TABOR author loses latest legal fight over blighted Denver lots

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Douglas Bruce, 73, is a conservative activist best known for writing Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

The author of Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights has lost a case before a federal appeals court in which he accused Denver of taking $7 million in vacant property from him.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that in Douglas Bruce’s case, a federal court has no authority to reverse the decision of the state court that threw out his case.

“The Denver City Attorney’s Office is pleased with the 10th Circuit’s thorough and well-reasoned opinion affirming dismissal in this case,” said spokeswoman Melissa Sisneros.

The unanimous ruling is the latest setback in Bruce’s long-running feud with Denver.

Bruce owned property at 3701 York St. and 601-609 Lipan St. until 2003, when he transferred them to a company called Tele Comm Resources in exchange for promissory notes.

In 2010 and 2014, respectively, city hearing officers determined the York and Lipan properties were blighted and imposed daily fines on Tele Comm until it cleaned them up.

In 2015, as the daily fines snowballed into significant sums, the City and County of Denver sued Tele Comm repeatedly to force it to pay. It won those lawsuits and a receiver was appointed to manage the unsightly parcels. That receiver sold them to pay Tele Comm’s fines.

Bruce took issue with the sales, believing that liens he had placed on the properties as owner of the promissory notes superseded liens that the city placed on them. A Denver judge disagreed, finding Denver’s liens were filed first and took precedence over Bruce’s.

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Douglas Bruce speaks to reporters after leaving jail on May 31, 2012. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

In 2020, Bruce sued the city in federal court, accusing it of taking part in a conspiracy to enrich itself at the expense of his constitutional rights. He demanded at least $7 million in damages. But a federal judge in Denver threw the case out in 2021, finding he had no jurisdiction over a state court dispute. Bruce appealed to the 10th Circuit, which concurred Tuesday.

“We disagree with the decision and plan to continue our appeal,” said Aaron Garrett, an attorney for Bruce with Nonprofit Legal Services of Utah, a charity.

Bruce, 73, is a colorful conservative activist. He is best known for writing the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, a state law voters passed in 1992 that limits taxation and government spending, a source of pride for conservatives and target of scorn among liberals.

In 2008, he became the first Colorado state legislator to be censured by the General Assembly after he kicked a Rocky Mountain News photographer on his first day in office. In 2012, he was convicted of four tax charges and sentenced to six months in jail.

Bruce

Douglas Bruce, 73, is a conservative activist best known for writing Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

Douglas Bruce has been battling the city for years over two vacant properties he once owned.

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