Bruce probably won't face jail time in contempt case

July 26, 2010
photo - Doug Bruce will be back in court Aug. 18. Photo by JERILEE BENNET, THE GAZETTE FILE
Doug Bruce will be back in court Aug. 18. Photo by JERILEE BENNET, THE GAZETTE FILE 

A Denver district judge said today that he probably will not sentence Douglas Bruce to jail time in connection with a contempt-of-court citation issued against him last month.

“I don’t plan to impose incarceration,” said District Judge Brian Whitney in a court hearing in Denver this morning.

If Bruce is found guilty of contempt of court, Whitney said he could theoretically sentence him to six months in the Denver County Jail, but said he probably wouldn't do that because Bruce is facing a form of contempt that typically results in sanctions.

Bruce still could be ordered to pay court costs and fines. He also could be required to testify in a deposition in a campaign-finance complaint filed against three controversial measures that will be on the November ballot.

Although Bruce has denied involvement in Amendment 60, Amendment 61, and Proposition 101, an administrative law judge presiding over that hearing has found that Bruce was heavily involved.

If approved by voters, the three measures would roll back taxes and make it difficult for local and state governments to borrow money. Opponents say the measures would deal a crippling blow to the state’s economy, but proponents say they’re needed to control government debt and help struggling taxpayers.

The contempt-of-court citation was issued by Whitney last month at the request of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. The citation stems from Bruce’s failure to appear for the deposition.

The contempt-of-court hearing was scheduled to begin today, but Whitney agreed to move the proceeding to Aug. 18 after Bruce argued, among other things, that he was entitled to know what evidence and witnesses the AG’s Office expects to produce.

Bruce, author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, wanted the hearing pushed back even further, saying he was going to be “busy in the fall.” 

Although Bruce didn’t elaborate on his comment, a lawyer representing the Attorney General’s Office interpreted it as relating to the three ballot issues. “He’s trying to run the clock out in terms of these initiatives,”  First Assistant Attorney General John Lizza told the judge.

Bruce, who has a law degree and represented himself, dominated much of the two-hour hearing. On one occasion, he took a small Constitution out of his pocket and waved it at the judge, saying his constitutional rights were being violated.

 “We still have the childish notion that the U.S. Constitution prevails in Denver,” said the Colorado Springs resident.

Bruce argued that Judge Whitney was prejudiced against him and should step down from the case.

But Whitney refused, saying the citation issued against Bruce was not a judgment but a request that Bruce appear in court and show why he should not be held in contempt of court. “It’s still up to the AG to show contempt,” said Whitney.

The judge for the most part listened politely despite the fact that Bruce often talked over him. “Will you please stop interrupting me?” Whitney said toward the close of the hearing.

Whitney issued the contempt citation after process servers this spring attempted to serve Bruce 30 times with his order compelling him to testify in the campaign-finance complaint.

Bruce told the judge he was on vacation in Pennsylvania when the process servers were attempting to reach him. “If I have to prove I was on vacation, then I will have to prove it.”

Bruce argued that the case was about whether he was properly served. “Service is the issue. I was not served. Period,” he said. “I cannot be guilty of contempt if I didn’t get the order.”

Lizza said the proceeding revolves around Bruce’s failure to appear for the deposition. The AG’s Office maintains that Bruce was properly served through mail, e-mail and other communications.



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