City of Aspen’s lawsuit with resident rests with the Colorado Supreme Court
February 8, 2018
The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority turned down a local man's offer to donate thousands of dollars to nonprofits as a way to stay in his worker housing.
Lee Mulcahy told the housing authority last month he and his mother would give $20,000 to the Aspen Homeless Shelter, $10,000 to the Arlington Life Shelter in Texas, $20,000 to the Africa Water Wells charity in Texas and do 500 hours of community service at Habitat for Humanity.
In an executive session Wednesday, the board declined the offer, according to APCHA attorney Tom Smith. On Thursday, Smith sent a letter to Mulcahy's Denver-based attorney Norman Mueller informing him of the decision.
"I have discussed your January 18, 2018, settlement proposal with the board of directors of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority. The board respectfully declines your client's offer and it has no counteroffer," the letter reads. "APCHA's position regarding this litigation remains unchanged. APCHA will not consider any settlement offers at this time. However, if circumstances change and the board decides to reconsider its current position, I shall let you know."
The offer was Mulcahy's attempt to end his two-year legal battle with APCHA, which has won at the district court level and at the Colorado Court of Appeals in its quest to force him to sell his Burlingame home.
The courts upheld APCHA's claim that Mulcahy isn't complying with the agency's eligibility rules, which require that a person who lives in deed-restricted housing work 1,500 hours a year in Pitkin County. APCHA, which originally filed suit against Mulcahy in December 2015, also has contended he has not used the home as his full-time residence.
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Through the Denver law firm of Haddon, Morgan and Foreman PC, Mulcahy has filed a motion to ask the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case. APCHA filed a motion Wednesday asking the high court to deny Mulcahy's petition.
The likelihood of the high court hearing the case is slim. Nancy Rice, chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, spoke generally about the decision-making process with these types of cases when she was in Aspen last year. It's known as a "writ of certiorari" and orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review it.
"The court only takes about 7 percent of those cases," she said in an interview on Aspen Public Radio. "People are surprised to hear how low it is."
Rice said the seven judges on the bench have a lot to consider when deciding to hear a case.
"We are not necessarily thinking 'did the court of appeals get it right, or get it wrong, or is it fact?' We are more thinking, 'Is this a case of statewide interest; is this a case that presents a significant legal issue that's going to have to be applied everywhere; is this a case of such importance that perhaps the Supreme Court should write on it as opposed to the court of appeals?'"
Rice said the high court receives between 1,000 and 1,100 cert petitions a year. They are sent to the Supreme Court's team of staffers, who gather case law and other related information, as well as all of the rulings, opinions and motions. Then, they are distributed to the judges with a recommendation, Rice said.
Each Thursday, the judges review between 20 and 30 petitions and take a vote.
"If there are not three votes, we don't take the case," Rice said.
It is unknown when the court will decide if it will hear Mulcahy's case.