Court Opinions for May 22, 2017

People in the Interest of Z.T.T

The appeal required the Supreme Court to answer whether a defendant’s confession to an Army investigator during basic training was the product of coercion. The Supreme Court held that, when a defendant knowingly and intel-ligently waives his Miranda rights, knows he is free to leave an interview and confesses to committing a crime during the course of a conversational, friendly interview devoid of coercive promises or threats, he gives his statements voluntarily. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the trial court’s suppression order and remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion. No oral arguments were held in the case.

Lucero v. People

In 2006, 15-year-old Guy Lucero was tried and convicted for multiple offenses from a drive-by shooting. Lucero was sentenced to consecutive term-of-years prison sentences for each count, aggra-vated as crimes of violence, resulting in an aggregate sentence of 84 years by the trial court, which was later affi rmed by the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court considered whether Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama applies to aggregate term-of-years sentences imposed on juvenile defendants convicted of multiple offenses. Graham held that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the sentence of life without parole for a juvenile non-homicide offender. Miller barred mandatory life without parole for any juvenile offender. Because life without parole is a specifi c sentence imposed for a single offense, the Supreme Court held that Graham and Miller did not apply to aggregate term-of-years sentences imposed for multiple offenses. The Supreme Court thus held that Graham and Miller do not apply to Lucero’s aggregate term-of-years sentence.The Supreme Court also considers whether the Court of Appeals erred by treating Lucero’s Rule 35(b) motion for sentence reduction as a Rule 35(c) motion challenging the constitutionality of his sentence. Because a court may properly characterize a mischaracterized issue, and Lucero argued that his sentence must be reduced under Graham to meet constitutional standards, the Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals did not err. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affi rmed the Court of Appeals.

People v. Rainier, Armstrong v. People, Es-trada-Huerta v. People

The Supreme Court considered whether Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama applies to aggregate term-of-years sentences imposed on juvenile defendants convicted of multiple offenses. For reasons discussed at length in the lead companion case, Lucero v. People, also announced May 22, the Supreme Court held that Graham and Miller do not apply to aggregate term-of-years sentences imposed for multiple offenses. The Supreme Court therefore held that Graham and Miller do not apply to Rainer’s, Armstrong’s or Estrada-Huerta’s aggregate term-of-years sentence. Accordingly,the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals.

In Re Villas at Highland Park Homeown-ers v. Villas at Highland Park

In a construction defect matter filed by a homeowners association against several developers, an attorney for the HOA previously represented one of the real estate developers as a defendant in another construction litigation case. The developers motioned to disqualify the attorney under Rules 1.9 and 1.10 of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. The trial court denied the motion based on issue preclusion. In the original proceeding, under C.A.R. 21, the Supreme Court reviewed a district court’s order applying the doctrine of issue preclusion to deny the de-fendants’ motion to disqualify one of the plaintiff’s attorneys under Colo. RPC 1.9 and to disqualify her law fi rm by imputation of the attorney’s conflict under Colo.RPC 1.10. The disqualifi cation inquiry under Colo. RPC 1.9(a) asked whether an attorney’s prior representation and current representation are “substantially related.” This inquiry under Colo.RPC 1.9(a) is specifi c to the particular matter for which disqualification is sought. The Supreme Court therefore concluded that a motion to disqualify under Colo. RPC 1.9(a) will rarely, if ever, raise an “identical” issue to a disqualification motion in another case for purposes of issue preclusion. Here, the Supreme Court held that the trial court abused its discretion by relying on the doctrine of issue preclusion to deny the disqualification motion instead of conducting the requisite analysis under Colo. RPC 1.9(a). The Supreme Court therefore made the rule to show cause absolute, vacated the trial court’s order, and remanded the case for the trial court to address the merits of the motion to disqualify under Colo. RPC 1.9(a).

St. Vrain Valley School District RE-1J v. Loveland

In this case, the Supreme Court considered the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act’s “recreation-area waiver,” which deprives a public entity of immunity in an action for injuries resulting from a dangerous condition of a public facility located in a recreation area. Specifically, the Supreme Court examined the meaning of “dangerous condition” under the recreation-area waiver. The Supreme Court held that a non-negligently constructed and maintained piece of playground equipment cannot be a “dangerous condition” under the waiver. Given this holding, the facts respondents allege could not show that a “dangerous condition” existed in this case. The Supreme Court therefore concluded that the recreation-area waiver did not apply and the petitioner retains its immunity from suit. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded to that court to reinstate the trial court’s order.