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People in the Interest of K.P.

2022 COA 60. No. 21CA0574.  Dependency and Neglect—Collateral Bar Rule—Protection Order—First Amendment—Freedom of Speech—Contempt—Sanctions.

June 2, 2022

K.A. was involved in a contentious divorce with the children’s father and alleged that father was sexually abusing two of the children. The Arapahoe County Department of Human Services (Department) filed a petition in dependency and neglect alleging that father was sexually abusing two of the children, but a jury found that the children were not dependent or neglected. Two years later, the Department filed a second petition asserting that K.A. had coached the oldest daughter into falsely reporting sexual abuse by her father as part of K.A.’s pattern of emotionally abusing the girls. A jury found all three children dependent and neglected as to K.A., and the juvenile court ordered her to comply with a treatment plan.

Soon thereafter, K.A. posted a “Petition to Protect CHILDREN!” on the website, which included a video of the youngest daughter being interviewed by K.A. and making an outcry of sexual abuse and a video of the oldest daughter’s journal entries disclosing sexual abuse by father. The Department moved for a protection order. The juvenile court granted the protection order and, among other things, it required K.A. to take down the petition, prohibited her from posting on social media sites information related to the children and the case allegations, and obligated her to provide the Department with the videos attached to the petition. K.A. refused to comply with the order and continued to post on social media and her own website. The Department filed a motion for contempt and a motion to terminate K.A.’s parental rights. The juvenile court held K.A. in contempt and later terminated her parental rights, entered a judgment of contempt, sentenced K.A. to six months in jail, and sealed the court records. It also granted father’s motion for a civil protection order (September order) that, among other things, prohibited K.A. from discussing the case with third parties. K.A. then filed a CRCP 59 motion asking the juvenile court to reconsider the breadth of the September protection order. The court narrowed the September protection order so K.A. could communicate about the case with her therapists, doctors, and attorneys (December order). Subsequently, father moved for a contempt citation against K.A. alleging additional violations. The juvenile court granted the motion and sentenced K.A., who was already serving 17 months in jail on three other contempt citations, to an additional six months.

On appeal, K.A. argued that the September and December protection orders were unlawful because they were impermissible prior restraints on her right to free speech. Under the collateral bar rule, a party generally must comply with even an unlawful order or risk being held in contempt. Although K.A. appealed the contempt order, she did not timely appeal the underlying protection orders when they became final, so the collateral bar rule precluded her from challenging the constitutionality of the orders in her appeal of the contempt judgment. Further, none of the exceptions to the collateral bar rule applied.

K.A. also argued that the evidence was insufficient to support the juvenile court’s contempt judgment. However, the record supports the juvenile court’s finding that K.A. was informed of the protection orders through the court and her attorneys; and that K.A. willfully violated the protection orders, including evidence of jail phone calls and letters with her friend.  Therefore, the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion by finding K.A. in contempt.

The judgment was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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