Court Opinions- Mar 01, 2021

People v. Forgette


Elliott Forgette appealed a conviction and sentence for burglary. The appeal presents an issue of juror inattentiveness — namely, whether a juror’s inattentiveness during the presentation of evidence deprived Forgette of his statutory right to a jury of 12. 

A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals considered this issue in light of the fact that defense counsel was aware of the juror’s inattentiveness but didn’t request any remedy. 

The division concluded that, under these circumstances, Forgette waived his claim to challenge the juror’s inattentiveness on appeal. Because it also rejected his other contentions, the division affirmed Forgette’s conviction and sentence.

People in Interest of M.R.M.

In this dependency and neglect proceeding, M.M.A appealed the dismissal of a dependency and neglect proceeding concerning her children. In an earlier opinion, a division of the Colorado Court of Appeals concluded the order from which M.M.A sought to appeal wasn’t a final and appealable order, and that because her notice of appeal was not filed within 21 days after the entry of the order that was final and appealable, her appeal was untimely and dismissed her appeal.

The granted M.M.A’s petition for writ of certiorari, vacated the division’s judgment and remanded the case for the division to reconsider the case in light of its 2018 holding in People in the Interest of R.S. After reconsidering the appeal, the division concluded the allocation of parental responsibilities order was the final appealable order in M.M.A’s proceeding — not the order terminating the juvenile court’s jurisdiction.  Because her notice of appeal was filed more than 21 days after the entry of the APR order, the division concluded that her appeal was untimely and that it, therefore, lacked jurisdiction to consider the appeal.

People v. Thomas

After Kyle Thomas was arrested on an active warrant during an unrelated traffic stop, his vehicle was left parked in a residential lot. As he was unable to call his wife to pick up the vehicle, he was also subjected to an Arvada Police Department policy that an arresting officer may impound a vehicle after a driver is arrested when no one else is able to take charge of it. The officer conducted an inventory search of Thomas’ vehicle before calling for impounding services and found a number of incriminating items including a handgun and methamphetamine. 

A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals considered the novel question of whether the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement permits a police officer to impound a vehicle whenever the driver is arrested and no one else is present to take custody of the vehicle. The division concluded the answer is “no.” 

Because the prosecution here did not show that the seizure furthered a valid community caretaking function, impounding the legally parked vehicle from a residential neighborhood was unreasonable. The evidence discovered during the subsequent inventory search of the vehicle was therefore inadmissible. The division reversed the convictions depending on that evidence.

Deines v. Atlas Energy

Grantland Deines sued Atlas Energy Services, LLC; Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; Consolidated Divisions, Inc.; and Mario Fernandez-Tapia for allegedly causing an oil spill on a highway, necessitating a road closure that led to Deines’s car being struck from behind by a third party as traffic was stopped. Deines suffered catastrophic injuries from the accident. 

In this negligence action, a division of the Colorado Court of Appeals considered when proximate cause can be determined as a matter of law in the context of a secondary highway accident. Applying a four-part test used by some other state and federal courts, the district court granted summary judgment to Atlas Energy, concluding  that Atlas Energy’s conduct was not the proximate cause of Deines’ injuries because the car accident was an unforeseeable intervening cause. The court relied primarily on the fact that other drivers had managed to avoid accidents. 

The division clarified that proximate cause and foreseeability, including in the context of a subsequent accident, must be analyzed based on the totality of the circumstances of each case, and not by application of any mechanistic test. Further, proximate cause is not determined from hindsight but rather from the defendant’s perspective at the time of the alleged negligent conduct. Because a rational jury could have concluded the accident resulting in Deines’ injuries was foreseeable, the division reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings.

Arapahoe County Department of Human Services v. Monica Velarde & Michael Moore

A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals concluded a county seeking to enforce an administrative Medicaid overpayment order must comply with the timeframe in the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires the enforcement proceeding to be filed within 35 days of the final agency action. Here, the county filed suit over a decade after the final agency action at issue. Because the county’s suit failed to comply with the APA’s required timeframe, the district court’s dismissal was proper and the division affirmed.

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