The Colorado Court of Appeals has ordered expedited briefing in the case pitting a small nonprofit, Friends of Denver Parks, against the City and County of Denver and the Denver Public Schools, the group’s attorney announced late Friday October 18.
John Case, the group's pro bono attorney, found the order encouraging. "We expect an answer by the end of the year,” said Case, a partner in the Denver law firm Benson & Case LLP.
Normally, the Court of Appeals takes 18 to 24 months to issue a decision. Friends of Denver Parks filed its appeal on July 5 and its opening brief on October 3. "If the Court’s decision is in our favor, it will be in time to prevent the destruction of Hampden Heights North Park," said Case.
The nonprofit had filed an appeal after Denver District Court denied an injunction against the two governments involved in a land swap of southeast Denver park land. Denver traded nearly half of Hampden Heights North Park to the school district for construction of an elementary school.
Friends of Denver Parks contends the swap violated the city charter, which requires a vote of the people to sell park land. The nonprofit presented City Clerk Debra Johnson with petitions supporting a referendum that would have brought the matter to vote, only to be turned away from Johnson. She contended that the matter was administrative, rather than legislative, so it needn't be brought before electors.
Johnson is a party to the lawsuit, along with the City of Denver and Denver Public Schools.
The group contends the action was a backroom deal between the city and the school district. The city Parks manager went against a vote of her own board in recommending the swap. Later, members of the park board were fired. One of the replacements was the sister of a city council member supporting the swap.
A larger nonprofit, Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, supports the actions of Friends of Denver Parks. It represents more than 90 neighborhood organizations in Denver.
Friends of Denver Parks requested an injunction pending the appeal, which was denied by the Court of Appeals. The appeals court did, however, move to require the city and school district to file their answers to the appeal by November 7. The nonprofit will have another 14 days to respond to the briefs.
The nonprofit is holding a “Hootenanny Good Time” fundraiser 6-10 p.m. October 26 at the Crystal Rose, 9755 E. Hampden Ave. Advance tickets may be purchased on the group’s website. The event will support the cost of the legal battle.