Judge: McLean, Stevens didn’t fabricate evidence

Richard McLean and Edith Stevens did not fabricate evidence or lie to win their controversial land case against neighbors Don and Susie Kirlin, District Judge James C. Klein ruled Monday.

Klein’s order essentially upholds his decision last fall to award about 34 percent of one of the Kirlins’ vacant lots on Hardscrabble Drive to McLean and Stevens after they sued for it using the squatter’s-rights law of “adverse possession.”

“I think it completely affirms our position,” McLean said Monday. “The court’s duty is to ignore the public perception of the case and apply the facts as he finds them to be.”

The Kirlins filed paperwork earlier this year alleging that McLean, a former district judge, and Stevens, an attorney, faked evidence of a dirt path across the Kirlins’ property and lied about using it for more than two decades.

The couple argued that Klein should overturn the original trial decision after providing a package of “new evidence” that included eyewitness testimony and a series of aerial photos of the disputed property.

Klein, however, disagreed.

“In light of the testimony, the affidavits containing specific recollections of use over 20 years, the photographic evidence that predates October 2006 … the defendants have failed to meet the requisite burden of proof required to set this order aside,” Klein wrote in the ruling.

Klein also wrote that he believes aerial and ground photos do show the longtime existence of a path on the Kirlins’ lot.

“The aerial photography from 1993 and 2003 shows the path and plaintiffs’ use of the property,” Klein concluded. “Further, this court concludes that ground photography from 2002 and eyewitness testimony prove the existence and use of such a path.”

He went on to criticize the Kirlins, saying they “purposefully mislead” the court with certain evidence and have been “disingenuous in their assertions.”

Klein also included a note explaining his decision, apparently addressing the public outcry the case has stirred.

“This court wants to make it very clear that it has never condoned morally the actions of plaintiffs in pursuing this matter,” he wrote. “The court is bound by its oath to office to apply the law to the facts presented to it despite the face that its rulings, and the law that it is required to follow, may be controversial and/or unpopular in the community.”

Susie Kirlin on Monday said she was shocked at the decision and accusations made by Klein.

“We are dismayed that the judge brushed aside the overwhelming evidence that the path across our land was created after this lawsuit was filed,” she said. “We gave the judge a national expert’s analysis of seven aerial photographs taken between 2004 and 2007, proving that the first time the path appeared was in 2007.”

She said Klein’s decision to rule on the case without holding a hearing was also disappointing.

“We requested a hearing so that the judge could fully understand the scientific support for that proof,” Susie Kirlin said. “We are shocked that the judge refused to hold a hearing, disregarded the expert’s analysis, and claimed he could see the path in a 2003 aerial photo that not even McLean and Stevens argued showed the path.”

McLean said he does not believe, as some have suggested, that the land dispute has become something more than just a dispute among neighbors.

“I don’t think it has gone beyond that,” McLean said. “We want to use the property just like we’ve been using it for almost a quarter of a century.”

McLean said he and his wife will continue to fight for that use.

“We’ll respond if they do appeal, and I imagine they will,” he said of the Kirlins. “They’re very stubborn people.”

McLean admitted, though, that he’s probably also a little stubborn.

Susie Kirlin said she and her husband will appeal the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

“We are confident that the appellate court will correct this judge’s mistakes and give our land back to us,” she said.

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