State Supreme Court to Hear Cases on Charter Schools, For-Profit College Lawsuit | Courts

The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear three cases involving the government’s ability to deny charter school applications and good Samaritans to receive compensation for injuries sustained during a rescue.

Judges also announced on Tuesday that they would review a complex and drawn-out lawsuit against a for-profit university, which resulted in the state Court of Appeals overturning the $3 million fine. of dollars imposed by a judge on the company last year.

All three cases occurred in Denver, though two of them have been going on for nearly a decade. In addition, a case is making a new appearance in the Supreme Court, with the justices now willing to hear a different issue than the one decided in their previous decision.

When is a charter school decision final?

Under Colorado law, individuals or groups can petition a local school board to establish a charter school or renew an existing charter. If a school board denies the request, the appeal goes to the Colorado State Board of Education. Once there, the state board might find that the denial was not in the best interest of the students or the community and may refer the request to the local school board for reconsideration.

If a school board still chooses to deny the request, there may be a second appeal to the state board. Whatever the decision of the Council of State at second glance, “will be final and without appeal”, indicates the law.

But what if a school board denies a charter school application and the state board agrees upfront? Is this decision also final and not subject to appeal?

Such was the case with Judy A. Brannberg and her proposed charter school for Douglas County, the John Dewey Institute, Inc. By law, charter school applications include goals and objectives, a plan assessment of student performance and an outline of how the school would be governed. After reviewing the John Dewey Institute’s application, local and state councils rejected the proposed school, prompting a challenge to the decision in Denver District Court.

In February 2020, then-Judge Morris B. Hoffman ruled that he lacked standing to hear the case because the statute made all state board denials final and not subject to review. appeal – not just those that had been re-examined.

“Why would a decision that the local and state councils agree on have less finality than a decision on which the state council initially hesitated but ultimately accepted the local council’s refusal?” Hoffmann wrote.

But in October 2021, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal disagreed. If legislators had intended decisions to be final and without appeal the first time they appeared before the Council of State, the General Assembly could have said so. Because they did not, the Court of Appeal held that the John Dewey Institute was entitled to a judge’s review of its case.

The State Board of Education and Douglas County School District RE-1 appealed to the Supreme Court. Charter schools educate about 15% of Colorado students, or about 134,000 people, and the government warned that the Court of Appeals ruling just “judicially rewrites every charter contract.”

Specifically, the school district explained that when charter school applications are renewed, a denial will normally signal the need to remove staff and students from the school at the end of the year.

“Allowing judicial review throws a wrench into this orderly process and creates uncertainty around the school closing,” Supreme Court attorney Elliott V. Hood wrote. “If, for example, a local board does not renew a charter and that decision is confirmed by the State Board, the school could delay closing the school – which district and state officials have decided to shut down in education policy the best interests of children — for months and potentially years” by appealing in court.

The Supreme Court will now decide whether all decisions of the Council of State are final and not subject to appeal in court. The case is Colorado State Board of Education et al. vs. Brannberg et al.

Risks for rescuers

In March 2014, Jose Garcia stepped in when Curt Glinton began assaulting a cab driver in Denver’s northwest Garcia neighborhood. After Glinton attacked Garcia, he then got into the cab and drove off. Glinton then turned around, came back to Garcia and knocked him down. Garcia suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured eye socket and three broken ribs, among other serial injuries.

Glinton was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to the assault. Meanwhile, Garcia sued Colorado Cab Company, LLC for negligence. A judge allowed the case to go to trial, finding that Garcia had saved the taxi driver, and therefore the company’s duty to protect the driver from assault extended to Garcia as a rescuer.

A jury awarded $1.6 million to Garcia, finding that 45% of the liability belonged to Colorado Cab Company and 55% belonged to Glinton.

The Court of Appeals then overturned the verdict determining that Garcia was not actually a lifeguard because he only intervened verbally — not physically. The Supreme Court dissented in a 2020 decision and ordered the Court of Appeals to resolve Colorado Cab Company’s remaining arguments on appeal.

In October, another Court of Appeals panel upheld the jury’s sentence for Garcia for the injuries he suffered when Glinton got out of the taxi and assaulted him, ruling that the attacks on taxi drivers were foreseeable risks that the company could have prevented by better protecting the driver.

However, by 2-1, the panel disagreed that Glinton stealing the cab and running over Garcia was foreseeable either by the company or by Garcia as a rescuer.

“We therefore conclude that the jury could reasonably have found that Colorado Cab was responsible for the injuries Garcia suffered when Glinton assaulted him while they were fighting outside the taxi, but not for those he suffered when Glinton then ran him over with the stolen cab,” Judge Jerry N. Jones wrote for the majority.

Former Supreme Court Justice Alex J. Martinez, who served on the committee during the Chief Justice’s mission, dissented.

“I think a reasonable jury could conclude that Glinton’s theft of the taxi and its use as a weapon were reasonably foreseeable risks of Colorado Cab’s failure to exercise due diligence in protecting (the taxi driver) from assault by passengers,” it said. he argued.

Garcia appealed to the Supreme Court, insisting that the company’s liability for her injuries should not end in the midst of the assault. The Colorado Cab Company also appealed, challenging whether it even had a duty to protect its cab driver in the first place.

The court chose to hear only Garcia’s challenge, regarding Colorado Cab Company’s liability for Glinton running down Garcia. The case is Garcia vs. Colorado Cab Company, LLC.

The complex case of college

After a lengthy trial and an even longer wait for the judge to make a decision, CollegeAmerica was hit in 2020 with $3 million in civil penalties for violating Colorado’s consumer protection law.

But the Court of Appeals reversed that judgment after finding Denver District Court Judge Ross BH Buchanan applied the wrong burden of proof to the government’s case against the for-profit college operator now closed.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office sued CollegeAmerica in 2014, alleging that CollegeAmerica misrepresented the results, value, and quality of its programs to prospective students. After a four-week trial, with the case heard only before Buchanan, the judge found that CollegeAmerica committed several violations of Colorado law through its misrepresentations about several of its training programs.

“CollegeAmerica has systematically deceived vulnerable students in our state. He is now held accountable,” Attorney General Phil Weiser said after Buchanan’s ruling.

Then the Court of Appeal weighed in. A three-judge panel determined in August 2021 that Buchanan was wrong when it ruled the government didn’t need to prove the CollegeAmerica deception had a “significant public impact.” The court precedent was clear at the time that such a finding was necessary, the committee concluded.

The court sent the case back for a new trial, but with a different judge. Buchanan had taken two years and nine months to issue his decision — such an extreme delay that Colorado’s judicial disciplinary body privately reprimanded him.

The government and CollegeAmerica turned to the Supreme Court. The attorney general’s office did not dispute that Buchanan misapplied the law, but it questioned whether the eight-year-old litigation merited a new trial. Instead, he pleaded for another judge to rule based on existing evidence and testimony, believing there was enough information to know whether CollegeAmerica’s conduct had had a significant public impact.

“A ‘redo’ will divert limited state resources to correcting an error that caused no harm,” Solicitor General Eric R. Olson said.

CollegeAmerica countered that if the Supreme Court allowed the appeal, it would also have to rule that a jury should hear the case, rather than a judge alone.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear both parties’ appeals. The case is Colorado vs. Center for Excellence in Higher Education, Inc.

About Jessica J. Bass

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