Shrouded justice: Thousands of Colorado court cases hidden from public view on judges’ orders

The Denver Post: Thousands of court cases across Colorado — hundreds of them involving violent felonies — are hidden from public view, concealed behind judges’ orders that can remain in effect for years, The Denver Post has found.

More than 6,700 civil and criminal cases have been restricted from public access since 2013, usually by judges who agreed to a request from prosecutors or defense lawyers to shield them, The Post found. Of those, 3,076 are still under suppression orders that keep the details away from the public — 345 are felony criminal cases — as they work their way through the legal system, according to state computer records.

Until recently, no information about any of the suppressed cases was available publicly — not the names of the defendants, the charges they faced or even the identity of the judges who closed them — until The Post began questioning the practice.

The Post identified 66 felony cases that remained closed to the public — including homicides and sex crimes requiring registration as a sexual offender — even though the defendants had already been convicted and sentenced, some to lengthy prison terms.

In every suppressed case, The Post found, the judge’s suppression order and the reasons supporting it are shielded from public scrutiny. Courthouse employees and many law enforcement officials, including prosecutors, will not even acknowledge the suppressed cases exist, The Post found.

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