April 30, 2018
2018 CO 31. No. 16S970. People in Interest of R.S.
Children’s Code—Dependency or Neglect Proceedings—Appeals.
In this dependency or neglect case, the trial court held a single adjudicatory trial to determine the dependent or neglected status of the child. The judge served as fact-finder with respect to allegations against mother, and a jury sat as fact-finder with respect to the allegations against father. The judge ultimately concluded that the child was dependent or neglected “in regard to” mother. In contrast, the jury concluded there was insufficient factual basis to support a finding that the child was dependent or neglected. In light of these divergent findings, the trial court adjudicated the child dependent or neglected and continued to exercise jurisdiction over the child and mother, but entered an order dismissing father from the petition. The People appealed the jury’s verdict regarding the father.
The Court of Appeals dismissed the People’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction, reasoning that the dismissal of a single parent from a petition in dependency or neglect based on a jury verdict is not a final appealable order because neither the appellate rule nor the statutory provision governing appeals from proceedings in dependency or neglect expressly permits an appeal from a “‘no adjudication’ finding.”
The Supreme Court concluded that, with limited exceptions not relevant here, section 19-1-109(1) of the Colorado Children’s Code authorizes appeals in dependency or neglect proceedings from “any order” that qualifies as a “final judgment” for purposes of CRS § 13-4-102(1). Because the trial court’s order dismissing father from the petition was not a “final judgment,” the Court concluded that the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction and properly dismissed the Department of Human Services’ appeal.
The Court of Appeals’ dismissal was affirmed.
2018 CO 32. No. 15SC326. People v. Rediger.
Public Employee—Invited Error—Waiver—Constructive Amendment—Plain Error Review.
This case required the Supreme Court to decide two questions: (1) whether the owner–director of a nonprofit school regulated by various governmental entities is a “public employee” within the meaning of CRS § 18-9-110(1), and (2) whether respondent waived or invited error with respect to a constructive amendment claim when his defense counsel stated that he was “satisfied” with the proposed jury instructions, notwithstanding the fact that the elemental instruction on the charge of interference with the staff, faculty, or students of an educational institution tracked CRS § 18-9-109(1)(b) rather than CRS § 18-9-109(2), which was the subsection charged in the information.
As to the first question, the Court concluded that “public employee” means an employee of a governmental entity, and therefore an employee of a nonprofit school is not a public employee. Accordingly, the Court agreed with the Court of Appeals division’s decision that respondent’s conviction for interference with a public employee in a public building cannot stand.
As to the second question, the Court concluded that respondent neither waived nor invited error with respect to his constructive amendment claim because the record does not indicate that he or his counsel either intentionally relinquished a known right or deliberately injected the erroneous jury instruction as a matter of trial strategy. The Court instead construed respondent’s general acquiescence to the instructions as a forfeiture and, reviewing for plain error, concluded that the constructive amendment of respondent’s charging document constituted plain error necessitating a new trial.
The Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the Court of Appeals division’s judgment.
2018 CO 33. No. 16SC313. People v. Smith.
Invited Error—Waiver—Simple Variance—Plain Error Review.
In this case, the Supreme Court reviewed two issues: (1) whether respondent waived or invited error with respect to his claim of a prejudicial simple variance when his defense counsel stated that the proposed jury instructions were generally acceptable, and (2) whether a jury instruction on menacing that does not identify the particular victim named in the charging document creates a simple variance warranting reversal when the jury could potentially have deemed either of two people to be the victim.
In light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in People v. Rediger, 2018 CO 32, ___ P.3d ___, the Court concluded that respondent neither waived nor invited error with respect to his simple variance claim. The Court thus reviewed respondent’s variance claim for plain error and concluded that because the evidence presented at respondent’s trial would not obviously have allowed the jury to find that the respondent menaced a victim not named in his charging document, the trial court did not plainly err in instructing the jury on menacing without specifying the victim.
The Court reversed the Court of Appeals division’s judgment.
2018 CO 34. No. 16SC287. People in Interest of L.M.
Children’s Code—Dependency and Neglect—Relinquishment—Termination of Parental Rights—CRS § 19-3-602—CRS § 19-5-105.
This case required the Supreme Court to determine whether the State may seek to terminate a parent’s parental rights under the relinquishment provision of the Colorado Children’s Code, CRS § 19-5-105, when the child is already subject to a dependency and neglect proceeding under Article 3 of the Code, CRS §§ 19-3-100.5 to -805.
The Court concluded that when a dependency and neglect proceeding is pending, the State can terminate parental rights only through the procedures set forth in Article 3 of the Code and cannot use the more limited processes provided in Article 5.
The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals division’s judgment.
2018 CO 35. No. 17SA110. People v. Taylor.
Pursuant to C.A.R. 4.1, the People challenged an order of the district court granting Taylor’s motion to suppress drug evidence. The Supreme Court held that the district court erred in granting Taylor’s motion to suppress because no seizure had yet taken place when Taylor dropped the drugs.
The Court reversed the district court’s suppression order and remanded the case for further proceedings.