Court Opinions for May 15, 2017

Foster v. Plock

The Supreme Court considered whether mutuality is a necessary element of defensive claim preclusion. Although multiple divisions of the Court of Appeals have concluded that mutuality need not be established for the defensive use of claim preclusion, the Supreme Court disagreed. Instead, the Supreme Court concluded that mutuality is a necessary element of defensive claim preclusion. The court also concluded that mutuality existed in this case, as did the remaining elements of claim preclusion, and therefore affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals on other grounds.


Montoya v. People

Angela Montoya petitioned for review of the Court of Appeals’ judgment affirming his convictions for attempted extreme indifference murder, reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and accessory to crime. Montoya and his cousin were tried together for the shooting death of a woman at a party, in the course of which they each fired a number of rounds in the direction of other party-goers. In a separate appeal to the Court of Appeals, Montoya’s homicide convictions were initially reversed for failure to properly instruct concerning self-defense against multiple assailants, but upon remand for reconsideration in light of intervening Supreme Court jurisprudence, all of his convictions were affirmed, not only with regard to the disputed issue of multiple assailants but against a variety of other assignments of error as well. Montoya’s subsequent petition for a writ of certiorari was partially granted by this court.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, holding there was sufficient evidence to support Montoya’s conviction of attempted extreme indifference murder; Montoya was barred from challenging on appeal the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for being an accessory to crime, a lesser non-included offense presented to the jury at his request; and Montoya’s simultaneous convictions of reckless manslaughter and accessory to crime neither merged nor required concurrent sentences.


Colorado Department of Revenue v. Creager

The Supreme Court granted certiorari review to determine whether Blunt Wraps, a type of cigar wrapper made in part of tobacco and designed to be filled with smoking material and smoked, may be taxed as “tobacco products.” The Supreme Court holds that because Blunt Wraps are a “kind” or “form” of tobacco and are “prepared in such manner as to be suitable . . . for smoking,” they fall within the plain language of the statutory definition of “tobacco products” and are taxable accordingly. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.


Stoorman v. Dixon

In this case, the Supreme Court considered whether attorneys’ charging liens may attach to spousal maintenance awards under Colorado’s attorney’s lien statute. The court applied the plain language of the attorney’s lien statute, which provides that attorneys shall have a lien on “any judgment they may have obtained or assisted in obtaining,” and holds that an attorney’s charging lien may attach to an award of spousal maintenance. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment and remanded the case to that court with instructions to return the case to the trial court for proceedings consistent with the opinion.


Select Energy Services., LLC v. K-LOW, LLC

This appeal from the water court in Water Division No. 1 concerned the nature and extent of a water right following a recent change to its diversion point. The right initially diverted water at a headgate on the South Platte River, but pursuant the recently enacted simple change statute, its owner changed that diversion point to a pump farther downstream. Interpreting the decree recognizing the change, the water court concluded it did not include a right to divert water from a ditch historically used to convey the water right. On appeal, the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion. Because, by its plain language, the decree defining the water right allows its holder to divert water only at the pump downriver from the disputed ditch, and that language is not susceptible to any other reasonable interpretation, the Supreme Court concluded the decree does not include a right to divert water from that ditch. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the water court’s judgment.


People v. King, People v. Sewick, People v. Maxwell, People v. Maxwell

In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court considered whether the prosecution’s use of a defendant’s refusal to consent to blood-alcohol testing as evidence of guilt at trial for a drunk-driving offense, in accordance with section 42-4-1301(6)(d) of Colorado’s Revised Statutes violates the defendant’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. Because the Supreme Court recently held in Fitzgerald v. People that the use of such refusal evidence does not violate the Fourth Amendment, that holding controls here, and the defendant’s challenge to section 42-4-1301(6)(d) fails. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the trial court’s order in this case.