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Winter 2014 Newsletter

In this issue: Winter 2014

Announcements

The JLS is excited to announce that the invited Keynote speaker for our annual JLS Conference on April 17 is Robert Listenbee, from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Mr. Listenbee is one of the authors of “Defending Childhood: Protect Heal and Thrive as a result of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.”


Schedule of Future JLS Events

The meeting schedule for the remainder of this calendar year will continue to occur at different times to accommodate members who are not able to make it to a noon meeting. Please put these dates on your calendar now and send in your RSVP when you get the meeting notice from Jill Lafrenz. Notices about CLE topics, speakers, and any special meeting locations will be sent separately by email.

  • Wednesday, March 12, at noon—Presentation on Juvenile SOMB guidelines
  • Thursday, April 17, all-day CLE—“Preserving Childhood: Working with Trauma Exposed Children and Families”
  • Wednesday, May 14, at 4 p.m.—Annual Election Meeting and Legislative Update CLE

Unless otherwise noted, all meetings are held at the Colorado Bar Association Office, 1900 Grant Street, 3rd Floor, Denver, CO 80203. The meetings are available by audio conference for members who are unable to travel to Denver. Please contact Jill Lafrenz, our CBA Liaison.


Recent Meetings and Events

Nov. 13, 2013 at 4 p.m.—Claire Levy presented on “The Legislative Committee to Study Juvenile Defense”.

Jan. 8, 2014 at 8 a.m.—Phil James presented on “Thinking about Legal Ethics”.


Other Events of Interest

Many of these conferences offer special discounts for CBA Juvenile Law Section members—Be sure to ask when registering for an event.

Aug. 18–20—NACC 37th National Child Welfare, Juvenile & Family Law Conference, Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center


Legislative Subcommittee Report

The Regular Session of the Sixty-ninth General Assembly convened on Wednesday, Jan. 8. Sarah Felsen will again head up the JLS legislative subcommittee. You can look forward to regular updates soon. If you have any interest in working with Sarah on the Legislative Subcommittee, give her a call. She would love your help!


The Colorado Lawyer—Juvenile Law Articles and Other Articles of Interest

The November 2013 issue of The Colorado Lawyer, Volume 42, No. 11, contains an article entitled “Colorado’s Family-Integrated Problem-Solving Courts”, written by Sarah Felsen.

Sheri Danz and Pax Moultrie, both past Chairs of the JLS, are co-editors of the Juvenile Law articles that appear in The Colorado Lawyer. For information about submitting articles please contact Sheri at (303) 860-1517, ext. 102, sheridanz@coloradochildrep.org, or Pax at (303) 636-1100, pmoultrie@arapahoegov.com.


Case Law Update

Please note, Colorado Court of Appeal Summaries and links to the full opinions are available online. Go to cobar.org/opinions, and click on the appropriate case date.

The Court of Appeals summaries are written for the CBA by licensed attorneys Teresa Wilkins (Denver) and Paul Sachs (Steamboat Springs). Please note that the summaries of Opinions of the Colorado Court of Appeals are provided as a service by the CBA, and are not the official language of the Court. The CBA cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the summaries.


2013 CO 63. No. 12SC396. A.S. v. People

Statutory Construction—“May” Versus “Shall”—Juvenile Justice—ggravated Juvenile Offender—CRS §19-2-601—Suspended Sentence of Commitment to Department of Human Services—Probation.

The Supreme Court held that CRS §19-2-601(5)(a)(I)(A) grants a court discretion, in sentencing an aggravated juvenile offender, to suspend a commitment to the Department of Human Services on a condition of successful completion of probation for an offense that would not constitute a class 1 or class 2 felony if committed by an adult. The Court reversed the court of appeals’ decision, concluding that the Colorado Legislature used the term “may” in §19-2-601(5)(a)(I)(A) according to the term’s traditional, permissive meaning.


2013 COA 157. No. 12CA2078. People In the Interest of S.N., and Concerning S.N.

Dependency and Neglect—Summary Judgment—Prospective Harm.

The Boulder County Department of Human Services (Department) removed S.N. from her parents at birth because a hearing on termination of parental rights involving their three older children was pending. The Department then petitioned the trial court to adjudicate S.N. dependent and neglected, alleging there was a risk of prospective harm to S.N. if she were placed in the parents’ care. The parents denied the allegations and sought a jury trial, but the Department sought summary judgment. The trial court granted the Department’s motion.

On appeal, the parents argued that prospective harm is a factual question that precludes summary judgment. The Court of Appeals first reviewed the analysis of a summary judgment motion on appeal. It then analyzed “prospective harm” in a dependency and neglect proceeding, finding that the fact-finder must determine whether it is “likely” or “expected” that the child will be dependent or neglected in a parent’s care in the future. In other words, the fact-finder must predict whether, based on the parent’s past conduct and current circumstances, it is reasonably likely or expected that the parent will mistreat or fail to provide proper care for the child in the future. A parent’s past conduct and care of other children, while probative, is not necessarily dispositive on this issue. Therefore, the Court concluded, the question of prospective harm is inappropriate for summary judgment. The Department’s motion for summary judgment did not establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The trial court’s summary judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for an adjudicatory jury trial.


2013 COA 159. No. 13CA1177. People In the Interest of J.J.M., and Concerning J.D.G.M.

Dependency and Neglect—Peremptory Challenges Under CRJP 4.3(b).

The Denver Department of Human Services (Department) filed a petition in dependency or neglect with regard to J.J.M., an 8-month-old, based on allegations that the child had been brought to the emergency room and diagnosed with retinal hemorrhaging, a subdural hematoma with a brain shift, and chronic and acute brain bleeds. The Department also alleged that the child’s injuries were not consistent with father’s explanation of the injuries. Additionally, the Department alleged father used marijuana. Father denied the allegations and requested a jury trial. After a three-day jury trial and based on the verdict, the juvenile court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected. Father appealed.

Colorado Rule of Juvenile Procedure 4.3(b) provides, “Examination, selection, and challenges for jurors in such cases shall be as provided by C.R.C.P. 47, except that the petitioner, all respondents, and the guardian ad litem shall be entitled to three peremptory challenges. No more than nine peremptory challenges are authorized.“ Here, before voir dire, the juvenile court ruled that father and the child’s mother would have three peremptory challenges, the Department would have three peremptory challenges, and the guardian ad litem (GAL) would have three peremptory challenges.

Father argued that the court erred in its allocation of peremptory challenges. The Court of Appeals discerned no error ruling that the challenges were in keeping with the plain language of the statute. The order was affirmed.


2013 COA 170. No. 13CA0342. In re the Parental Responsibilities of A.R.L., and Concerning Limberis.

Biological Versus Presumptive Mother in Same-Sex Relationship—Uniform Parentage Act.

Elizabeth Limberis and Sabrina Havens began living together as a couple in 2000. Several years later, Havens unsuccessfully underwent one round of artificial insemination. Her friend, Marc Bolt, then agreed to inseminate her through sexual intercourse. Neither Havens nor Bolt revealed their sexual encounter to Limberis. Havens conceived and gave birth to A.R.L. in 2008. Limberis was present at the birth, and the child was given her last name. The birth certificate identifies Havens as the mother and does not name the father.

In 2011, the couple separated and Limberis filed a petition for parental responsibilities. Havens contested Limberis’s request for allocation of parental responsibilities and joined Bolt as a party. Bolt responded, describing himself as a sperm donor, and later filed a petition to relinquish his parental rights.

Limberis then petitioned for maternity under the Colorado Uniform Parentage Act (UPA), arguing that she was a presumed parent under the UPA. Havens moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. Havens argued that because A.R.L. had a father and a mother, Limberis could not be a second mother and third parent under the UPA. The trial court agreed and dismissed Limberis’s petition. Following a hearing, the court allocated all parental responsibilities to Havens and granted Bolt’s petition to relinquish his parental rights.

The Court of Appeals found that the trial court erred in denying Limberis’s maternity petition on legal grounds without considering the merits. Limberis alleged facts in her petition that, if true, demonstrated she was an interested party. Therefore, she did not lack capacity under the UPA. The UPA’s purpose is to establish and protect the parent–child relationship. A person may be a presumed parent without being a biological or adoptive parent.

The Court rejected the argument that granting Limberis’s maternity petition would have left A.R.L. with three legal parents. First, Bolt was, at most, an alleged father. Second, no other statutory presumption applied to Bolt. Third, even if Bolt claimed a presumption as the father, that presumption is rebuttable. Fourth, if Bolt had filed a petition for parentage, it would have just been a competing petition, not the possibility of three parents. Finally, Bolt never claimed paternity.

The Court also rejected the argument that there is no authority in Colorado to support substituting a second legal mother for a child’s legal father. At most, the trial court had two competing presumptions to consider.

Finally, the Court addressed the underlying implicit premise of the trial court’s ruling—that a child may not have two legal mothers under the UPA. The Court found nothing in the UPA that would prohibit a child from having two same-sex parents. Accordingly, the order denying Limberis’s maternity petition was reversed. On remand, the trial court must determine whether Limberis is A.R.L.’s presumptive mother under the UPA’s holding out provision.


2013 COA 171. No. 13CA0847. People in the Interest of J.G.C., and Concerning J.C.H.

Dependency and Neglect—Subject Matter Jurisdiction for Paternity Determination.

The Logan County Department of Social Services (LCDSS) filed a petition in dependency and neglect and a motion seeking temporary custody of a child who had been born eight days earlier. LCDSS identified J.C.H. as the child’s father because his name was on the birth certificate, but alleged that he might not be the biological father. Paternity tests were ordered, and results showed that J.C.H. was not the biological father. LCDSS then filed a motion to dismiss J.C.H. from the petition, which the trial court granted.

On its own motion, the Court of Appeals considered whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to make a paternity determination, and ruled that it did not. Colorado’s Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) vests exclusive original jurisdiction in parentage proceedings in the juvenile court. However, a paternity proceeding “may be joined with an action in another court of competent jurisdiction for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, declaration of invalidity of marriage, or support.” When a paternity action arises in a non-paternity proceeding, as here, the court must follow the procedures outlined in the UPA.

The UPA provides that before paternity can be determined, each man presumed to be the father and each man alleged to be the natural father must be made a party to the action, or given notice and an opportunity to be heard. Here, an alleged father had been identified by mother and therefore his joinder was required. Because the record did not show that he was given legal notice that a paternity determination was being sought and he was made a party to the proceeding only after J.C.H.’s dismissal, the Court concluded that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide the issue of paternity. The order dismissing J.C.H. from the petition therefore was void. The dismissal order was vacated and the case was remanded.

In anticipation of an issue that might be raised on remand, the Court addressed J.C.H.’s contention that the trial court erred in dismissing him based on the genetic test results. Under the UPA, a presumption of fatherhood may arise from several sets of circumstances. Here, the claim was based on J.C.H.’s acknowledgment of paternity on the birth certificate. His acknowledgment that he was not the biological father did not rebut this presumption, and there was no such evidence at the time he was dismissed from the case.


Winter Newsletter

The Spring 2014 Newsletter is scheduled to go out by March 21. The deadline for submitting cases, articles and events is March 14. Please send any submission requests to sthibault@co.clear-creek.co.us, or call (303) 679-2432 (phone) or by fax at (303) 679-2444.


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