COLORADO SUPREME COURT
June 3, 2019
2019 CO 44. No. 15SC1095. McCoy v. People.
Sufficiency of the Evidence—Standard of Review—Statutory Construction—Unlawful Sexual Contact.
This case principally required the Supreme Court to determine the appropriate standard of review for unpreserved claims of insufficient evidence and to apply that standard to decide whether legally sufficient evidence supported defendant's convictions here.
The Court initially concluded that sufficiency of the evidence claims may be raised for the first time on appeal and are not subject to plain error review. Accordingly, appellate courts should review unpreserved insufficiency claims de novo (i.e., in the same manner as if the claims were preserved), and not under a plain error standard of review. Such a rule is consistent with Colorado's criminal procedure rules, long-standing precedent, and the nature of sufficiency claims, including the settled principle that a conviction that is based on legally insufficient evidence cannot stand.
On the merits of defendant's sufficiency claims, the Court began by construing CRS § 18-3-404(1)(g), which bars sexual contact committed during treatment or examination for other than bona fide medical purposes or in a manner substantially inconsistent with reasonable medical practices. After determining that this provision is ambiguous, the Court employed settled tools of statutory construction and concluded that the provision applies to a doctor or other individual who is, or holds himself or herself out to be, a health treatment provider of any kind, and who knowingly subjects the victim to sexual contact while examining, treating, or purporting to examine or treat the victim for other than a bona fide medical purpose or in a manner substantially inconsistent with reasonable medical practices.
Finally, applying this construction here, the Court concluded that the provision is neither facially over broad nor unconstitutionally vague and that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to support defendant's convictions.
Accordingly, the Court affirmed the division's judgment, although its reasoning differs in some respects from that of the division majority.
2019 CO 45. No. 15SC180. Maestas v. People.
Sufficiency of the Evidence—Standard of Review—Statutory Construction.
The Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the Court of Appeals division's opinion affirming defendant's conviction for second degree burglary.
For the reasons discussed in McCoy v. People, 2019 CO 44, ___ P.3d ___, announced the same day, the Court concluded that sufficiency of the evidence claims may be raised for the first time on appeal and are not subject to plain error review. Accordingly, appellate courts should review sufficiency claims de novo (i.e., in the same manner as if the claims were preserved), and not under a plain error standard of review, including when the claims involve preliminary questions of statutory construction. Because the division reviewed defendant's sufficiency claim for plain error and affirmed the trial court's ruling without considering the merits of defendant's assertion that insufficient evidence supported his conviction for second degree burglary, the Court reversed the portion of the judgment concerning that count and remanded this case with instructions that the division perform a de novo review of defendant's sufficiency claim.
2019 CO 46. No. 18SA266. Klun v. Klun.
The Supreme Court was asked to decide whether defendant is entitled to recover his attorney fees pursuant to a fee-shifting provision of a prior settlement agreement between him and plaintiffs.
The fee-shifting clause at issue provided that the prevailing party in an action to enforce, by any means, any of the terms of the settlement agreement shall be awarded all costs of the action, including reasonable attorney fees. Here, plaintiffs' claims, in substance, sought relief based on allegations that defendant had breached the terms of the settlement agreement, and defendant responded by arguing that it was plaintiffs' claims that were inconsistent with that agreement. In these circumstances, the Court concluded that plaintiffs' claims constituted an effort to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement. Indeed, consistent with this conclusion, plaintiffs themselves had asserted a claim for fees pursuant to the fee-shifting clause at issue.
Accordingly, the Court held that defendant, as the prevailing party on all claims, is entitled to recover his attorney fees pursuant to the settlement agreement's fee-shifting clause. The Court therefore reversed the water court's order denying an award of such fees and remanded the case for a determination of the trial and appellate fees to be awarded to defendant.
2019 CO 47. No. 17SC200. Colorado Department of Labor and Employment v. Dami Hospitality, LLC. Eighth Amendment—Corporations—Excessive Fines—Workers' Compensation Noncompliance.
The Supreme Court considered whether the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on the government imposition of "excessive fines" applies to fines levied on corporations. Concluding that this Eighth Amendment protection applies to corporations, the Court held that the proper test to assess the constitutionality of government-imposed fines requires an assessment of whether the fine is grossly disproportional to the offense for which it is imposed, as articulated in United States v. Bajakajian, 524U.S. 321,334 (1998). The Court of Appeals' ruling was thus reversed and the case was remanded to that Court for return to the Division of Workers' Compensation to determine whether the per diem fines at issue are proportional to the harm or risk of harm caused by each day of the employer's failure to comply with the statutory requirement to carry workers' compensation insurance.
June 10, 2019
2019 CO 48. No. 15SC935. People v. Morehead.
Searches, Seizures, and Arrests—Law of the Case—Mandate and Proceedings in Lower Court.
The People petitioned for review of the Court of Appeals' judgment reversing Morehead's convictions for possession and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, as well as seven gambling-related charges. The Court of Appeals held that the search of defendant's residence violated the Fourth Amendment. It ordered all the evidence seized from defendant's residence suppressed and reversed defendant's convictions. In addition, it mandated that the trial court be barred from considering new arguments for admission of that evidence on retrial.
The Supreme Court held that because the scope and conduct of the suppression hearing are within the sound discretion of the trial court, a trial court on retrial may, except where bound by the ruling of a higher court, determine the appropriateness of entertaining new and different motions, evidence, arguments, or theories for or against...