A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in Carbondale on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, and in Breckenridge on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, before audiences of high school students. Limited seating for the public will be available.
In addition to the events with high school students, the three-judge panel also will meet with students from Crystal River and Frisco elementary schools and meet with members of local Access to Justice committees, local bar associations and other groups during that week.
The events with high school students are part of the Colorado Judicial Department’s Courts in the Community, the outreach program the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals initiated on Law Day (May 1), 1986. The Courts in the Community program was developed to give high school students firsthand experience in how the Colorado judicial system works and illustrate how disputes are resolved in a democratic society. These are not mock proceedings; the judges will hear arguments in real cases and, later, issue opinions in those cases. The court generally issues opinions within a few weeks of arguments.
In Carbondale, the event will be held at Roaring Fork High School. In Breckenridge, the event will be held at Summit High School.
The 22 judges of the Colorado Court of Appeals sit in divisions of three to hear cases. The division that will hear cases in Carbondale and Breckenridge comprises Chief Judge Gilbert M. Román, Judge David Furman and Judge Terry Fox.
The two cases to be heard in Carbondale are:
- 22CA1934, The Sentinel Colorado v. Kadee Rodriguez: Sentinel Colorado, a newspaper in Aurora, asked the Colorado Court of Appeals to review a trial court’s decision not to release the recording and meeting minutes of a closed executive session meeting held by the Aurora City Council regarding a motion to censure one of its members. Kadee Rodriguez, Aurora’s records custodian, denied the Sentinel’s request for the recording and any meeting minutes from the March 14, 2022, executive session, and the Sentinel then filed a complaint in trial court, citing alleged violations of the Colorado Open Records Act and Open Meetings Law. The trial court initially ruled that the recording of the executive session should be released, but then granted Rodriguez’s motion to reconsider. The trial court found that a public meeting held two weeks after the executive session clearly identified what took place during the executive session and cured any violation of the Open Meetings Law, prompting the Sentinel to appeal. The appeal argues that the trial court made several errors, including finding that the later, public meeting cured any violation of the Open Meetings Law; by failing to determine whether the City Council took formal action during the executive session; and that the trial court should have found that the Council either waived or destroyed any attorney-client privilege protecting the recording and any minutes of the executive session.
- 22CA33, The People of the State of Colorado v. Bradley Todd Clark: Bradley Clark was convicted of arson and criminal mischief and sentenced to four years in prison for setting a fire inside a Durango grocery store. He asked the Court of Appeals to review the trial court’s 2021 decision to allow prosecutors to tell the jury trial that Clark had been arrested in 2007 for allegedly setting fire to the contents of a dumpster. Charges from the 2007 incident were later dismissed, but prosecutors asked the jury to consider the incident in determining whether Clark was responsible for the fire in the grocery store. Clark’s appeal argues that the evidence of the 2007 fire should not have been presented to the jury because it violated a court rule governing when evidence of prior bad acts may be admitted as evidence. The appeal also argues that the two incidents were so different that the trial court should not have allowed prosecutors to admit evidence regarding the dumpster fire. Prosecutors argue that the evidence from the 2007 fire helped show why Clark would have set the 2019 fire, showing he had a “specific tendency” toward such acts, and that the probative value of the evidence outweighed any potential prejudice against Clark.
The two cases to be heard in Breckenridge are:
- 22CA2034, John H. Bruce Jr. v. Jonathan Webb, Falcon Fire Protection District and William Yoder: The Falcon Fire District and its chief, Jonathan Webb, asked the Court of Appeals to review a trial court’s decision that a lawsuit alleging that Webb was negligent in his role in a traffic accident could proceed because his actions resulted in a waiver of governmental immunity. Driving to a fire in April 2020, Webb had his SUV’s emergency lights and sirens on when he approached an intersection near Falcon. He slowed as he entered the intersection, and his vehicle was struck near the rear on the passenger side by a vehicle driven by William Yoder. Webb’s SUV spun and hit motorcycle rider John Bruce, who had stopped. Bruce was severely injured and sued the fire district, Webb and Yoder. After a hearing on the district’s and Webb’s motion to dismiss, the trial court concluded they were not entitled to governmental immunity because Webb failed to slow down enough as he approached the stop sign at the intersection. Attorneys for the district and Webb argue in briefs that Webb was not negligent in the way he drove to respond to the fire and that the trial court erred in finding that Webb did not “give due regard to the safety of the community at the time he ran the stop sign” because such regard is not required by law under such circumstances. Attorneys for Bruce argue that the trial court resolved that question in its finding that Webb “failed to slow down as may be necessary for safe operation.”
- 20CA1717, The People of the State of Colorado v. Maria Laida Day: Maria Laida Day asked the Court of Appeals to review her convictions on charges including second-degree murder in the death of her boyfriend, for which she was sentenced to a total of 35 years in prison. Day’s trial was not held for nearly five years after the incident because she had to be evaluated repeatedly to determine whether she was mentally competent. During the trial, her defense team sought to present expert testimony about her mental condition at the time of the incident in which her boyfriend was fatally injured, but the trial court refused. On appeal, her attorney argues in briefs that the trial court erroneously found that she did not cooperate with a court-ordered mental examination, and that the expert-witness testimony the defense wanted to present could have been admitted only if she had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors argue the trial court was correct. Day also asked the Court of Appeals to reverse the trial court’s order that she pay about $13,000 in restitution to the victim’s family, arguing the restitution order was issued after the deadline. Prosecutors argue the defendant waived the restitution deadline.
Proceedings at Roaring Fork High School, 2270 Highway 133 in Carbondale, will begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023; proceedings at Summit High School, 16201 Highway 9 in Breckenridge, will begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023.
Question-and-answer sessions, during which the students may ask questions of the attorneys, will follow the arguments in each case. After the second argument at both locations, students also will have the opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session with the Court of Appeals judges.
There will be a limited number of seats for the public. Audio recordings from the two arguments will be available online within one to two days of the arguments at http://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Court_Of_Appeals/Oral_Arguments/Index.cfm.