Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court
by
G.L.A. (“Mother”) brought L.S., who was one year old at the time, to the hospital for medical treatment. Hospital staff conducted a skeletal survey, which revealed that L.S. had a broken tibia; two additional fractures that were healing; severe bruising and swelling to his groin; and significant bruising on his back, face, and genitals. The hospital sent a referral to the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, and the state filed a petition for dependent or neglected children in district court, alleging that Mother had physically abused L.S. The district court adjudicated L.S. dependent or neglected. About a month later, the court found that an appropriate treatment plan couldn’t be devised for Mother based on L.S.’s serious bodily injury(“SBI”), and Mother appealed. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the State satisfies its burden of proving that an appropriate treatment plan can’t be devised for a respondent parent in a dependency and neglect case when the State establishes by a preponderance of evidence a single incident resulting in serious bodily injury to the child. To this, the Court concluded that it did: the district court erred by imposing a clear and convincing burden of proof on the State at the dispositional hearing. Because there was no dispute L.S. sustained a serious bodily injury, the district court’s order granting Mother’s motion for directed verdict was reversed and the case remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "In Re Colorado in the interest of L.S." on Justia Law

by
Walker Commercial, Inc. (“Walker”) filed a Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 106(a)(4) complaint seeking review of the decision of Marshall Brown, the Director of Water of the City of Aurora (“Director”), to levy a storm drain development fee against Walker’s real property. Walker filed its Rule 106(a)(4) complaint in district court thirty days after the Director’s final decision—two days past Rule 106(b)’s twenty-eight-day filing deadline. Walker contended that C.R.C.P. 6(b) allowed the district court to extend Rule 106(b)’s filing deadline upon a showing of excusable neglect. The Director disagreed, arguing that Rule 6(b) did not apply to Rule 106(b) because Rule 106(b)’s deadline established a limitation period that was jurisdictional and that must be strictly enforced. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the Director and concluded that Rule 6(b) does not apply to extend Rule 106(b)’s twenty-eight-day filing deadline. The Court concluded the district court properly dismissed Walker’s Rule 106(a)(4) amended complaint as untimely. Because the original complaint was untimely, the trial court also properly dismissed Walker’s additional Claim 3 raised in its amended complaint. View " Brown v. Walker Commercial" on Justia Law

by
Abbey Dickerson appealed to the Judicial Department Personnel Board of Review (“Board”) after she was terminated by the Eighteenth Judicial District (“District”). As required by the Personnel Rules, the Board appointed an attorney (who happened to be a retired court of appeals judge) to serve as the hearing officer on her case. Following an evidentiary hearing, the hearing officer changed the disciplinary action to a ninety-day suspension without pay. The District then appealed to the Board, but the Board affirmed the hearing officer’s decision. Because the District remained concerned about Dickerson’s suitability to return to her position, however, it sought review of the Board’s final order by filing a C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) claim in Denver district court. The question presented by this case for the Colorado Supreme Court asked whether the Board was either a “governmental body” or a “lower judicial body” within the meaning of C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4), such that its decision to affirm, modify, or reverse a disciplinary action could be challenged in district court. The Supreme Court held that the Personnel Rules precluded district court review of a final order by the Board. View "Colorado Judicial Dept. 18th Judicial District" on Justia Law

by
As relevant here, a trial court has reason to know that a child is an Indian child when “[a]ny participant in the proceeding, officer of the court involved in the proceeding, Indian Tribe, Indian organization, or agency informs the court that it has discovered information indicating that the child is an Indian child.” In this dependency and neglect case, the juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights with respect to E.A.M. Mother appealed, complaining that the court had failed to comply with Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) by not ensuring that the petitioning party, the Denver Human Services Department (“the Department”), had provided notice of the proceeding to the tribes that she and other relatives had identified as part of E.A.M.’s heritage. The Department and the child’s guardian ad litem responded that the assertions of Indian heritage by Mother and other relatives had not given the juvenile court reason to know that the child was an Indian child. Rather, they maintained, such assertions had merely triggered the due diligence requirement in section 19-1-126(3), and here, the Department had exercised due diligence. A division of the court of appeals agreed with Mother, vacated the termination judgment, and remanded with directions to ensure compliance with ICWA’s notice requirements. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed, finding that "mere assertions" of a child's Indian heritage, without more, were not enough to give a juvenile court "reason to know" that the child was an Indian child. Here, the juvenile court correctly found that it didn’t have reason to know that E.A.M. is an Indian child. Accordingly, it properly directed the Department to exercise due diligence in gathering additional information that would assist in determining whether there was reason to know that E.A.M. is an Indian child. View "Colorado in interest of E.A.M. v. D.R.M." on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on proposed Initiatives #67 (2021-2022), #115 (2021-2022) and #128 (2021-2022), and whether they violated the single-subject requirement of the Colorado Constitution. Each indicative included provisions that would allow food retailers already licensed to sell beer to also sell wine, and provisions that would authorize third-party delivery services to deliver all alcoholic beverages sold from licensed retailers to consumers at their homes. After review, the Supreme Court determined the Initiatives violated the single-subject requirement, and the Title Board lacked jurisdiction to set titles for them. Accordingly, the Board’s actions were reversed. View "Fine v. Ward" on Justia Law

by
This termination of parental rights case concerned the “active efforts” required under the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs to assist a parent in completing a court-ordered treatment plan. A division of the Colorado court of appeals reversed a juvenile court’s judgment terminating Mother’s parent-child legal relationship with her two Native American children, holding that the Denver Department of Human Services (“DHS”) did not engage in the “active efforts” required under ICWA to assist Mother in completing her court-ordered treatment plan because it did not offer Mother job training or employment assistance, even though Mother struggled to maintain sobriety and disappeared for several months. The Colorado Supreme Court held that “active efforts” was a heightened standard requiring a greater degree of engagement by agencies, and agencies must provide a parent with remedial services and resources to complete all of the parent’s treatment plan objectives. The Court was satisfied the record supported the juvenile court’s determination that DHS engaged in active efforts to provide Mother with services and programs to attempt to rehabilitate her and reunited the family. The appellate court’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for that court to address Mother’s remaining appellate contentions. View "Colorado in interest of My.K.M. and Ma. K.M." on Justia Law

by
In the November 2020 election, Colorado voters approved Proposition 118, which established the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (“the Act”). This case concerned whether the Division of Family and Medical Leave Insurance's (“the Division”) collection of premiums under the Act violated section (8)(a) of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (“TABOR”), specifically, whether the premium was an unconstitutional “added tax or surcharge” on income that was not “taxed at one rate.” And, if so, the Colorado Supreme Court was asked whether the Act’s funding mechanism was severable from the rest of the Act. The Supreme Court concluded the premium collected by the Division did not implicate section (8)(a) because the relevant provision of that section concerned changes to “income tax law.” The Act, a family and medical leave law, was not an income tax law or a change to such a law. Moreover, the premium collected pursuant to the Act was a fee used to fund specific services, rather than a tax or comparable surcharge collected to defray general government expenses. View "Chronos Builders v. Dept. of Labor" on Justia Law

by
William Danks appealed a district court judgment affirming the Public Utilities Commission’s (“PUC’s” or “Commission’s”) decision that a gas-gathering system operated by DCP Operating Company, L.P. (“DCP”) did not meet the statutory definition of a public utility and therefore was not subject to the PUC’s jurisdiction. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded the PUC regularly pursued its authority in reaching this decision, that the decision was just and reasonable, and that the PUC’s conclusions were in accordance with the evidence. View "Danks v. Colorado Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

by
In Case No. 02CW403, and Case No. 10CW306, the Colorado Water Court Division 1 determined, among other things, that the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (“FRICO”) did not have a decreed right to use seepage water accruing to a ditch known as the Beebe Seep Canal. FRICO nonetheless continued to utilize the seepage water outside the priority system to make additional water available to its shareholders for irrigation. In 2016, FRICO sought a decree confirming absolute and conditional water rights to use unappropriated: (1) water seeping from Barr Lake; and (2) natural runoff, drainage, waste, return flows, and seepage water arising in, flowing into, and accruing to the Beebe Seep Canal (the “Subject Water Rights”) to supplement water deliveries to its shareholders for irrigation. Following the culmination of stipulations with most of the twenty initial objectors and a five-day trial, the water court issued its final judgment confirming, adjudicating, approving, and decreeing FRICO’s use of the Subject Water Rights contingent upon certain terms and conditions outlined within the water court’s Amended Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Judgment and Decree of the Court (“Amended Decree”). The issues raised by FRICO in this appeal concerned three of the specific terms and conditions that the water court placed upon FRICO’s use of the Subject Water Rights. The issue raised by three of the objectors in their cross-appeal concerned the water court’s authority to grant certain of these new rights. The Colorado Supreme Court found the water court's findings and its imposition of the challenged terms and conditions in the Amended Decree were supported by the record and did not violate FRICO's right to appropriate unappropriated water. Further, the Supreme Court held the water court was within its authority to grant FRICO the absolute rights challenged by the three objectors in their cross-appeal. View "Farmers Reservoir v. Arapahoe County" on Justia Law

by
In November 2017, Saul Cisneros was charged with two misdemeanor offenses and jailed. The court set Cisneros’s bond at $2,000, and Cisneros’s daughter posted that bond four days later, but the County Sheriff’s Office did not release him. Instead, pursuant to Sheriff Bill Elder’s policies and practices, the Sheriff’s Office notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) that the jail had been asked to release Cisneros on bond. ICE then sent the jail a detainer and administrative warrant, requesting that the jail continue to detain Cisneros because ICE suspected that he was removable from the United States. Cisneros was placed on an indefinite “ICE hold,” and remained in detention. During his detention, Cisneros, along with another pretrial detainee, initiated a class action in state court against Sheriff Elder, in his official capacity, for declaratory, injunctive, and mandamus relief. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the appellate court erred in concluding that section 24-10-106(1.5)(b), C.R.S. (2021), of the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (“CGIA”) did not waive sovereign immunity for intentional torts that result from the operation of a jail for claimants who were incarcerated but not convicted. The Supreme Court concluded section 24-10-106(1.5)(b) waived immunity for such intentional torts. "In reaching this determination, we conclude that the statutory language waiving immunity for 'claimants who are incarcerated but not yet convicted' and who 'can show injury due to negligence' sets a floor, not a ceiling. To hold otherwise would mean that a pre-conviction claimant could recover for injuries resulting from the negligent operation of a jail but not for injuries resulting from the intentionally tortious operation of the same jail, an absurd result that we cannot countenance." Accordingly, the judgment of the division below was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Cisneros v. Elder" on Justia Law