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Colorado Supreme Court Opinions
November 27, 2012

2012 CO 68. No. 10SC403. General Steel Domestic Sales, LLC v. Bacheller III.
First Amendment—Right to Petition—Trebeled Exemplary Damages.

The Supreme Court held that Protect Our Mountain Environment, Inc. v. District Court, 677 P.2d 1361 (Colo. 1984), (POME) is inapplicable where, as here, the underlying alleged petitioning activity was the filing of an arbitration complaint that led to a purely private dispute. Under POME, a plaintiff must meet a “heightened standard” when suing a defendant for the “alleged misuse or abuse of the administrative or judicial processes of government.” In this case, Harold Bacheller III sued General Steel Domestic Sales, LLC (General Steel), Discount Steel Buildings, LLC (Discount Steel), and the presidents and sole shareholders of each of the companies for abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and civil conspiracy, based on their filing an arbitration complaint against him. During trial, the trial court denied defendants’ request to include additional elements reflecting POME’s heightened standard in the malicious prosecution jury instruction. Because POME is inapplicable here, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

The Court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by trebling the exemplary damages award against General Steel and Discount Steel. After the jury returned verdicts in Bacheller’s favor on several claims and awarded actual and exemplary damages, the trial court granted Bacheller’s motion to treble the exemplary damages award but against only General Steel and Discount Steel. Because the record supports the trial court’s finding that defendants acted willfully and wantonly during the pendency of the action and further aggravated Bacheller’s damages, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling. 

2012 CO 69. No. 12SA112. In the Matter of Miranda.
Attorney Discipline—Reinstatement to Practice Law After Suspension for Felony Criminal Conviction—Parole—CRS § 18-1.3-401(3)—CRCP 251.29.

In this appeal, the Supreme Court considered whether the Hearing Board erred in reinstating Michael Miranda to the practice of law. Miranda is currently serving the mandatory parole portion of his felony criminal sentence for vehicular homicide/DUI.

The Hearing Board reinstated Miranda after concluding he had proven by clear and convincing evidence his rehabilitation, fitness to practice law, and compliance with disciplinary orders, as required by CRCP 251.29. However, the Court held that § 18-1.3-401(3) of the Criminal Code bars convicted felons from practicing law while they serve out all components of their sentences, including parole. Therefore, the Court reversed the Hearing Board’s order reinstating Miranda to the practice of law.

2012 CO 70. No. 12SA222. In the Interest of Madrone.
Family Law—Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act—Initial Child-Custody Determination.

The Supreme Court held that the trial court failed to properly analyze jurisdiction under Colorado’s Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) when it exercised jurisdiction over minor child R.M. Contrary to the trial court’s ruling, the intent of the parties to remain in Colorado is not the test for whether a court has jurisdiction to determine initial custody matters. Rather, the trial court must analyze whether it has jurisdiction in this initial custody determination under Colorado’s UCCJEA as codified at CRS § 14-13-201. 

Because the trial court applied the incorrect legal standard in determining jurisdiction, it erred when it held that Colorado had jurisdiction to determine the custody dispute concerning R.M. Accordingly, the Court vacated the trial court’s order assuming jurisdiction, made the rule absolute, and remanded the case for the trial court to conduct a full analysis under Colorado’s UCCJEA.

Colorado Supreme Court Opinions