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Ray v. People

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Third Division

February 21, 2019

In the Interest of Joshua J. RAY, Sr., Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Colorado Bureau of Investigation for the State of Colorado, and Office of State Court Administrator for the State of Colorado, Respondents-Appellees.

Page 55

          City and County of Denver Probate Court No. 15MH110, Honorable Elizabeth D. Leith, Judge

         Glatstein & O’Brien, LLP, Jonathan B. Culwell, Denver, Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellant

         Kristin M. Bronson, City Attorney, Michael J. Stafford, Assistant City Attorney, Amy J. Packer, Assistant City Attorney, Denver, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellee People of the State of Colorado

         Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General, Emily B. Buckley, Assistant Attorney General, John A. Vanlandschoot, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Respondents-Appellees Colorado Bureau of Investigation for the State of Colorado and Office of State Court Administrator for the State of Colorado

         OPINION

         BERGER, JUDGE

          I. Introduction and Summary

         [¶1] A physician certified Joshua J. Ray, Sr., for involuntary short-term mental health treatment under section 27-65-107, C.R.S. 2018. That certification caused Colorado officials to report Ray to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) as a person subject to federal firearm prohibitions. Ray argues that because he was involuntarily certified by a physician, rather than a court, Colorado officials should not have reported his certification to the NICS.

         [¶2] The interplay between Colorado statutes and enforcement of the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is complex. See 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2018); § § 13-9-123, -124, C.R.S. 2018; § 24-33.5-424, C.R.S. 2018. The Brady Act prohibits certain categories

Page 56

of persons from possessing a firearm, including those who have been "committed to a mental institution." 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). To effectuate these prohibitions, the Brady Act created a federally administered database of persons barred from possessing a firearm, the NICS. 34 U.S.C. § 40901 (2018).

         [¶3] Colorado law requires certain persons and entities to make NICS reports -- the State Court Administrator (SCA) must report to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) the "name of each person with respect to whom the court has entered an order for involuntary certification for short-term treatment of a mental health disorder pursuant to section 27-65-107" so that those persons are listed in the NICS. § 13-9-123(1)(c) (emphasis added).[1]

         [¶4] While the statutory scheme is complex, the only issue properly before us is simple: When a professional person certifies someone for involuntary short-term mental health treatment under section 27-65-107, is that certification the equivalent of a court order within the meaning of section 13-9-123(1)(c), thus requiring reporting to the NICS?

         [¶5] Our answer, which is "no," is equally simple. The plain meaning of the term court order simply cannot encompass a certification by a professional person.

         [¶6] Accordingly, we reverse the order the of the probate court and direct the probate court, SCA, and CBI, as applicable, to take reasonable steps to cause any record of Ray’s certification ...


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