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Berges v. County Court of Douglas County

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Sixth Division

October 6, 2016

Ronald Berges, Beth Ballen, Stephanie Van Voorst, Jody Curtin, Nathan Mohr, Lynn Robinson, and Mark Bauman, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
County Court of Douglas County and Honorable Monica J. Gomez, Defendants-Appellees.

         Douglas County District Court No. 14CV31174 Honorable Paul A. King, Judge

          Lindquist & Vennum LLP, John A. Chanin, Patrick G. Compton, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiffs-Appellants

          Eytan Nielsen LLC, Iris Eytan, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant Ronald Berges

          Recht Kornfeld, P.C., Richard Kornfeld, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant Beth Ballen

          Denis Lane, Jr., Colorado Springs, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant Stephanie Van Voorst

          Greenberg Traurig, LLP, John Voorhees, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant Nathan Mohr Shufflebarger Lambrone & Clark LLC, Jeremy Shufflebarger, Fort Collins, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant Lynn Robinson

          Foster Graham Milstein & Calisher, LLP, Gary Lozow, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant Mark Bauman

          Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, David C. Blake, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Matthew D. Grove, Assistant Solicitor General, Denver, Colorado, for Defendants-Appellees

          OPINION

          NAVARRO JUDGE

         ¶ 1 This appeal requires us to examine the interplay between two sections of article 3 of title 19 (the Children's Code). Section 19-3-206, C.R.S. 2016, vests county attorneys with exclusive authority to represent the "petitioner" in all "proceedings" brought under article 3, which is entitled "Dependency and Neglect." Section 19-3-304, C.R.S. 2016, requires certain people (e.g., doctors and school officials) to report suspected child abuse or neglect; these people are often called "mandatory reporters." A mandatory reporter who willfully violates this duty to report commits a misdemeanor.

         ¶ 2 The question is: Does section 19-3-206 strip district attorneys of their authority to prosecute mandatory reporters for the misdemeanor offense described in section 19-3-304? We conclude that the answer is "no" because section 19-3-304 does not set forth a proceeding under article 3; it simply defines an offense. And criminal prosecutions of that offense do not constitute article 3 proceedings. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's judgment denying relief under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) to plaintiffs Ronald Berges, Beth Ballen, Stephanie Van Voorst, Jody Curtin, Nathan Mohr, Lynn Robinson, and Mark Bauman.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         ¶ 3 Plaintiffs are medical doctors, clinical social workers, and health care professionals facing criminal charges in Douglas County Court for violating section 19-3-304. The charges were filed by a detective in the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. See Crim. P. 4.1(c)(3).

         ¶ 4 When the district attorney assumed the prosecution of the criminal cases, plaintiffs moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that the district attorney lacked authority to prosecute the charges in light of section 19-3-206. The county court denied the motions, concluding that "a proceeding brought under Article 3 of the Children's Code is limited to ...


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