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Colorado Supreme Court Opinions
March 17, 2014

2014 CO 17. No. 12SC672. Trujillo v. Colorado Division of Insurance.
Insurance Law—CRS § 10-2-704(1)(a)—Insurance Producer’s Fiduciary Duty to an Insured—Insurance Commissioner’s Authority to Sanction Licensees.

The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in interpreting CRS § 10-2-704(1)(a) to create a fiduciary relationship between a bail bonding agent and a person who was not an insured. Because the Commissioner of Insurance has authority to sanction the bail bonding agent based on the unappealed findings in this case, the Court remanded the case to the court of appeals and ordered that it be returned to the Commissioner for redetermination of the sanction. The Court remanded because it was unclear whether the Commissioner would have exercised his authority to impose the same sanction on the bail bonding agent absent his erroneous interpretation of CRS § 10-2-704(1)(a).

2014 CO 18. Nos. 10SC377 & 11SC509. People v. Novotny; People v. Vigil.
Criminal Law—Jury.

The People petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgments reversing convictions in People v. Novotny, ___ P.3d ___, ___ No. 06CA2204 (Colo.App. March 18, 2010), and People v. Vigil, No. 08CA1748 (Colo.App. May 12, 2011) (not published pursuant to CAR 35(f)). In each case, the intermediate appellate court applied a rule requiring automatic reversal as the remedy for any erroneous ruling on a challenge for cause adversely impacting defendant’s ability to shape the jury through peremptory challenges. In the former case, the district court denied a defense challenge to an assistant attorney general on the ground that he was employed by a law enforcement agency. In response, defendant removed the prospective juror with a peremptory challenge and ultimately exercised all of his peremptory challenges. In the latter case, the district court granted a prosecution challenge for cause on the ground of bias, with the effect that the prosecution was able to exercise all of its peremptory challenges on other prospective jurors.

The Court overruled its previous holdings and concluded in this consolidated opinion that reversal of a criminal conviction for other than structural error, in the absence of express legislative mandate or an appropriate case-specific, outcome-determinative analysis, can no longer be sustained. The Court further concluded that allowing a defendant fewer peremptory challenges than authorized, or than available to and exercised by the prosecution, does not, in and of itself, amount to structural error. The Court therefore reversed the judgments of the court of appeals and remanded the cases for the court of appeals to consider whether the error in each case was harmless under the proper outcome-determinative test.

2014 CO 19. No. 11SC422. People v. Alfaro.
Criminal Law—Jury.

The People petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment in People v. Alfaro, No. 06CA314 (Colo.App. May 12, 2011) (not published pursuant to CAR 35(f)), which reversed defendant’s various convictions for murder, burglary, and attempted kidnapping. On direct appeal, the court of appeals found that the trial court erred by allowing defendant fewer peremptory challenges than authorized by statute and rule. Although defendant failed to object to the trial court’s interpretation of the applicable statute, the court of appeals found that the trial court’s error rose to the level of plain error, and ordered defendant’s convictions reversed and his sentences vacated.

The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment. The Court found that the court of appeals did not apply the outcome-determinative standard, which the Court’s holding in People v. Novotny, 2014 CO 18, makes mandatory for good-faith errors impairing a defendant’s capacity to shape the jury through peremptory challenges.

Colorado Supreme Court Opinions

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