduct or circumstances” is evidence of an implied duty or responsibility for the welfare or supervision of the victim during those periods of special access. 

Evidence was presented at trial establishing Manjarrez was entrusted with special access to the victim by virtue of his relationship with her family and that he was implicitly responsible for her welfare and supervision while she was at his home to clean. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, albeit by different reasoning.

Hoggard v. People

While Shawna Hoggard and her ex-husband were in the midst of a child custody dispute, she forwarded an email to their court-appointed child and family investigator. Hoggard told the CFI that the email, which contained concerning comments and an apparent threat, had been sent to her from her former husband. The ex-husband claimed that while he had written parts of the email, he had not written the concerning portions. He then contacted law enforcement to report that Hoggard had falsified the email.

Prosecutors charged Hoggard with attempt to influence a public servant and second-degree forgery. At trial, when the court instructed the jury on the charges, it did not inform the jury that the mens rea of “with the intent” applied to all elements of the crime and not just a single element. Additionally, when the court instructed the jury on the charge of second-degree forgery, a class 1 misdemeanor, it included language in one element from the offense of felony forgery, a class 5 felony. Hoggard did not object to either instruction and the jury found her guilty of both original charges. 

Hoggard appealed, and a division of the Court of Appeals upheld her convictions. Hoggard argued again that the trial court’s instructions constitute reversible error. The Colorado Supreme Court disagreed, finding that even if the instruction on attempt to influence a public servant was erroneous, any error was not plain. Second, the court held that, although the trial court erred in including language from the felony forgery statute when instructing the jury on the second-degree forgery charge, the instruction did not amount to a constructive amendment and the error was not plain. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment on different grounds.

Garcia v. Colorado Cab Company

After an altercation broke out when a cab driver was returning an intoxicated customer home, Garcia, a bystander, intervened to help resulting in him being struck several times with the cab while he lay in the street. A negligence action was brought forward against the cab company on the grounds that Garcia was rescuing the cab driver and the company therefore owed a duty to him. Colorado Cab countered that it owed no duty to him to prevent intentional criminal acts, and that even if it was negligent, Garcia was comparatively negligent because he “[made] a decision to get involved in the situation” and is “at least partially responsible for becoming involved in this incident.” The case went to a jury trial which ruled in favor of Garcia.  

Colorado Cab appealed, and a division of the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding Colorado Cab did not owe a duty to Garcia as a rescuer because, “to be deemed a rescuer, the plaintiff must have taken some concrete physical action — that is, some bodily movement and effort — to save the other person from imminent peril.” According to the division, Garcia did not meet this standard because he “merely approached the cab and told [the driver] and [the patron] to stop fighting.” Had Garcia “[gotten] between the two men or tr[ied] to pull one away from the other,” the division reasoned, then Garcia would likely have exerted the necessary level of concrete physical action. 

The Colorado Supreme Court held that for a person to qualify as a rescuer under the rescue doctrine, he must satisfy a three-pronged test: He must have intended to aid or rescue a person whom he reasonably believed was in imminent peril and acted in such a way that could have reasonably succeeded or did succeed in preventing or alleviating such peril. 

Applying this test to the facts of this case, the court concluded that Garcia did qualify as a rescuer under the rescue doctrine, and reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, remanding for the appellate court to address the remaining issues raised on appeal. 

People v. Meagher

The State Engineer and the Division Engineer for Water Division brought claims against Nick Meagher for injunctive relief, civil penalties and costs arising from Meagher’s failure to submit Form 6.1 — Water Use Data Submittal Form, as required by Rule 6.1 of the Rules Governing the Measurement of Ground Water Diversions Located in Water Division No. 3, The Rio Grande Basin. 

Meagher appealed the water court’s orders denying his motion to dismiss the Engineers’ claims and granting the Engineers summary judgment on those claims. He contended that the court erred in denying his motion to dismiss because the Engineers’ claims were mooted by his ultimate submission of Form 6.1; granting summary judgment for the Engineers based on an erroneous interpretation of Rule 6.1 and section 37-92-503, C.R.S. (2019), and notwithstanding the existence of genuine issues of material fact as to his culpable mental state and the amount of the civil penalties to be imposed; enjoining future violations of Rule 6.1; and awarding costs and fees to the Engineers.

The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the water court did not err in denying Meagher’s motion to dismiss because the Engineers’ claims were not mooted by Meagher’s belated submission of Form 6.1. Second, the court concluded that the water court correctly determined that neither Rule 6.1 nor the pertinent provisions of section 37-92-503 required the Engineers to prove that Meagher had a culpable mental state.  

Accordingly, Meagher’s allegation that he was not at fault for violating Rule 6.1 did not establish a genuine issue of material fact so as to preclude the entry of summary judgment for the Engineers. 

The court also concluded that the injunction entered by the water court was appropriate because the court was not required to comply with the requirements of C.R.C.P.65, given that section 37-92-503 provides special statutory procedures for issuing injunctions, and the injunction conformed to Colorado standards for enjoining further violations of the Measurement Rules. 

Finally, the Supreme Court concluded the water court properly awarded the Engineers costs and fees under subsection 37-92-503(6)(e). It affirmed the judgment of the water court, concluded that the Engineers are entitled to the reasonable attorney fees that they incurred on appeal and remanded this case to allow the water court to determine the amount of fees to be awarded.

People v. Harrison

Brittany Harrison was charged with possession of two controlled substances and drug paraphernalia. Before trial, she filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that she was entitled to immunity pursuant to section 18-1-711 because she had suffered an emergency drug overdose event that was reported by another person to the 911 system. Though the district court denied her motion, it allowed her to rely on that statute to raise an affirmative defense at trial. The jury found Harrison guilty as charged, but a division of the Court of Appeals vacated her judgment of conviction.

In the Colorado Supreme Court’s first foray into the safe haven created by section 18-1-711, it needed to resolve two questions. First, did the division correctly construe the requirement in section 18-1-711(1)(a) that a person must “report[] in good faith an emergency drug or alcohol overdose event?” Second, did the division correctly conclude that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to disprove Harrison’s affirmative defense and, consequently, to support her convictions? 

Because it answered both questions in the negative, the Supreme Court reversed the division’s judgment, finding that the plain language of subsection (1)(a) requires both that a person report in good faith what she subjectively perceives is an acute condition caused by the consumption or use of drugs or alcohol and that a layperson would reasonably believe that the reported condition is a drug or alcohol overdose needing medical assistance. Further, assuming without deciding that Harrison was entitled to invoke section 18-1-711 as an affirmative defense at trial, the court held that the evidence introduced, when viewed as a whole and in the light most favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient to disprove the affirmative defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sullivan v. People

A division of the Court of Appeals dismissed Christopher Sullivan’s appeal of his conviction of more than 40 substantive charges after going on a “crime spree” involving a helicopter chase, multiple carjackings and menacing with a deadly weapon among many other charges, finding that the appeal was barred by the plea proviso. In so doing, it rejected his contention that the plea proviso did not apply because his appeal involved the manner in which the sentence was imposed, not “the propriety of the sentence.” The division was of the view that an appeal related to the manner in which the sentence was imposed is an appeal regarding the propriety of the sentence.

After a four-decade hiatus on the subject, the Colorado Supreme Court revisited its analysis of section 18-1-409(1) in People v. Malacara. Adhering to the rationale in Malacara, the court held that “the propriety of the sentence,” as that phrase is used in the plea proviso, does not comprehend the manner in which the sentence was imposed (i.e.,the propriety of the sentencing proceeding).

Because Sullivan’s appeal concerns the manner in which his sentence was imposed, it is not barred by the plea proviso. Therefore, it reversed the division’s judgment.

Previous articleSupreme Court Says “Willfulness” Not Required to Recover Trademark Infringers’ Profits — What’s Next?
Next articleCLI Hosts Town Hall in Response to Police Violence and Black Lives Matter Protests

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here