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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
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April 5, 2000: Zoning Laws for Unrelated Inhabitants; Jury Duty

Q: Is it true that the City refuses to enforce its ordinance which prohibits more than three unrelated people from living in one house located in a single family zoned area because our municipal judge has ruled that part of the ordinance unconstitutional? Why doesn't the City appeal or put more effort and resources into protecting our neighborhoods?

A: Your question touches on part of the local Fort Collins urban folklore. So I made a number of telephone calls to find out.

I was told that these types of zoning violation cases are difficult for the City to win, but they are pursued if a complaint is received.

Although it is true that ordinances with similar language have been held to be unconstitutional in certain jurisdictions, neither the Colorado state courts nor our own local municipal judge has so held, at least that was what I was told. Although this defense is almost always raised at trial, the actual decision is based on other legal grounds. So maybe that is how the "rumor" got started.

If someone has specific facts to show that part of the ordinance involving three unrelated people has been ruled unconstitutional locally, please contact me because there are a number of people in the City legal loop who need to know so appropriate action can be taken.

Q: Oh no! I just received a summons for jury duty. Help!!

A: If you are a citizen over 18, living in Larimer County, and either possess a driver's license or are registered to vote, then expect to receive a jury duty notice at some point and be required to serve. There are almost no exceptions, such as being too old, a student, in a particular occupation, etc., although certain religious groups and caregivers might be exempt. If you have a conflict on the particular date noted on your notice, you can call and postpone but you will normally be required to be available at a later date.

In 1999, 3242 Larimer County residents appeared for jury duty and 514 people actually served. I do not know how many people were actually summoned but did not appear.

However, to ignore the summons could mean a fine of up to $750 and/or up to six months in jail. The County is also in the process of setting up a special program that all "no-shows" will be required to go through.

If you are selected to sit on a jury, the average trial lasts one to three days. The employer must pay $50 a day (even to temporary or to part-time employees) for up to three days. Thereafter, the State of Colorado will pay $50 a day for the remainder of the trial.

Once summoned you need to call to see if you are required to appear. The good news is that once summoned, even if you are not required to appear or even if you are not selected to serve on a jury, you do not have to be available for jury duty for the remainder of the calendar year. If you receive another notice within that year, just notify the jury commissioner.

To insure a jury of one's "peers," the judicial jury net has been expanded and escape provisions have been drastically restricted. And if you are reluctant to serve, consider that if it were your case as either a plaintiff or a defendant and you needed to empanel a jury, would you want it any other way?

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