July 22, 2014

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Ryley Carlock Attorneys Win Important Election Law Issue Before the Colorado Supreme Court

Attorneys from Ryley Carlock & Applewhite recently won an important election law matter before the Colorado Supreme Court. The case involved a proposed statewide ballot initiative for the 2014 elections. If successful, the initiative would have overturned Colorado's private property rights system by establishing the air, water, and environment as the "common property" of all Coloradans. The initiative would have also amended the Colorado constitution to include a so-called "public trust" over the newly created common property and placed the control and preservation of the common property in the hands of the state government.

Ryley Carlock challenged the Title Board's preliminary approval of the initiative and argued in a Motion for Rehearing that the Title Board improperly approved the initiative because it lacked jurisdiction. The Title Board denied the Motion for Rehearing, and the Ryley Carlock team appealed the decision directly to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Richard Kaufman argued to the Supreme Court that the proposed initiative violated Article V, section 1(5.5) of the Colorado constitution which requires that each ballot initiative be limited to a single subject. They contended that the inclusion of numerous subjects such as new property rights, a public trust doctrine, and new standards for proposed actions that may affect the environment was an attempt to disguise underlying subjects and would lead to voter surprise. The Ryley Carlock attorneys also challenged the proposed initiative on grounds that the title was unclear and misleading to voters. Finally, Ryley Carlock argued that the Title Board improperly proceeded to set the title at the Motion for Rehearing because both proponents of the initiative were not present in violation of § 1-40-106(4)(a), C.R.S.

On June 30, 2014 the Colorado Supreme Court found in favor of Ryley Carlock's client and reversed the findings of the Title Board. Specifically, the Court ruled that the Title Board, in proceeding to set the title on the initiative without both proponents present, had lacked jurisdiction to act.