Colorado Department of Law — Annual Report 2009
The Appellate Division
The Appellate Division of the Attorney General’s Office is Colorado’s prosecutorial authority at the appellate level of the criminal justice system. Division attorneys represent law enforcement when defendants appeal criminal convictions in the Colorado appellate courts. In addition, the division represents the interests of the State in extradition appeals, in selected civil appeals (such as property and bond forfeiture actions) and in the federal courts in habeas corpus actions challenging state criminal convictions.
The overwhelming majority of trial convictions are obtained by the hundreds of deputy district attorneys who do felony trial work for the 22 District Attorneys in the state. As of the end of 2009, the Attorney General’s Appellate Division had 28 full- time attorneys supported by 3 staff members to respond to all of the defense appeals of these felony convictions. Not surprisingly, the division’s caseload is both high and demanding.
Because the division responds to appeals that are filed on behalf of convicted criminals, it cannot control the size of its caseload. The division must provide effective and ethical representation in all cases, which range from relatively simple trial court denials of postconviction relief to more complicated constitutional questions and issues of statutory interpretation and trial practice. In each case, the attorney must read the trial transcript and other pertinent documents, conduct legal research on each of the defendant’s claims, and write an argument explaining why law enforcement should prevail.
While a majority of the cases directly impact only the defendant and the victims, any given case may have a significant impact on how law enforcement authorities conduct searches and arrests; on criminal trials and sentencing hearings throughout the state; on the State’s Department of Corrections; and on probation, parole, and county community corrections programs.
In addition to their appellate litigation, Appellate Division attorneys share their expertise in criminal law issues with the district attorneys through weekly case law updates, informal advice, and formal presentations at Colorado District Attorneys Council meetings and training sessions.
The Appellate Division opened 1,228 new appellate cases in 2009 (98 more cases than in 2008 and 277 more than in 2007). Division attorneys successfully upheld criminal convictions and/or sentences in 90 percent of their cases. These cases involved the following convictions:
656 assaults or sexual assaults against
830 burglaries and thefts
403 kidnappings and assaults
229 drug offenses
235 aggravated robberies
145 sexual assaults on adults
1,180 other offenses (primarily felonies)