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Colorado Court of Appeals to hear arguments at Denver's South High School on Oct. 4

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

DENVER – The Colorado Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in two cases at South High School in Denver on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, before an audience of students. The public also is invited to attend.

The visit is part of the Colorado Judicial Branch’s Courts in the Community, an 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 Colorado high school students insight into the Colorado judicial system and illustrate how disputes are resolved in a democratic society. These are not mock proceedings. The court will hear arguments in actual cases from which it will issue opinions. The court generally issues opinions within a few weeks of the arguments.

The 22 judges of the Colorado Court of Appeals sit in divisions of three judges to hear cases. Judges hearing cases at South High School are John Daniel Dailey, Nancy J. Lichtenstein, and Karen M. Ashby.

The two cases are: 

  • 17CA1852, Sharon Nelson v. Douglas County and Kristin Laniar: Douglas County and one of its former employees asked the Colorado Court of Appeals to review a trial court’s denial of their motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a woman who alleged she was injured when her vehicle struck a county snowplow driven by the employee. Douglas County and the employee argued in the trial court the lawsuit should have been barred by governmental immunity. In her lawsuit, Sharon Nelson alleged the snowplow driver was negligent and that the county was liable for damages caused in the collision. The governmental immunity statute sets out that immunity is waived under certain circumstances, including for injuries arising from the operation of a motor vehicle operated by a public employee during the course of employment. The county and its former employee argued that governmental immunity should bar the lawsuit because a snowplow is not a “motor vehicle” as defined by state statutes. The trial court disagreed and denied the motion to dismiss.
  • 16CA2133, People of the State of Colorado v. Charles Linnebur: Charles Linnebur asked the Colorado Court of Appeals to review his conviction under a recently enacted state law making it a felony to be convicted of a fourth or subsequent offense of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI). He was sentenced to four years in community corrections. Jurors found Linnebur guilty of DWAI and DUI per se, and the trial court found that he had three prior convictions for DUI or DWAI, meaning he stood convicted of a felony. In written briefs, Linnebur’s attorney argued that the General Assembly intended the prior convictions to be an element of the crime of felony DUI, meaning the prior convictions would have to be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors argued the trial court appropriately decided the prior convictions had to be proved to the Court by a preponderance of the evidence, a lower standard of proof. In other arguments on appeal, Linnebur asked the Court of Appeals to consider the sufficiency of evidence identifying him as having had prior DUI or DWAI convictions, whether the trial court improperly allowed the jury to hear certain statements about Linnebur’s past behavior, and whether there was misconduct on the part of prosecutors.

The proceedings will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, at South High School, 1700 E. Louisiana Ave., Denver, CO 80210. A question-and-answer session, during which the students may ask questions of the attorneys, will follow the arguments in each case. At the conclusion of the second argument, the 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.

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