A Decision 37 Years in the Making

by Julia Cardi

Editor’s Note: The latest episode of Law Week Colorado’s podcast, Hearsay, focuses on the intensive work that attorneys put into the long-running case. Hear this episode and others at LawWeekColorado.com/Hearsay

Fourteen years after the Colorado Supreme Court remanded a then-23-year-old case about ancestral land rights to the district court, the Court of Appeals has handed down an opinion in the case’s fourth appeal. But the latest decision still doesn’t put a definitive end to the case, and with it now 37 years old, there’s no telling how much longer the case could keep going.

In Alire v. Cielo Vista Ranch, the Court of Appeals on Nov. 15 ruled against the ranch’s current owner in the challenge of an administrative process used from 2004 to 2010 to allocate land access rights to the plaintiffs, Costilla County residents. The case also included a cross-appeal by the residents challenging the comprehensiveness of a different process used from 2010 to 2016. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on cross-appeal, and has remanded to the district court to finish identifying all present-day landowners who can trace their access rights back to a land grant that predates Colorado’s statehood.

“Our clients have been waiting for this vindication for decades, and it’s just overwhelming to have it actually happen, and to be a part of it,” said Aaron Boschee, a senior associate at Squire Patton Boggs who has represented the Costilla County landowners as lead counsel in the case since 2013. “I’m still a little in shock.”

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the November 26, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.