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People ex rel. J. D.

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Third Division

December 14, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of J.D., Juvenile-Appellant.

         Weld County District Court No. 14JD547 Honorable Thomas J. Quammen, Judge

          Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Kevin E. McReynolds, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellee

          The Noble Law Firm, LLC, Tara Jorfald, Lakewood, Colorado, for Juvenile-Appellant

          JUDGE BERGER

         ¶ 1 Does a magistrate who accepted a juvenile's guilty plea have jurisdiction to consider the juvenile's motion to withdraw his plea based on allegations of ineffective assistance of plea counsel?

         ¶ 2 The magistrate here granted J.D.'s motion to withdraw his plea. On the People's petition to review the magistrate's order, the district court vacated the magistrate's order for lack of jurisdiction. J.D. appeals, and addressing this novel issue, we hold that the magistrate had jurisdiction and accordingly reverse the district court's order.

         I. Facts and Procedural Background

         ¶ 3 J.D., represented by counsel, appeared before a magistrate in a delinquency case. He signed an "advisement of rights in a juvenile delinquency proceeding" and pleaded guilty to acts that if committed by an adult would have constituted second degree criminal trespass. The magistrate accepted the plea and entered a one-year deferred adjudication. Then the magistrate gave the prosecution ninety-one days to seek restitution and J.D. twenty-one days to object.

         ¶ 4 After the prosecution sought restitution and J.D. failed to file an objection within the deadline, the magistrate ordered restitution.The magistrate denied as untimely J.D.'s motion to reconsider the restitution order.

         ¶ 5 Four months later and through new counsel, J.D. moved to withdraw his guilty plea under Crim. P. 32(d). The motion alleged ineffective assistance of plea counsel for improperly advising J.D. as to the likely restitution amount and the bankruptcy consequences of restitution, as well as failing to formally withdraw as J.D.'s counsel.

         ¶ 6 Following an evidentiary hearing at which plea counsel testified, and over the prosecution's objection, the magistrate granted the motion and vacated the plea.

         ¶ 7 The prosecution timely sought district court review under C.R.M. 7(a)(1) and section 19-1-108(5.5), C.R.S. 2017. Applying C.R.M. 7(a)(1), the district court held that the magistrate did not have jurisdiction to hear J.D.'s motion, and that J.D.'s sole remedy for ineffective assistance of counsel was to file a petition for district court review under that rule. Then it concluded that because he had failed to do so, he could not obtain relief under Crim. P. 32(d).[1] II. The Magistrate Had Jurisdiction to Consider J.D.'s Crim. P.32(d) Motion

         ¶ 8 Section 19-1-108, C.R.S. 2017 provides in relevant part:

(1) The juvenile court may appoint one or more magistrates to hear any case or matter under the court's jurisdiction, except where a jury trial has been requested pursuant to section 19-2-107.
. . . .
(3)(a.5) Magistrates shall conduct hearings in the manner provided for the hearing of cases by the court. During the initial advisement of the rights of any party, the magistrate shall inform the party that, except as provided in this subsection (3), he or she has the right to a hearing before the judge in the first instance and that he or she may waive that right but that, by waiving that right, he or she is bound by the findings and recommendations of the magistrate, subject to a request for review as provided in subsection (5.5) of this section.

         (Emphasis added.)

          A. Standard of Review

         ¶ 9 "We interpret our rules of civil procedure de novo and apply principles of statutory construction." In Interest of M.K.D.A.L., 2014 COA 148, ¶ 5 (quoting Willhite v. Rodriguez-Cera, 2012 CO 29, ¶ 9); see Reno v. Marks, 2015 CO 33, ¶ 20. In interpreting statutes, we aim to ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent. St. Vrain Valley Sch. Dist RE-1J v. A.R.L., 2014 CO 33, ¶ 10. "To do so, we look to the plain meaning of the statutory language and consider it within the context of the statute as a whole. If the statutory language is clear, we apply it as such." Lewis v. Taylor, 2016 CO 48, ¶ 20 (citing Denver Post Corp. v. Ritter, 255 P.3d 1083, 1088 (Colo. 2011)).

         ¶ 10 We are also instructed to construe statutes and rules to avoid unconstitutional results. Lopez v. People, 113 P.3d 713, 728 (Colo. 2005) ("We must construe statutes to avoid constitutional conflicts if possible."); State, Dep't of Labor & Emp't v. Esser, 30 P.3d 189, 194 (Colo. 2001) ("If alternative constructions of a statute - one constitutional, the other unconstitutional - may apply to the case under review, we choose the one that renders the statute constitutional or avoids the constitutional issue." (citing People v. Hickman, 988 P.2d 628, 637 (Colo. 1999))).

         B. Analysis

         ¶ 11 A Crim. P. 32(d) motion premised on a claim of ineffective assistance of plea counsel is a proceeding designed to determine if a plea previously entered was constitutionally defective, allowing the defendant to withdraw the plea. The district court held that a juvenile whose plea was accepted by a magistrate is prohibited from filing such a motion, even though a juvenile whose case is heard by a judge is free to do so, and even though an adult defendant has a right to file a Crim. P. 32(d) motion based on the same grounds.

         ¶ 12 The district court relied on C.R.M. 7(a) for its conclusion that the magistrate did not have jurisdiction to decide J.D.'s Crim. P. 32(d) motion. We find it unnecessary to decide whether C.R.M. 7(a) (which governs review of a magistrate's order entered when consent of the parties is not required) or C.R.M. 7(b) (which governs review of a magistrate's orders entered when consent of the parties is required) is the applicable rule. The ...

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