Court Opinions – Sep 14, 2020

Woo v. El Paso County Sheriff’s Office

In February 2018, a jury convicted Woo of first-degree murder and the court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Woo’s counsel filed a motion seeking permission to return certain computer hard drives to Woo but the record does not make clear how that motion was resolved.

In April 2019, Woo filed this action against the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. He alleged that the items seized during his arrest and from his apartment included personal documents, jewelry, an iPad, a camera, clothing, cash, credit cards and a computer. According to his allegations, those items were his property, were not used as evidence in the criminal trial and should be returned to him because they lack any evidentiary value for future proceedings. He also sought damages from the alleged wrongful detention of the property. 

Citing the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act, the sheriff’s office moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The motion asserted that Woo had failed to comply with the CGIA’s 182-day notice of claim requirement and, in the alternative, that the sheriff’s office is immune from replevin actions. Woo responded that he had filed a notice within 182 days of his discovery of the injury, which he alleged was in February 2019. He also argued that the CGIA violates his due process rights if it bars his replevin action.

Without holding a hearing, the district court dismissed Woo’s complaint with prejudice on the ground that he “[a]pparently” failed to provide proper notice to the defendants before filing this action and, thus, the court lacked jurisdiction. The court also concluded that “the return of property, if any,” should be resolved in Woo’s criminal case. 

A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals considered whether the CGIA bars Woo’s replevin action against the local sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office. The division concluded it does and that applying the CGIA’s bar does not violate the Woo’s due process rights because he had an alternative remedy to recover the property in the related criminal case. The division further concluded that the district court properly dismissed the replevin action with prejudice because the sheriff’s office has sovereign immunity from that action.

Robledo v. CDOC

In 2011 and 2012, Craig Robledo filed three actions challenging different prison disciplinary convictions he sustained as an inmate in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections. In one of the cases, the district court denied Robledo’s in forma pauperis motion and later dismissed the action after he failed to pay the required filing fee.

In the other two cases, the district court granted Robledo’s IFP motions. And, as required by section 13-17.5-103(2)(b), C.R.S. 2019, the court ordered Robledo to make continuing monthly payments equaling 20% of the preceding month’s deposits to his inmate account until the filing fees were paid in full. The court further ordered the DOC to forward the payments from his inmate account to the court clerk as required by section 13-17.5-103(2.7). The court ultimately dismissed these two actions as moot. 

More than six years later, Robledo filed identical motions titled “Motion to Consolidate Restitution and Garnishment” in all three actions. In these motions, he described alleged “illegal,” “oppressive” and “excessive” garnishment of his inmate account by the DOC to pay for the filing fees in these cases and other charges he had incurred. He argued the court had jurisdiction to “adjust or revise previous orders regarding payments,” and he asked the court to order the DOC to limit future garnishments to a total of 20% of all incoming funds. In all three cases, the district court denied Robledo’s motions without comment. Robledo appealed.

A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals concluded as a matter of first impression, that section 13-17.5-103(2)(b), C.R.S. 2019 requires simultaneous, not sequential, recoupment of multiple filing fees from Colorado inmates who owe multiple IFP-based state court filing fees.
The division affirmed the district court’s orders.

MacIntyre v. JP Morgan Chase Bank

Holly MacIntyre, proceeding pro se, appealed in No. 19-1290 from the district court’s dismissal of her action against JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., in which she claimed Chase committed fraud during a foreclosure proceeding in state court. She further appeals in No. 20-1016 from the district court’s award of attorney fees to Chase under Colorado Revised Statute, Section 13-17-201. 

MacIntyre contended the district court erred in denying as moot her motion to strike Chase’s motion to dismiss; dismissing her fraud claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rooker-Feldman; denying her motion for reconsideration; and clarifying it had granted Chase’s motion to dismiss. In No. 20-1016, MacIntyre contended the district court erred in awarding attorney fees to Chase under C.R.S. Section 13-17-201; and denying her motion for reconsideration based upon lack of jurisdiction.

MacIntyre argued the district court abused its discretion by not ruling on her motion to strike before ruling on Chase’s motion to dismiss. She offered no authority for this position. MacIntyre thus failed to show the court abused its discretion in denying her motion to strike as moot. 

As MacIntyre noted, the court’s clarification that the dismissal was based on Chase’s Rule 12(b)(1) motion meant Chase was eligible for an award of attorney fees under C.R.S. Section 13-17-201. She alleged no particular error with the clarification but claims she “will be fatally prejudiced by [the clarification] if this Court is inclined to uphold the dismissal” on one of the alternative grounds raised by Chase that she strategically chose not to address in district court. Because the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court’s Rooker-Feldman ruling and did not address Chase’s alternative grounds for dismissal, MacIntyre’s prejudice argument failed. The district court did not abuse its discretion in granting Chase’s motion to clarify the basis for dismissal. 

On appeal, MacIntyre reiterated her argument regarding preemption. But her analysis was relegated entirely to a cursory footnote in her opening brief. The 10th Circuit therefore declined to consider the issue. 

Finally, MacIntyre contended that her action was only a “would-be diversity case” and that the dismissal under Rooker-Feldman meant the district court “was never for a minute ‘sitting in diversity’” such that it had “access to a state fee-shifting statute.” But she offered no applicable authority for this novel argument. The fact that the court lacked jurisdiction over her sole claim for relief does not mean it lacked jurisdiction to award attorney fees after the dismissal. The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Rule 59(e) motion. 

Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Section 1291, the 10th Circuit affirmed. 

Crosby v. True

Gregory Crosby, a federal prisoner proceeding pro se, appealed the district court’s dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. Section 2241 and sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

Crosby is currently serving a 262-month sentence at the United States Penitentiary- Administrative Maximum in Florence, Colorado. Crosby filed the instant Section 2241 petition on Nov. 8, 2019. In his petition, Crosby made two claims for relief. First, he sought to participate in evidence-based recidivism reduction programs and to receive the associated time credits for completing such programs. Second, he requested relocation to a United States Penitentiary closer to his residence. The district court denied the EBRR Claim on the merits, concluding Crosby’s request for access to the EBRR programming was premature because the BOP had a two-year phase-in period to provide EBRR programming, and that period had not yet elapsed.

The district court denied the transfer claim for lack of statutory jurisdiction, because that claim was not cognizable under Section 2241; instead, the district court found that the transfer claim should be brought as a Bivens action. The district court also declined to consider Crosby’s hand-written motion for appointment of counsel, because the motion was illegible. 

Because Crosby appears pro se, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals construed his filings liberally but did not serve as his advocate. The court therefore affirmed the dismissal of his petition and denied his motion to proceed IFP. 

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