People in Interest of A.P., 2022 CO 24

On June 6, 2022, the Colorado Supreme Court issued an opinion in this original proceeding (Rule 21). The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether the district court misconstrued the law concerning impropriety and bias and, in so doing, improperly vacated the adjudication and termination under Rule 60(b)(5). Rule 60(b) specifies several situations under which post-judgment relieve may be warranted and subsection (b)(5) allows courts to set aside a judgment for “any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.”

In its ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court determined that the district court had abused its discretion in setting aside the adjudication and termination orders against these white parents based upon the misconduct and censure of the prior judge, Judge Natalie Chase. Analyzing the trial court record in this case (and rejecting the district court’s proposition that “any bias or prejudice to one person is bias and prejudice to all”), the Supreme Court determined that Judge Chase’s actions in the case, standing alone, did not warrant relief under Rule 60(b)(5). To the extent that Judge Chase made mistakes in the trial court process, the Supreme Court found that such mistakes did not provide grounds for a bias claim, but instead should have been the grounds for appeal.

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