Actual malice. Autopsy reports. The Columbine killers’ “basement tapes.” Stapleton Development Corp. records. The governor’s cellphone bills. The meetings and records of a county retirement board. Tom Kelley waged court battles over these issues and many more as an attorney for The Denver Post, other news organizations and the Colorado Press Association, steadfastly and expertly defending the public’s right to know and the journalist’s right to report.
Public Records Laws
Government transparency laws are designed to make sure the government gives you what it’s obligated to give you, even if those documents may be embarrassing or may get someone fired. Recently though, government agencies have been using a new tool to keep documents a secret. That tool is money.
When a government agency wants $5,850 to fulfill a request made under the Colorado Open Records Act, is it effectively denying access to those records?
A Las Animas County District Court judge has ordered the county coroner to pay attorney fees and court costs for improperly denying a Trinidad resident’s request for the autopsy report on a murder victim.
Obtaining public records in Colorado could soon get a bit more expensive. Beginning Monday, July 1, state and local government entities will be allowed to charge a maximum of $33.58 an hour – after the first hour – to fulfill requests made under the Colorado Open Records Act.
A judge in Las Animas County has ordered the public release of an autopsy report that a lawsuit claims was wrongly withheld from a Trinidad resident who runs a Facebook-based community news site.
Colorado does a great job protecting the confidentiality of individual student records but suppresses far too much academic performance data at the school and district level, which can leave families, communities and researchers in the dark about how well groups of students are doing.
The Regional Transportation District no longer charges the public 25 cents per page for electronic copies of public records.
It’s unlikely we would have this important new law without research conducted by University of Denver Sturm College of Law professor Margaret Kwoka and DU law students Bridget DuPey and Christopher McMichael, each of whom received the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists’ First Amendment Award.
There was no need to wait for final adjournment to see that the 2019 Colorado legislative session was a productive one for freedom of information and First Amendment-related issues. Gov. Jared Polis cinched that on April 12, when he signed into law a groundbreaking transparency bill that ensures the public disclosure of records on police internal affairs investigations.