O'Connor Jones: A People's Law Office, had another big year of changes, to include that our partners decided to go their own way. Though O'Connor Jones is no more, both Jenipher Jones and Darren O'Connor have created two new law firms. If you're reading this, you have found your way to Darren O'Connor Law, LLC. You can find Jenipher Jones at her new firm, For the People, LLC.
While I have not climbed any serious cliffs in some time, the photo to the left was taken while bouldering last summer during a camping trip near Guanella Pass, just one of sever restorative breaks I was able to take in 2023. It continues to be clear to me that to do good and challenging work, our minds and bodies need time to set aside our busy daily grinds now and then, and I hope you were able to fit this in too last year, and that there is more adventure and joy ahead for you in 2024.
Tenant Law: Warranty of Habitability Cases and Representation
This year brought many clients with warranty of habitability issues. Colorado's express warranty of habitability, C.R.S. § 38-12-500, et. seq., provides tenants with a host of rights when facing a landlord who fails to maintain a tenant's rental unit. From failing appliances, to lack of heat or electricity, to plumbing issues or the presence of mold, once a tenant provides notice to a landlord of such issues, the landlord is on a fixed timeline to begin repairs. If not addressed in a timely manner, a tenant has the right to have the landlord pay for a comparable dwelling unit or a hotel until the repairs or mitigation of the problems are completed.
Fortunately, many landlords respond positively and address the issues once given notice, but not always. I had my first case go to trial against such a landlord who did not replace a dangerous furnace and that left my clients facing extremely cold temperatures with little recourse but to go to court. The landlord was also found to have unlawfully retaliated against my clients by attempting to evict them when they provided notice of the problem, and ended up with a judgment far higher in cost than what simply implementing the necessary repairs would have been. It was an absolute pleasure to assist my clients in their success.
If you are struggling to get your landlord to make necessary repairs, be careful to follow the statutory requirements for notice. Failure to provide proper notice can lead to failure to enforce your rights. I am happy to provide a low cost consultation to provide some guidance and to discuss the possibility of representation with you.
I continue to enjoy practicing family law. The opportunity to assist people during struggles with divorce, post-divorce parenting time issues, and modifying child support orders, among other issues that arise, is very much a blessing.
This year's activities included getting a permanent protection order for a client who endured years of physical and mental abuse. Civil protection orders can be done outside the family law (domestic relations) court realm, but if one is going through a legal separation or divorce, or has been divorced in Colorado, such proceedings take place under the same domestic relations case. In the same case as the protection order, I was able to assist my client in getting a significant amount of maintenance and child support that had not been paid.
In another case, I was able to challenge the recommendations of a child and family investigator that were strongly against my client. Doing so is quite a challenging undertaking, Nonetheless, after counseling my client that it would be costly to make the challenge, I was able to succeed in convincing the Court that my client was the appropriate parent to award major custody to, and my client's fear of losing his children to a relocation out-of-state did not come to pass.
I continue to fight for the rights of clients to be free from excessive force and other constitutional violations. One such case is still proceeding in federal court, in which I have joined Dan Williams of Hutchinson Black & Cook, LLC, as co-counsel. In that ongoing case, police failed to get a warrant for the arrest of our client, who was in his own extended stay hotel room at the time. More details are available in this CBS Colorado story, "Man files lawsuit against Aurora police officers after he was shot with bean bag."
In another case, again in partnership with Attorney Williams, we were able to reach a $160,000 settlement for our client, Sammie Lawrence IV, with the City and County of Denver in 2023. Mr. Lawrence was shot repeatedly with pepper balls on the first day that the Denver community began protests against the violent murder of George Floyd. If you're interested in a round-up of cases that stemmed from brutal police behavior in response to the protests, see Westword's "Lawsuit Time Bomb That Could Explode on Denver's Next Mayor."
New Office in Louisville, Colorado
The end of the year came with the pleasure of moving office into my first brick and mortar law firm home. There, I share an office in a suite with multiple attorneys, and enjoy the ability to work and meet people in a permanent setting. I'm grateful that for the first few years, I was able to rent space on an as-needed basis, which allowed me to keep my rates low until I could grow my clientele enough to afford this move.
The move was not far, and nothing has changed with regard to the regions of Colorado I am able to practice in. Generally, I cover the Denver Metro Area, but from Fort Collins to Durango, I have traveled near and far to assist clients with their legal needs. I hope you do not need legal assistance this year, but if you do, your call is always welcome.