Andrews v. Miller, Court of Appeals No. 18CA2143

Docket NºCourt of Appeals No. 18CA2143
Citation487 P.3d 701
Case DateDecember 19, 2019
CourtCourt of Appeals of Colorado

487 P.3d 701

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

Court of Appeals No. 18CA2143

Colorado Court of Appeals, Division III.

Announced December 19, 2019

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 by JUDGE WEBB

¶ 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

487 P.3d 704

("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, 375 P.3d 1232. 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, ¶ 13, 310 P.3d 226. If the language is unambiguous — and we discern no ambiguity in the relevant rules — it must be applied as written. See FirstBank-Longmont v. Bd. of Equalization , 990 P.2d 1109, 1112 (Colo. App. 1999).

¶ 8 Where, as here, the facts that inform jurisdiction are undisputed, we also address jurisdiction de novo. See Jones v. Williams , 2019 CO 61, ¶ 7, 443 P.3d 56. And when called on to interpret or construe a trial court's order, we do so de novo. Delsas v. Centex Home Equity Co. , 186 P.3d 141, 145 (Colo. App. 2008).

III. The Magistrate Lacked Jurisdiction to Decide the Motion Under C.R.M. 6(c)(2) ("Consent Necessary")

A. C.R.M. 7(a) is Not Applicable

¶ 9 Initially, defendants argue that the magistrate erred in denying their request for district court review under C.R.M. 7(a) because they did not consent to the case being referred to a magistrate. Although we address consent in detail below, C.R.M. 7(a) does not play any role in this case.

¶ 10 C.R.M. 7(a) "sets out the procedure for review of magistrate's orders and judgments that have been ‘entered without consent’ of the parties" because consent was not necessary. People ex rel. Garner v. Garner , 33 P.3d 1239, 1242 (Colo. App. 2001). Importantly, whether consent is necessary "depends not upon whether the parties actually consented, but upon whether consent is required by rules or statutes to invest a magistrate with authority to act." Bryan v. Neet , 85 P.3d 556, 557 (Colo. App. 2003). So, we turn to C.R.M. 6(c)(1)(A)-(G) ("No Consent Necessary").

¶ 11 This rule lists specific functions in civil cases that do not require consent before a magistrate may perform them, such as ruling on discovery matters. Ruling on a motion to dismiss is not among the functions listed. See People in Interest of R.J. , 2019 COA 109, ¶ 8, 451 P.3d 1232 ("[W]e should presume that the inclusion of certain terms in a rule or statute implies the exclusion of others."); see also Heotis , ¶ 18 ("After examining the various categories of cases in C.R.M. 6(c)(1)(A)-(G), we see that a proceeding in which a magistrate could rule on a petition to seal criminal records is not expressly mentioned in any of them.").

¶ 12 Simply put, because ruling on the Motion was a function that could be performed only with consent, C.R.M. 7(a) is inapplicable. Still, defendants' argument that they did not consent to the magistrate performing any functions in this case raises a jurisdictional issue concerning the magistrate's authority to rule on the Motion under C.R.M. 6(c)(2). So, we asked the parties for supplemental briefing on this issue. See People v. S.X.G. , 2012 CO 5, ¶ 9, 269 P.3d 735 ("Because we must always satisfy ourselves that we have jurisdiction to...

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2 cases
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    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
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    ...statutory scheme." Id. A statute is ambiguous if multiple reasonable interpretations are possible. Andrews v. Miller , 2019 COA 185, ¶ 21, 487 P.3d 701 (citing Carrera v. People , 2019 CO 83, ¶ 18, 449 P.3d 725 ). ¶ 15 "Where possible, we interpret conflicting statutes in a manner that harm......
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    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
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    ...the magistrate lacked jurisdiction to preside over and enter permanent orders in this case. See Andrews v. Miller , 2019 COA 185, ¶¶ 1-2, 487 P.3d 701. Consequently, we reverse the entry of default against husband and the default permanent orders judgment and remand the case for further pro......

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