Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21 La Plata County
District Court Case No. 18CR644 Honorable Suzanne Fairchild
Attorneys for Plaintiff: Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General
Emily B. Buckley, Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado
Attorneys for Defendant: Megan A. Ring, Public Defender Anne
Kathryn Woods, Deputy Public Defender Durango, Colorado
District courts enjoy ample discretion in managing cases
before trial, but that discretion is not unfettered. In
criminal cases, a district court may not rely on its
case-management discretion to order disclosures that exceed
the discovery authorized by Rule 16 of the Colorado Rules of
Criminal Procedure. Nor may a court require disclosures that
infringe on an accused's constitutional rights.
The district court in this case sua sponte ordered the
parties to exchange exhibits thirty days before trial. The
defendant, Joshua Edward Kilgore, protested, but the district
court overruled his objection. Kilgore then filed a C.A.R. 21
petition, and we issued a rule to show cause. Because the
district court's order finds no support in Rule 16 and
arguably infringes on Kilgore's constitutional rights, we
make the rule absolute.
The prosecution has charged Kilgore with two counts of felony
sexual assault. At arraignment, Kilgore pled not guilty to
the charges, and the district court scheduled the matter for
a jury trial.
In the minute order it issued following the arraignment, the
court indicated, among other things, that "exhibits
[were] to be exchanged 30 days before trial"
("disclosure requirement" or "disclosure
order"). The disclosure requirement was not prompted by
a party's request and appears to have been part of the
court's standard case-management practice. A couple of
months later, Kilgore filed an objection, arguing that the
disclosure requirement violated his attorney's
confidentiality obligations, the attorney-client privilege,
the attorney work-product doctrine, and his due process
rights (including his right to make the prosecution meet its
burden of proof, his right to a fair trial, and his right to
the effective assistance of counsel). Further, noted Kilgore,
Rule 16 neither requires him to disclose, nor entitles the
prosecution to receive, his exhibits before trial.
Although acknowledging the difficulty of ruling in a vacuum,
the court ultimately overruled Kilgore's objection. The
court reasoned that requiring Kilgore to disclose his
exhibits prior to trial would "foster efficiency and
allow for a fair trial" without running afoul of his
rights. Any exhibits not disclosed before trial, warned the
court, would "not be used at trial."
Kilgore sought reconsideration of this ruling, but the court
declined to alter it. Thereafter, Kilgore submitted a sealed
motion detailing the specific reasons he opposed disclosing a
particular exhibit. Despite having this additional
information, though, the court stood by its earlier ruling.
It reiterated that "[t]rading trial exhibits such as the
one discussed" in the sealed motion would
"promote efficiency at trial." The court reminded
Kilgore that failure to comply with its disclosure order
would result in the exclusion of all his exhibits.
Kilgore then sought our intervention pursuant to C.A.R. 21,
and we issued a rule to show cause.
Whether to exercise our original jurisdiction under C.A.R. 21
is a question solely within our discretion. People v.
Tafoya, 2019 CO 13, ¶ 13, 434 P.3d 1193, 1195.
However, our jurisprudence reflects that relief under C.A.R.
21 is "an extraordinary remedy that is limited in both
purpose and availability." People in Interest of
T.T., 2019 CO 54, ¶ 16, 442 P.3d 851, 855-56
(quoting Villas at Highland Park Homeowners Ass'n v.
Villas at Highland Park, LLC, 2017 CO 53, ¶ 22, 394
P.3d 1144, 1151). In the past, we have exercised our
jurisdiction when an appellate remedy would be inadequate,
Fognani v. Young, 115 P.3d 1268, 1271 (Colo. 2005),
when a party may otherwise suffer irreparable harm,
People v. Turner, 109 ...