Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court

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Samuel J. Stoorman & Associates, P.C. represented Kristy Casagranda (“Wife”) during dissolution proceedings against her then-husband Brian Todd Dixon (“Husband”). The Firm asserted a charging lien for its fees under Colorado’s attorney’s lien statute against assets the court awarded to Wife during the divorce and obtained a court order recognizing that lien. The firm later filed a motion for an entry of judgment enforcing its charging lien against maintenance payments Husband owed to Wife, seeking to have Husband redirect those payments to the Firm. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that an attorney’s charging lien could not attach to a maintenance award. The court of appeals affirmed. Because the attorney’s lien statute’s plain language provided that a charging lien attached to any judgment that an attorney helps a client obtain, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed. View "Stoorman v. Dixon" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Petitioner Scott Foster’s former wife, Bronwen Foster (“Wife”), filed for dissolution of marriage and hired attorney John Plock to represent her. As part of the dissolution proceedings, the trial court ordered a parental responsibilities evaluation (“PRE”). The PRE was performed by Dr. Andrew Loizeaux. A second PRE was subsequently conducted by Dr. Edward Budd. Neither evaluation was favorable to Foster. The PREs were confidential and were not to be “made available for public inspection” without an order of the court. Foster was found guilty of violating a protection order issued in the dissolution proceedings. A deputy district attorney prosecuting the protection order matter filed the PREs with the criminal court for use in sentencing. Plock filed a motion in the dissolution proceedings, admitting that he had disclosed the PREs to the deputy district attorney. While the dissolution of marriage proceeding and the criminal cases were pending, Foster filed eleven separate lawsuits against those involved in the PRE process conducted by Dr. Loizeaux. Wife was named as a defendant, but Plock was not. The lawsuits alleged various claims, including defamation and outrageous conduct. The eleven cases were consolidated into one case. The defendants each moved to dismiss the case. Foster subsequently amended his complaints. In Foster’s amended complaint against Wife, he alleged among other things that she, through her attorney, caused both of the PREs to be disclosed in the criminal case. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether mutuality was a necessary element of defensive claim preclusion. Multiple divisions of the court of appeals concluded that mutuality need not be established for the defensive use of claim preclusion, but the Supreme Court disagreed, instead concluding that mutuality was a necessary element of defensive claim preclusion. The Court also concluded that mutuality existed in this case, as did the remaining elements of claim preclusion, and therefore affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals on other grounds. View "Foster v. Plock" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Lisa Grimicko (Wife) filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. In it, she petitioned for spousal maintenance and an equitable division of the marital assets and debts. Wife sought information from Nickifor Gromicko's (Husband) employer, International Association of Certified Home Inspectors ( InterNACHI). Wife alleged that Husband founded the company in 2004, and served as InterNACHI's Chief Operating Officer. Although Husband initially indicated he had no objection to making certain InterNACHI records available, he subsequently refused to produce them, contending that he was merely an employee of the company, and had no authority to provide the records. Husband's counsel, who also served as InterNACHI's general counsel, filed a brief on behalf of the company regarding access to the requested records. The trial court made no ruling on the records request. In response, Wife served a subpoena, and InterNACHI moved to quash the subpoena. In its motion, InterNACHI argued that many of the documents were privileged and confidential, and irrelevant to the dissolution proceedings. Wife maintained that the records were relevant to both spousal maintenance and division of marital property. The trial court denied InterNACHI's motion, and ultimately ordered InterNACHI to produce the records. Finding that the trial court did not take an active role in managing Wife's discovery request, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order and remanded for the trial court to make findings about the appropriate scope of discovery in light of the reasonable needs of the case. View "In re Marriage of Gromicko" on Justia Law

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This case centered on whether a father could use the doctrine of laches to defend against a mother's claim for interest on his child support debt. In the precedential case "Hauck v. Schuck," (353 P.3d 79 (1960)), the Colorado Supreme Court decided laches did not apply to a claim for unpaid child support that accrued within the statutory limitations period. The court of appeals determined in the present case, that laches could not apply to bar one parent's right to collect interest on arrearages owed by the other parent. The Supreme Court granted certiorari review in this matter to address whether laches was an appropriate defense in an interest-collection action, and also to resolve "the arguable tension" in "Hauck." The Court concluded that laches could be asserted as a defense to a claim for interest on child support arrearages, and therefore reversed the court of appeals. View "In re Marriage of Johnson" on Justia Law

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After a jury found that the environment of M.L.’s four children was injurious to their welfare, the trial court adjudicated the children dependent or neglected. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to resolve two points: (1)whether determination of a child’s status as dependent or neglected under the injurious environment provision of Article 3 of the Colorado Children’s Code must take into account each parent’s actions or failures to act; and (2)whether findings as to parental fault are required to adjudicate a child dependent or neglected under the same provision. Mother (“M.L.”) appealed a jury’s finding that the environment for four of her five children was injurious to their welfare and the trial court’s resulting adjudication. Relying on "Troxel v. Granville," (530 U.S. 57 (2000)), the court of appeals agreed with M.L. and reversed the trial court’s adjudication. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that Troxel’s due process requirements did not necessitate that the State prove that both parents lack the availability, ability, and willingness to provide reasonable parental care before a child may be adjudicated dependent or neglected under the injurious environment provision. Additionally, the Court held that neither the plain language of the dependency or neglect statute nor Troxel required the State to prove parental fault when adjudicating a child dependent or neglected under the injurious environment provision. Hence, the trial court’s jury instructions were consistent with the plain language of the statute and the trial court did not err when it allowed the jury to find that the children’s environment was injurious to their welfare without first requiring the jury to make findings of parental fault. View "Colorado in the Interest of J.G." on Justia Law

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In this case, E.S.V. (“mother”) challenged the termination of her parental rights with respect to C.E.M. and M.F.M. (“children”). Mother’s treatment plan included as one of its objectives that mother would “demonstrate appropriate protective capacities to ensure her children’s safety.” To achieve this objective, mother was required to report to her caseworker and the guardian ad litem (“GAL”) any contact that she had with the children’s abusive father. The district court found that mother had failed to report numerous contacts with father and was unable or unwilling to internalize the safety concerns at which the treatment plan was directed, despite the efforts of many professionals and treatment providers. The court therefore terminated mother’s parental rights as to the children. Mother appealed this ruling, and a division of the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court concluded that the evidence amply supported the district court’s decision to terminate mother’s parental rights. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "E.S.V. v. Colorado in the Interest of C.E.M." on Justia Law

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After a two-day permanent orders hearing, the trial court felt it lacked insufficient information to allocate attorney's fees in this divorce action. Therefore, the court chose to issue the decree dissolving the marriage, along with permanent orders addressing parental responsibilities, child support, the division of marital property, and spousal maintenance, but postponed a determination on fees. The hearing on fees was approximately six months later. In the gap between the permanent orders hearing and the fees hearing, Wife's counsel requested additional documents regarding her Husband's financial circumstances. Husband objected and requested a protective order, which the trial court issued. The court ultimately ordered each party to pay their own fees and costs. Wife appealed this order, and the court of appeals reversed, reasoning that the trial court should have permitted additional discovery in order to ensure an equitable determination of fees. The Supreme Court, after review, disagreed with the court of appeals' conclusion, and instead held that for the purpose of deciding whether to award attorney's fees, a trial court should consider the parties' financial resources as of the date of the issuance of the decree of dissolution. The case was reversed and remanded to reinstate the trial court's protective order and the order instructing both sides to pay their own fees. View "In re Marriage of de Koning" on Justia Law

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Central to the appeal before the Supreme Court in this case was a question of who would be the parents of two little boys. M.C. was unaware that he had become the father to the twin boys because the children's biological mother, J.Z., had told him she suffered a miscarriage. J.Z. relinquished her parental rights, and in doing do provided false information about the identity of the biological father. The trial court terminated M.C.'s parental rights and the children were put up for adoption. T.W. and A.W., the adoptive parents, were unaware of J.Z.'s deception. M.C. learned of the adoption and petitioned the court to void termination of his rights. The court reinstated M.C.'s rights, and he thereafter attempted to gain custody of the children. After a two-day bench trial, the trial court found that M.C. failed to take substantial responsibility for the children, and that termination of his parental rights was in the best interests of the children. The court again terminated M.C.'s parental rights and returned custody to the adoptive parents. The court of appeals reversed and remanded back to the trial court, to "conduct a hearing on custody after affording [M.C.] a full and fair opportunity to establish a meaningful relationship" with the children. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to review whether the court of appeals erred in reversing the second termination of M.C.'s parental rights. Finding no error with the trial court's second termination decision, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court and remanded for further proceedings. View "T.W. v. M.C." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented to the Colorado Supreme Court was whether summary judgment was ever appropriate in dependency and neglect adjudications involving prospective harm. The Court of Appeals held a trial court could never grant summary judgment because reasonable minds could always draw differing inferences from the evidence. The Supreme Court, however, concluded that when the underlying material facts are undisputed, reasonable minds could reach one inference based on the specific facts of the case. Therefore, the Court held that trial courts must evaluate whether summary judgment is appropriate in a dependency and neglect adjudication involving prospective harm on a case-by-case basis. View "Colorado in Interest of S.N." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether accrued vacation and sick leave may be considered marital property subject to division under the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act (UDMA). The trial court entered an order dividing the value of the husband's accrued vacation and sick leave as part of the marital estate. The husband appealed, and the court of appeals reversed. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that where a spouse has an enforceable right to be paid for accrued vacation or sick leave, such leave earned during the marriage is marital property for the purposes of the UDMA. Where the value of the leave can be ascertained at the time of dissolution, a trial court should consider such value when equitably dividing the marital estate. In this case, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in considering the value of the husband's accrued leave because no competent evidence was presented to establish he had an enforceable right to payment for such leave. View "In re the Marriage of Cardona and Castro" on Justia Law