On April 10th, 2019 I attended a court hearing at the Colorado Court of Appeals in Denver Colorado. I witnessed case 18CA0534. It began with attorney Arthur Spicciati (attorney # 41571), representing the people in The People v The State of Colorado.
This appellate court hearing regarded a child custody case where the child claimed the parents failed to fulfill their obligations according to the family contract of being a parent. This is a neglect case, defined by the rules of juvenile procedure and is civil in nature.
There were two main issues: Procedural question of finality and substantive matter. Regarding the procedural question of finality: It is the status of appealable orders that give this court jurisdiction - there is much case law yet nothing specific to this specific case. It was argued that the dispositional order is a final appealable order by definition, as defined in statute 19-1-109. It defines termination and adjudication orders after disposition as an appealable final order to coincide with Title 13's requirement that there be a final order that this court could review. Is this disposition itself appealable?
The prosecution argued that only the adjudication order can be appealed and not the disposition and that by that definition this case is appealable. This is essentially a family law case determining rights and responsibilities of the family. Dependency and Neglect (D&N) cases - will all cases be allowable but in the time constraints of an Expedited Permanency Planning (EPP) case such as this. Did the legislation address D&N case - legislature went back in the 90's and stated a termination order is final. Termination orders may not be final as they have not addressed all matters of the custody case. No statute that states what is not final. Which could slow down the process of what can be addressed in a D&N case. Family's lives have moved on since the last order in December. Cases must move forward. Towards permanency one way or another.
As noted in the response brief, statutes allows courts to continue to make dispositional orders as an appeal is pending. The court addressed the language of statute as "an order decreeing a child to be neglected or dependent shall be final and appealable after the entry of the disposition pursuant to section 19-3-508," ultimately saying the final order is appealable, but not the disposition order itself being final and appealable. It is simply uses the order as a trigger for finality of the order decreeing the child being neglected or dependent. People v GS 2018 was referenced in order to include this matter within the statute. Stating the language is expansive not a confined definition of final order. Although, it was argued that the relationship is between the department and the people, and the people are bound by their previous assertation and should not be able to take a contradictory position because of the previous benefits from the adjudication.
The prosecution continued to discuss the substantive matter. Stating this order should be reviewed - and that the department of social services (DSS) is not a party, therefore there is no other recourse aside from this appeal. The child is suing the parent for lack of parenting. Although, the child is not competent to do so therefore the state is doing so. The DSS is not appealing, the people are appealing. People are a part of the case - through prosecuting and asking for an appeal.
Note: rule 21 is an option that has not been considered, and could be applicable as the trial court is doing something that violates separation of powers and therefore exceeding its jurisdiction. This is not being heard at this oral argument in front of the Court of Appeals.
Defending attorney Chelsey Carr, attorney registration number 48961 - was representing appellee respondent father. She claims that this issue id determined by 2 issues: 1) the order is not final appealable order, and; 2) if it was appealable the lower courts findings are supported by the record.
At the outset of this case the father was under criminal investigation in SC. However the detective did not bring charges. Part of the differed adjudication condition was that the father was to receive Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) treatment as a condition of differed adjudication. The father could not afford treatment and filed a motion objecting to the treatment and requesting the government pay for it. The court ruled in an oral argument requiring the government to pay for treatment of remove treatment as a condition in order to give him a chance to succeed. The parties entered into an oral stipulated adjudication where the government would pay for treatment as well as a separate dispositional order- but in the final ruling the payment was not referenced nor what was included in the treatment plan. The government filed a motion for a written order on the courts oral ruling. On August 9th, 2018 the lower court entered that order.
This is the order in which the government is attempting to appeal and is not a final appealable order. Pursuant to CRS 19-1-109 subsection 1, parties may take an appeal as provided in CRS 13-4-102 from any order, decree or judgement, however, 13-4-102 specifies that this must be from any final judgement. The case law set forth seems to be clear that this is a judgement that ends the particular action from which is considered - leaving nothing more for the court to do. Though this case is far from final. They have an adjudication where the parties continue to appear before the trial court. They continue to be able to file motions and request changes to the treatment plan as it sees fit. Pursuant to CRS 19-1-109 subsection 2 there is 3 exceptions to the finality rule: when there is a question of law in a delinquency case, termination order or denial of termination order, or an adjudication after the disposition order enters. This is not a delinquency case or a termination order.
The government argues it is part of the disposition order - however this was a separate order, on a separate motion, heard in a separate hearing that was removed several months in time from the actual adjudication. In February, 2018 the court had a hearing to address the fathers motion -at that time, the government requested the ruling be withheld to understand if the county would pay for treatment. If the government had not requested the withholding of the ruling, there would be no question as to the ability to appeal. This is the issue as to why the timeframes have been shrunk and the confusion around the ability to appeal. When the government filed its request for the written order on June 27th of 2018, they did not mention a disposition to that order nor did they mention a supplement to the order or an amendment to the order. They simply requested that the court reduce the prior oral ruling into writing. That oral ruling was not part of the dispositional order. Even if the government was correct in asserting this is part of the dispositional order, this is not an adjudication order and does not qualify. If we allowed any dispositional order to be appealed it would bog down the judicial system and this was not intended by the statute.
Regarding People v GS 2018 and the prosecutions argued that the language is expansive regarding the definition of final order and what can be appealed. The defense clarified the case and stated the language specified was only that certain orders can be appealed (finality plus the specific exceptions found in CRS 19-1-109 subsection 2). This language is very specific around limiting finality and not opening up appeals for adjudication.
The Colorado Court of Appeals has not published an opinion regarding this matter as of 5/3/2019.
Please help me address ethical theories such as utilitarianism, Kant, and egalitarianism: define "justice."
Give an example of a legal proceeding (from personal or observed experience or from media coverage of a story) which demonstrated that the judicial system did OR did not achieve "justice" as you defined it. Explain why.
State the name and location of the court attended and identify the type of legal cases heard.
Describe your observation of the courtroom environment and why you believe it is created in that manner.
Describe your observation of the people in attendance (judge, parties, attorneys, witnesses and audience members).
Answer the question: Did the proceeding appear to achieve "justice" as you defined it; explain why it did OR why it did not.
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