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Colorado Supreme Court Opinions
June 16, 2014

2014 CO 44. No. 12SC783. Gessler, Colorado Secretary of State v. Colorado Common Cause.
Issue Committees—Colo. Const. art. XXVIII, § 2(10)(a)(II)—CRS § 1-45-108(1)(a)(I)—8 CCR § 1505-6:4.1.

The Supreme Court held that Sampson v. Buescher, 625 F.3d 1247 (10th Cir. 2010), did not facially invalidate either the $200 contribution and expenditure threshold for issue committees under art. XXVIII, § 2(10)(a)(II) of the Colorado Constitution or the retrospective reporting requirement under CRS § 1-45-108(1)(a)(I) of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. The Court further held that Secretary of State Rule 4.1., 8 Colo. Code Regs. § 1505-6:4.1 (2013), promulgated by the Secretary of State after Sampson was decided, conflicts with both the $200 threshold in article XXVIII and the retrospective reporting requirement in CRS § 1-45-108(1)(a)(I). Because the Secretary of State does not have authority to promulgate rules that conflict with other provisions of law, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals and set aside Rule 4.1.

2014 CO 45. No. 13SA97. In re People v. DeAtley.
CAR 21 Original Proceeding in Criminal Case—Defense Counsel Motion to Withdraw—Implied Waiver of the Right to Counsel—Arguello Advisement.

The Supreme Court held that the trial court unreasonably and unfairly determined that the attorneys in this case could effectively represent defendant, despite his discharge of them and the trial court’s previous finding that a conflict of interest existed between defense counsel and defendant due to defendant’s filing of a malpractice and breach of contract lawsuit against defense counsel. After concluding that defendant was engaging in trial-delaying conduct, the trial court chose the wrong remedy and thereby abused its discretion. The trial court’s finding that the attorneys could balance their personal interests implicated by defendant’s actions with their obligation to represent him was arbitrary, unreasonable, and unfair given the trial court’s first finding that a conflict existed. It should have granted the motion to withdraw and proceeded in accordance with Crim.P. 44(a), advising defendant that he had the obligation to hire other counsel, request the appointment of counsel by the court, or elect to represent himself. In view of defendant’s delay-causing conduct, the trial court should have given him an Arguello advisement, explaining the consequences of engaging in trial-delaying conduct, which can result in an implied waiver of the right to counsel, and explaining the risks of proceeding without counsel. [See People v. Arguello, 772 P.2d 87, 92–94 (Colo. 1989)]. The Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the motion to withdraw and made the rule absolute.

2014 CO 46. No. 11SC889. Kelly, MD v. Haralampopoulos.
Evidence—Statements Made for Purposes of Medical Diagnosis or Treatment.

Respondent suffered a cardiac arrest during a fine-needle aspiration biopsy. He failed to respond to routine resuscitation efforts, and the resulting brain injury left him in a vegetative state. The trial court held that statements made to a physician by a family friend, asking whether respondent’s cocaine use may have contributed to his heart attack and failure to respond to resuscitation efforts, were admissible under CRE 803(4). The court of appeals reversed, finding that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of respondent’s cocaine use.

The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in limiting the scope of CRE 803(4) to statements made for the purpose of prospective treatment. The Rule’s plain language applies to “diagnosis or treatment.” Although the term “treatment” has a prospective focus, the term “diagnosis” does not. Instead, diagnosis focuses on the cause of a patient’s medical condition, and may or may not involve subsequent treatment. Here, statements made by the family friend were made for the purpose of discovering the cause of respondent’s cardiac arrest and failure to react to normal resuscitation efforts, and were thus admissible under CRE 803(4). Accordingly, the court of appeals’ judgment was reversed.

2014 CO 47. No. 13SA102. People v. Storlie.
Criminal Law—Dismissal, Nolle Prosequi, or Discontinuance.

In this CAR 21 proceeding, defendant and the district attorney sought extraordinary relief from the trial court’s denial of the district attorney’s motion to dismiss the charges against defendant pursuant to Crim.P. 48(a). The Supreme Court issued a rule to show cause and made the rule absolute. A trial court may deny the prosecution’s unopposed motion to dismiss only where it has been shown by clear and convincing evidence that the interests of the defendant or the public are jeopardized by the refusal to prosecute. The prosecution is presumed to be acting in the best interests of the public unless the prosecution is shown to have been acting in bad faith. Here, the district attorney made a good-faith prosecutorial decision to dismiss the charges based on an assessment of available testimony. Accordingly, the trial court’s denial of the motion to dismiss was an abuse of discretion.

2014 CO 48. No. 11SC351. People v. Griffin.
Criminal Law—Death of Defendant—Abatement.

The Supreme Court granted the People’s petition for writ of certiorari after the court of appeals vacated defendant’s conviction for failure to register as a sex offender. After the court granted certiorari review, but before oral arguments, defendant died. Defense counsel filed a notice of death and motion to dismiss, arguing that because of defendant’s death, the court should dismiss the writ of certiorari and vacate the criminal proceedings ab initio. The Court reviewed additional briefing regarding the proper resolution of the matter in light of the defendant’s death, and heard oral arguments. The Court held that the doctrine of abatement ab initio in Colorado does not apply to cases pending on certiorari review. Accordingly, consistent with the practice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court vacated its order granting the writ of certiorari and dismissed the People’s petition, but did not abate the proceedings ab initio. The court of appeals’ judgment vacating defendant’s conviction stands undisturbed.

2014 CO 49M. No. 12SC299. Cain v. People.
Modified Opinion—Evidence—CRS § 42-4-1301.

In this case, the Supreme Court considered whether the results of a preliminary breath test (PBT) for blood alcohol content are admissible for impeachment purposes. The Court held that under CRS § 42-4-1301, the PBT results may not be used as evidence in any court action except as specifically provided in the statute itself. Thus, PBT results may not be used as impeachment evidence. The order of the district court was reversed and the case was remanded with instructions to return the case to the county court.

Colorado Supreme Court Opinions