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Arapahoe County Department of Human Services v. People

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

January 14, 2019

Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, Petitioner
v.
The People of the State of Colorado In the Interest of Respondent D.Z.B., Juvenile.

          Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No. 14CA2167

          Attorneys for Petitioner: Ronald Carl, Arapahoe County Attorney Michael Valentine, Deputy County Attorney Danielle Newman, Assistant County Attorney Aurora, Colorado

          Attorneys for Respondent: Megan Ring, Public Defender Ryann S. Hardman, Deputy Public Defender Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Colorado Counties, Inc.: Hall & Evans, LLC Thomas J. Lyons Paul R. Janda Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amicus Curiae the Colorado Department of Human Services: Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General Tanya E. Wheeler, First Assistant Attorney General Sarah Richelson, Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado

          HART JUSTICE

         ¶1 In 2014, the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services (the Department) was ordered by the district court to take custody of D.Z.B. and house him in a particular facility pending his delinquency adjudication. Believing that the court order imposed a duty on it that was in violation of statutory requirements, the Department appealed that order. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal, concluding that the Department, as a non-party to the delinquency proceedings, lacked standing to appeal the order. In reaching that conclusion, the division conflated the test to evaluate whether a plaintiff has standing to bring a lawsuit with the test to determine whether a non-party has standing to appeal a decision of a lower court. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for the division to apply the correct standing analysis and to consider any other remaining arguments.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶2 D.Z.B., a habitual juvenile offender, was on probation when he was charged with additional delinquent acts. The prosecution sought to revoke or modify his probation. D.Z.B.'s counsel requested that the petitioner, the Department, investigate treatment and confinement options for D.Z.B. At the pretrial hearing, the guardian ad litem and D.Z.B.'s counsel requested that D.Z.B. be placed in one of the Department's residential facilities, Jefferson Hills, both prior to adjudication and as a sentence if he were adjudicated delinquent.

         ¶3 The Department objected to D.Z.B. being placed in Jefferson Hills in lieu of bond before the adjudication. The Department contended that under section 19-2-114(1)(a), C.R.S. (2018), and state regulations governing out-of-home placements for at-risk children, the district court could not place D.Z.B. in one of the Department's residential child-care facilities without its consent until after a delinquency adjudication. See Dep't of Human Servs. Reg. 500, 12 Colo. Code Regs. 2509-4: 7.304.3 (2018) (establishing criteria for out-of-home placement, including a finding of imminent risk, which can be established by a delinquency adjudication). The district court disagreed and issued a temporary custody order requiring that the Department place D.Z.B. in Jefferson Hills pending his delinquency adjudication.

         ¶4 The Department appealed the temporary custody order. In its decision, the court of appeals began by noting that D.Z.B.'s counsel had raised several threshold concerns about the appeal, including the lack of a sufficient record, the absence of a final appealable order, and the Department's alleged lack of standing. People in Interest of D.Z.B., 2017 COA 17, ¶ 16, ___ P.3d ___. Because it concluded that the Department did not have standing to challenge the order, the court of appeals declined to address the other issues raised by D.Z.B.'s counsel. Id. at ¶ 17.

         ¶5 In analyzing the Department's standing, the division first inquired whether the Department had suffered an injury in fact to a legally protected interest or had been conferred standing under the Colorado Children's Code. Id. at ¶¶ 33-44. To these questions, the division answered no. Id. at ¶¶ 36, 44. The division then considered whether the Department had been substantially aggrieved by the district court's order and found that, because the order did not place an "onerous or unique burden" on the Department, there was no substantial grievance. Id. at ¶ 52. The Department now asks us to reverse the court of appeals' decision, arguing that the division departed from our longstanding precedent requiring a non-party to show only that it was substantially aggrieved by a lower court's order to have standing to appeal.

         ¶6 We granted certiorari. [1]

         II. ...


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