Review of Decisions by Administrative Agencies, Government Officers, and Other Government Bodies in Colorado and Denver Courts
Consider a situation where an individual has a decision rendered by a government body or official that they either disagree with or think is unfair; however, because the entity rendering the decision is not a court, the decision is not appealable and the person would be stuck with the government body’s decision, no matter how unfair it is. To give an even more specific of an example, consider if an individual was attempting to develop property and needed to have the property rezoned in order to begin that development; that individual submits their rezoning application to the municipal zoning board where the property is located and their application and plans meet all of the requirements necessary to have a property rezoned, but the zoning board denies their application for no apparent reason. Is that individual stuck with the zoning board’s decision since the zoning board is not a court and the decision cannot be appealed?
The answer is no, in Colorado and Denver courts the individual does not simply have to accept the decision but, instead, can file a lawsuit so that he or she has an opportunity to have the decision reviewed by a court. The specific rule that allows for this is Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure (“C.R.C.P.”) 106(a)(4), which provides that decisions rendered by government bodies or officers acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial role are reviewable by district courts provided there is no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy available by law. In essence, where an administrative government agency or officer has rendered a decision, and there is no other appeal route provided, the decision may be appealed to Denver and Colorado district courts under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4).
As part of qualifying for relief under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4), the decision must have been issued by a government body or officer acting in quasi-judicial role. Quasi-judicial decisions are generally characterized as actions taken by a government body or officer where (1) a local or state law requires that notice be given before the action is taken; (2) a local or state law requires that a hearing be conducted before the action is taken; and (3) a local or state law directs that the action results from the application of prescribed criteria to the individual facts of the case. See Baldauf v. Roberts, 37 P.3d 483 (Colo. App. 2001).
In filing an action under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4), the action is governed by the normal Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure and filing the Complaint and initiating the action is the same as it would be in a normal lawsuit. Additionally, all available administrative remedies must be exhausted, meaning that remedies or review procedures that are available within the body issuing the decision must have been used first before relief can be sought in district court. Further, the timeline for requesting relief under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) can vary. If no law provides a specific time frame to request relief, the party seeking review of the decision must file a complaint in district court within 28 days after the final decision of the government body or officer. If review is properly sought under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) in time, the district court will review the decision to see whether the government body or entity abused its discretion or exceeded its jurisdiction in rendering it.
Examples of decisions reviewable under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) include the classification of an inmate as a sex offender by the Department of Corrections, the decision by a state university to dismiss a tenured professor, the decision by a planning commission to issue a building permit, and rezoning decisions by county commissioners.