Reporters have been more likely to get a no-such-records-exist response since the Colorado legislature in 2016 adopted a simplified and expedited process for sealing the criminal records of defendants who are acquitted or have completed a diversion agreement or a deferred sentence, or their cases are dismissed.
Public Records Laws
A bill to stop the required publication of certain county financial information in newspapers, similar to a measure vetoed last year by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, died quickly in the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee.
Following up on a 2018 study showing that Colorado law enforcement departments regularly reject requests for internal affairs files, a University of Denver law student found that agencies in several other states have no problem disclosing such records to the public.
Two words come to mind when looking back at 2018’s government transparency highlights and lowlights in Colorado. Judicial secrecy.
A judge ruled against a Texas-based consultant who alleged that Colorado’s recently retired securities commissioner violated the Colorado Open Records Act by refusing to fulfill a records request “unless and until” the consultant identified his client.
The mother of a 19-year-old man who was killed during a confrontation with police last year is on a mission to make law enforcement body camera footage more available to the public under Colorado law.
A district court judge in Delta County ruled that the town of Paonia improperly invoked CORA’s safe harbor clause in a lawsuit against Bill Brunner, a former town trustee who had requested numerous records in 2017. Not only should the town have turned the records over to Brunner, Judge Steven Schultz wrote, he is entitled to be reimbursed for his legal costs and attorney fees because Paonia officials “failed to exercise reasonable diligence or reasonable inquiry” before going ahead with the suit.
With no process for appealing public records denials short of filing a lawsuit, Colorado might want to look at a two-year-old system in Ohio, which lets anyone challenge a denial for a $25 filing fee. The president of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government says residents of his state “now have a fighting chance – no matter their resources or standing” when they believe records are wrongly withheld.
A judge should deny the prosecutors’ motion to keep autopsy reports from the public in the Frederick triple homicide case because the criminal court lacks jurisdiction to decide that question, a media coalition and the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition argued.
Should you have to show identification to inspect or get copies of public records? Unlike a few states such as Virginia and Tennessee, Colorado has no requirement that freedom-of-information requests be made by people who actually live in the state. So what’s the point? Is it legal?