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People ex rel. R.J.

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Fourth Division

July 18, 2019

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of R.J., M.J., and A.J., children, and Concerning G.J.J. and M.S., Respondents-Appellants.

          Mesa County District Court No. 18JV50 Honorable Thomas W. Ossola, Judge

          J. Patrick Coleman, Mesa County Attorney, Jeremy Savage, Chief Deputy County Attorney, Grand Junction, Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellee

          Tammy Tallant, Guardian Ad Litem

          Debra W. Dodd, Office of Respondent Parents' Counsel, Berthoud, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant G.J.J.

          Patrick R. Henson, Office of Respondent Parents' Counsel, Denver, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant M.S.

          OPINION

          J. JONES, JUDGE.

         ¶ 1 In this dependency and neglect proceeding, G.J.J. (father) and M.S. (mother) appeal the district court's judgment adjudicating R.J., M.J., and A.J. (children) dependent and neglected. Before addressing the merits of their appeal, however, we must determine whether we have jurisdiction. To answer this question, we must decide whether a parent may appeal an adjudicatory order to this court without first seeking district court review of a magistrate's later dispositional order. We decide that a parent may. Having confirmed that we have jurisdiction over the appeal, we turn to the merits of the parents' challenge to the adjudicatory order, reject that challenge, and therefore affirm.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 The Mesa County Department of Human Services (Department) filed a petition in dependency or neglect alleging that the children lacked proper parental care and that their environment was injurious to their welfare. Both parents denied the allegations and requested an adjudicatory jury trial. After a three-day trial, the jury returned a special verdict finding the children dependent and neglected.

         ¶ 3 A magistrate later entered dispositional orders as to both father and mother that continued out-of-home placement for the children and adopted treatment plans for both parents. Father asked for more time to file a petition for review of the magistrate's dispositional order with the district court. The district court granted that request; however, no petition for review appears in the record.

         ¶ 4 Father then filed a request with this court to file his notice of appeal out of time. Therein, he observes that while C.A.R. 3.4(b)(1) and section 19-1-109(2)(c), C.R.S. 2018, read in combination, require a party to file a notice of appeal of an adjudicatory order and designation of transcripts within twenty-one days after the entry of the dispositional order, C.R.M. 7(a)(11) requires a party to seek district court review of a magistrate's dispositional order before seeking appellate review in this court. This, he says, creates uncertainty, and he asks us to decide whether this court has jurisdiction to review an adjudicatory order when a magistrate later enters the dispositional order but no one seeks district court review of that order.

         ¶ 5 We ordered the parties to address in their principal briefs the finality - that is, the appealability - of the adjudicatory order. Mother then filed a notice of appeal, asked that we accept it out of time, and also asked that she be allowed to join father's briefs. We granted mother's requests.

         II. Finality of the Adjudicatory Order

         ¶ 6 Before we can decide the parents' challenge to the adjudication of the children as dependent and neglected, we must decide whether their failure to first seek review of the magistrate's dispositional order means that we lack jurisdiction over their appeal. See People in Interest of J.C., 844 P.2d 1185, 1187 (Colo. 1993). We hold that it does not.

         A. Standard of Review and Interpretive Principles

         ¶ 7 Whether determining the meaning of a statute or a rule - and in this case we do both - we review de novo. People in Interest of L.M., 2018 CO 34, ¶ 13 (statute); In ...


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