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Colorado Supreme Court Opinions
March 22, 2010

No. 08SC1026. Palizzi v. City of Brighton.
Condemnation Valuation Proceedings—Eminent Domain—Partial Takings—Present Market Value—Highest and Best Use—Agricultural Land—Future Dedication Requirements—Development Exactions—Annexation and Rezoning—Admissibility of Valuation Evidence.

The City of Brighton (City) condemned for road improvements approximately 0.8 acres of agricultural land owned by Debora Palizzi, Gloria Bennett, and Palizzi & Son, Inc. The condemned strip of property would have to be dedicated to the City should the entire property be annexed and the use changed for commercial and residential development. A jury awarded $204,387.15 as just compensation for the taken property, based on its highest and best use being for commercial and residential development. The Court of Appeals held that, where condemned undeveloped land would have to be dedicated as a condition of development, the land must be valued based only on uses to which the property could be put in the absence of rezoning or development approval. The Court of Appeals further ruled that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence that relied on the entire property’s potential for development.

The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment. In accordance with Colorado’s expansive evidentiary rules for property valuation in condemnation cases, the Court held that all evidence relevant to the determination of the present market value of the condemned property is admissible, including evidence of the most advantageous potential future use of the entire property, even if the condemned property would need to be dedicated as part of annexation and rezoning of the entire property in the future. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in admitting evidence regarding the entire agricultural property’s highest and best use based on the property’s potential for development.

No. 08SC401. Lake Canal Reservoir Co. v. Beethe.
County’s Jurisdiction and Authority to Issue Treasurer’s Deeds—County’s Compliance With Statutory Requirements—Void and Voidable Treasurer’s Deeds—Flaws in Assessment, Notice, and Description—Statute of Limitations for Raising Challenges to Treasurer’s Deed.

After the owner of record failed to pay assessed taxes, Weld County issued a treasurer’s deed to respondents for a parcel of property containing a reservoir. Six years later, petitioners brought suit to challenge the validity of the treasurer’s deed. Pursuant to CRS § 39-12-101, a challenge to a treasurer’s deed must be brought within five years, but the statute of limitations does not apply to a void deed. The trial court held that deficiencies in assessment, notice, and description made the treasurer’s deed void and thus not subject to the five-year statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that where extraneous evidence is necessary to determine a deed’s flaws, that deed is not void on its face and can only be voidable. Thus, it held that the statute of limitations barred petitioners’ claims.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment, albeit under a different rationale. The Court held that the line between a void and a voidable tax deed does not depend on the nature of the evidence used to determine the deed’s defect, but rather on the nature of the defect itself. When a defect goes to the jurisdiction or authority of the taxing entity, that defect will render a deed void. This may happen, for example, if taxes are erroneously doubly assessed or if taxes are assessed on public property. However, if a defect does not challenge the jurisdiction or authority of the taxing entity, then a deed is merely voidable, making the related claims subject to the statute of limitations. In this case, the defects—errors in assessment, notice, and description—challenged the manner in which the deed was issued but did not challenge Weld County’s jurisdiction or authority to tax the property or to issue the deed. The Court therefore held that the treasurer’s deed was voidable, rather than void. Because petitioners’ claims were brought after the expiration of the relevant statute of limitations, their claim to set aside the treasurer’s deed is time-barred. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

No. 09SA375. People v. Ferguson.
Fifth Amendment—Miranda Advisement—Voluntary, Knowing, and Intelligent Waiver.

The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order suppressing defendant’s statements because he made a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of his Fifth Amendment Miranda rights prior to the statement. The Court held that the voluntary waiver test asks whether there was coercive government conduct, and the test for a knowing and intelligent waiver weighs the totality of the circumstances against numerous factors. The trial court’s analysis was flawed in both respects. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s order and held that defendant’s statements given after validly waiving his Miranda rights are admissible.

No. 10SA43. In re Interrogatories Propounded by Governor Bill Ritter, Jr., Concerning the Effect of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. ___ (2010) on Certain Provisions of Article XXIII of the Constitution of the State of Colorado.
First Amendment—Colorado Constitution—Campaign Finance.

Pursuant to Colo. Const. art. VI, § 3, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter submitted two interrogatories to the Colorado Supreme Court on February 9, 2010, concerning whether various provisions of the Colorado Constitution were unconstitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 558 U.S. ___, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010). The Court answered both interrogatories in the affirmative.

The Court held that to the extent Colo. Const. art. XXVIII, § 3(4) makes it unlawful for a corporation or labor organization to make expenditures expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate, it violates the dictates of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Similarly, it held that to the extent Colo. Const. art. XXVIII, § 6(2) makes it unlawful for a corporation or a labor organization to provide funding for an electioneering communication, it violates the dictates of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Nos. 08SC748, 08SC749 & 08SC887. In re the Marriage of Schelp; In re the Marriage of Roberts and Lipson; In re the Marriage of Barnett.
Marital Dissolution—Financial Disclosures.

Under new rule C.R.C.P. 16.2, a court retains jurisdiction for five years over marital dissolution cases when a spouse has misstated or omitted assets in financial disclosures. In these consolidated cases, the Supreme Court interpreted whether this five-year retention provision applies when the disclosure was made pursuant to a petition for dissolution filed before the new rule’s effective date.

The Court analyzed the language of the new rule and determined that the five-year retention provision and related provisions apply to future versus past disclosures. The language indicates that the five-year retention provision becomes operative only after a party has made disclosures under the new rule to resolve petitions for marital dissolution filed after the effective date, or disclosures necessary to resolve the issues contained in a post-decree motion filed after the effective date. In the present cases, the spouses made their disclosures to resolve marital dissolution cases filed before the effective date. Therefore, the courts did not retain jurisdiction under the new rule to address post-decree motions seeking to reopen the property divisions. The judgments were reversed.

Colorado Supreme Court Opinions