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Evans v. Evans

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Third Division

December 5, 2019

Ken Evans, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Delinda Evans, Defendant-Appellee, and Jennifer Holt, Attorney-Appellee.

          Douglas County District Court No. 18CV30747. Honorable David J. Stevens, Judge.

          Richards Carrington LLC, Christopher P. Carrington, Ruth M. Moore, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant

          Griffiths Law PC, Duncan Griffiths, Christopher J. Griffiths, Lone Tree, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee and Attorney-Appellee

          ORDER AFFIRMED AND CASE REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS

          LIPINSKY JUDGE.

         ¶ 1 This appeal raises two narrow issues. First, is an order issued by a district court magistrate an "order" of a state court for purposes of Colorado's spurious lien statute? Second, is a summary of such a magistrate's order recorded in real property records a lien "imposed by" an order of a "state court"?

         ¶ 2 In the trial court, plaintiff, Ken Evans (husband), contended that appellees, Delinda Evans (wife) and her attorney, Jennifer Holt, wrongfully encumbered his real property in Douglas County by recording Holt's self-styled "Abstract" summarizing the magistrate's order. He argued that the Abstract must be removed from the Douglas County real property records under the procedure set forth in section 38-35-204, C.R.S. 2019, and C.R.C.P. 105.1. The district court disagreed with husband. So do we.

         ¶ 3 We answer both questions "yes" and hold that appellees did not create a "spurious lien" or "spurious document" within the meaning of subsections (3) and (4) of section 38-35-201, C.R.S. 2019, when they encumbered husband's real property by recording a summary of a magistrate's order entered in the underlying dissolution of marriage case. Therefore, we affirm.

         I. Background

         ¶ 4 Four years after the district court entered a decree dissolving the Evanses' marriage, wife petitioned the court to modify the decree. She alleged that husband had violated his disclosure obligations in the dissolution of marriage proceeding by failing to inform her of his interest in certain business assets, as required under C.R.C.P. 16.2(e)(10). She asked the court to allocate the previously undisclosed assets.

         ¶ 5 Ruling without the parties' consent, which was not required under C.R.M. 6(b)(1)(A), a district court magistrate granted wife's petition and ordered husband to pay wife half of the value of the previously undisclosed assets in monthly installments:

[T]he net marital value that must be divided is $2, 337, 278.00, of which [wife] shall receive $1, 168, 639.00. [Husband] shall pay [wife]'s sum at a minimum of $50, 000.00 per month. Interest shall accrue at the statutory rate of 8% per annum, compounded annually, until paid in full. [Husband]'s payments toward this obligation must commence not later than 45 days from the date of this order, and [this order] shall create a lien against all [husband]'s rights, title and interest in [the subject assets] and any other assets in his name.

(Emphasis added.) Husband timely filed a petition for district court review of the magistrate's order.

         ¶ 6 Less than one week after husband filed the petition, Holt recorded a summary of the magistrate's order, entitled "Abstract of Court Order," with the Douglas County Clerk and Recorder. The Abstract said:

[Husband] was . . . required by [the magistrate's] order to pay said $1, 168, 639.00 amount with interest at the rate of 8% per annum compounded annually until paid in full at the rate of not less than $50, 000.00 per month commencing not later than 45 days after the date of the order and further provided that [wife] was granted a lien against all [husband's] rights, title and interest in [the subject assets], and any other assets in his name.

(Emphasis added.)

         ¶ 7 Husband did not learn about the Abstract until months later, when he attempted to close a transaction secured by real property he owned in Douglas County. The Abstract appeared in the County's real property records as an encumbrance against his property. He argued that the transaction fell through because the Abstract clouded title to his property.

         ¶ 8 After discovering the Abstract, husband petitioned the district court to invalidate the Abstract as a "spurious lien" or "spurious document" on an expedited basis following the procedure set forth in section 38-35-204 and C.R.C.P. 105.1. The court denied husband's petition, finding that the Abstract was neither a "spurious lien" nor a "spurious document" under the statutory definitions.

         ¶ 9 Although husband attacks the Abstract under several legal theories, we consider only whether it falls within the statutory definitions of "spurious lien" or "spurious document." This case is not an appeal of any ruling in the Evanses' dissolution of marriage case. Simply put, we must affirm the trial court's order unless we determine that the Abstract ran afoul of section 38-35-201, even if the Abstract or the underlying magistrate's order was invalid or otherwise unenforceable under another legal theory.

         II. Standard of Review

         ¶ 10 We review de novo whether a recorded document is a spurious lien or spurious document, as defined in subsections (3) and (4) of section 38-35-201. See Battle N., LLC v. Sensible Hous. Co., 2015 COA 83, ¶ 53, 370 P.3d 238, 250. We also review de novo whether a district court applied the correct legal standard in a case filed under the statute. See Pierce v. Francis, 194 P.3d 505, 509 (Colo.App. 2008). And we review issues of statutory ...


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