No harm, no foul. Individuals have standing to sue the government if the government’s actions cause them an injury-in-fact. An injury can be tangible or intangible, but not indirect or incidental. Taxpayers have standing to sue as taxpayers, if the government expenditure is related to the alleged harm. Here, nonbelievers sued over the constitutionality of Colorado’s Day of Prayer proclamations. The Court dismissed not because the proclamations were unconstitutional, but because the Plaintiffs were not injured by them. The incidental expenditure of public funds on overhead was not sufficient to establish taxpayer standing. Plaintiffs also claimed psychic harm by the issuance of the proclamations that politically excluded them by promoting religion, due to their nonbelief. But the government did not coerce, punish, or prevent them from having or changing their beliefs.
A contract is a promise the law will enforce. The Contract Clauses of Colorado’s and the US’s Constitutions protect existing contracts from laws that would later impair their performance. Public employees have received retirement benefits from PERA since 1931. Cost of living adjustments (COLA) began in 1969 and have evolved ever since. In 2000, the statutory COLA rate was 3.5%. In 2010, the legislature changed it to 2%. Employees who retired between 2001 and 2010 sued the State for violating the Contracts Clause, claiming a violation of their contractual right to the 3.5% COLA at the time of their retirement. The Court ruled there was no contract right guaranteeing a particular COLA formula because 1) it has changed repeatedly over time and 2) there is no express intent that the 2000 legislature intended to bind the 2010 legislature regarding the COLA formula for pre-2010 retirees.
“Plaintiffs … a same-sex couple, primarily contend the County treated them differently from heterosexual couples when interpreting and enforcing [septic] regulations.” (Opinion). Plaintiffs sued. The trial court dismissed some claims and granted a partial directed verdict by removing certain “actions” from a single claim under 42 USC 1983 (1983). The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that under CRCP 50, a trial court can’t parse evidence supporting a single claim against a single defendant. But it affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of 1) an inverse condemnation claim (taking property through regulation) because the regulations did not rise to the level of a taking, 2) a discrimination claim not brought to the Civil Rights Commission as required, and 3) a direct constitutional challenge because 1983, CRCP 106, and CRS 24-10-118 provide alternate remedies.
“Young man, young man, what do you wanna be?” – YMCA, The Village People. The YMCA is a Christian organization and sought religious and charitable use tax exemptions from property taxes. The exemption applications were eventually denied. The Colo. Const. provides for both exemptions, as does CRS 39-2-117, 39-3-106 and 108. Each are determined by examining the property’s use, not the character of the entity. Activities of religious organizations that further their religious purposes constitute religious worship, and entities can use facilities for charitable purposes without requiring participation in entity-organized activities. In each case, the Tax Board failed to examine whether the activities furthered declared religious or charitable purposes. The court of appeals reversed, remanded and ordered the Board to apply the correct legal standards for each exemption.
Money merely represents value; but it has come to symbolize so much more. Here, the Douglas County Public School District created a voucher system that gives taxpayer money to private and/or religious schools. The trial court held it was unconstitutional. The court of appeals reversed based on 4 conclusions: 1) courts may not inquire into the extent of religious instruction, 2) religious institutions are not directly benefited, 3) parents directed the funds, and 4) the system gave parents neutral funding choices that maintained the free educational system. The court also held Plaintiffs lacked standing to enforce a statute. It avoided deciding whether Colorado’s constitutional religion provisions were coextensive with the First Amendment. The dissent concluded the system was a pipeline of public money to religious schools, thus violating Colorado’s Constitution.
Direct democracy takes citizen initiatives directly to the voters. Colorado’s Constitution, article V section 1, provides for such initiatives. But, they must meet various standards before they are placed on the ballot, and the Title Board is authorized to decide if initiatives meet those standards. CRS 1-40-106 requires “each designated representative” (proponent) to appear at Board meetings at which the ballot issue is considered. If a proponent fails to appear, the Board lacks authority to take any action. Here, two different initiatives were brought. In each case, however, only 1 of the 2 proponents appeared at a rehearing. In this original proceeding, the Court held that both proponents must appear at each hearing. If they do not, the Board lacks authority to set titles and put matters on the ballot. Because only 1 of 2 proponents appeared, the Board lacked authority to act.