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In re People

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

January 13, 2020

In Re The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff
v.
Joshua Edward Kilgore. Defendant

          Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21 La Plata County District Court Case No. 18CR644 Honorable Suzanne Fairchild Carlson, Judge

          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

          OPINION

          SAMOUR, JUSTICE.

         ¶1 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.

         ¶2 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.

         I. Procedural History

         ¶3 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.

         ¶4 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.

         ¶5 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."

         ¶6 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.[1] 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.

         ¶7 Kilgore then sought our intervention pursuant to C.A.R. 21, and we issued a rule to show cause.

         II. Jurisdiction

         ¶8 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 ...


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