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Andrews v. Miller

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Third Division

December 19, 2019

Paul Andrews and Terry Andrews, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
Mark Miller and Interior Living Designs LLC, a Colorado limited liability company, Defendants-Appellants.

          Chaffee County District Court No. 18CV30032 Honorable Amanda Hunter, Magistrate

          Marquez & Herrick-Stare, LLC, Randall Herrick-Stare, Salida, Colorado, for Plaintiffs-Appellees

          Cordova Law Firm, LLP, Zachary D. Cordova, Salida, Colorado, for Defendants-Appellants

          OPINION

          WEBB JUDGE

         ¶ 1 This interlocutory appeal arises from a district court magistrate's denial of a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration (the Motion) filed by defendants, Mark Miller and Interior Living Designs LLC (ILD). It requires us to determine whether the magistrate had jurisdiction under C.R.M. 6(c)(2) to rule on the Motion, which could be done only with the consent of the parties. The magistrate purported to act with consent based on the lack of any objection to the following statement in a stock order addressing delay reduction (the Delay Reduction Order):

All parties are hereby notified that a magistrate may perform any function in this case, with the exception of presiding over a jury trial. C.R.M. 3(f)(1)(A)(ii).

         ¶ 2 We conclude that because this notice did not inform the parties that they were required to consent to any particular function being performed by the magistrate, discussed only what the magistrate "may" do, and did not mention "consent," it was insufficient under C.R.M. 5(g). We also conclude that because the magistrate did not have the parties' consent, and motions to dismiss are not listed in C.R.M. 6(c)(1), she lacked jurisdiction to rule on the Motion under C.R.M. 6(c)(2). For these reasons, we reverse the magistrate's denial of the Motion and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         ¶ 3 Plaintiffs, Paul and Terry Andrews, entered into a written contract with ILD for floor covering materials, which, according to their complaint, were never fully delivered. The Andrews pleaded claims for civil theft, for breach of contract, and to pierce the corporate veil, making Miller, ILD's president, liable for any judgment obtained against ILD.

         ¶ 4 After the magistrate entered the Delay Reduction Order, [1] defendants filed the Motion based on an arbitration provision in the contract.[2] After full briefing on the Motion but without holding a hearing, the magistrate denied it, finding that the arbitration provision was "void as against public policy" and "unenforceable." The magistrate's order said that it was "issued with the consent of the parties." Following entry of the Delay Reduction Order, this ruling was the magistrate's only action in the case.

         ¶ 5 Defendants moved for district court review under C.R.M. 7(a). Citing to the Delay Reduction Order, the magistrate denied the motion. She explained, "The court presides over this case with the consent of the parties" and "any appeal must be taken pursuant to C.R.M. 7(b)" in the court of appeals.[3] Defendants then filed their notice of appeal.

         II. Law and Standard of Review

         ¶ 6 A district court magistrate has only those powers provided by statute or court rule. See § 13-5-201(3), C.R.S. 2019 ("District court magistrates may hear such matters as are determined by rule of the supreme court . . . ."); see also In re R.G.B., 98 P.3d 958, 960 (Colo.App. 2004) (a magistrate is a hearing officer who acts with limited authority). The Colorado Rules for Magistrates set forth the authority of magistrates to perform particular functions in different types of cases. Heotis v. Colo. Dep't of Educ., 2016 COA 6, ¶ 10. C.R.M. 6 distinguishes between functions in cases that a magistrate can perform only with the consent of the parties and functions that a magistrate can perform without the parties' consent.

         ¶ 7 This appeal turns on interpretation of the magistrate rules, which we review de novo. In re Parental Responsibilities of M.B.-M., 252 P.3d 506, 509 (Colo.App. 2011). We interpret all court rules, consistent with principles of statutory construction, looking first to the plain and ordinary meaning of the words used. Hiner v. Johnson, 2012 COA 164, ΒΆ 13. If the language is unambiguous - and we discern no ambiguity in the relevant ...


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