Colorado Independent crosses first hurdle in U.S. Supreme Court case

The Colorado Independent: The Colorado Independent has cleared an initial hurdle in its bid to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to consider its First Amendment case.

The court on Thursday issued a request for a response from Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman to The Independent’s petition for the high court to hear the case. The legal battle is over sealed court records about 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler’s prosecution of Sir Mario Owens, one of three men on Colorado’s death row.

Supreme Court justices were originally set to conference about the petition on Nov. 9, at which point they might have denied the petition outright (statistically, that would have been the most likely outcome), grant it and put the case on the court’s docket, or request a response from the Colorado attorney general’s office.

That the court took that third route eight days ahead of the scheduled conference indicates at least some interest from the justices, though it far from guarantees they’ll ever hear the case, said Steve Zansberg, a Colorado attorney with the firm Ballard Spahr who is representing The Independent pro bono.

Coffman, a Republican who’ll exit office in January, has until Dec. 3 to file the requested response. The planned Nov. 9 conference on this matter will be postponed until at least Dec. 3.

Coffman’s office waived an opportunity to file a response last month to The Independent’s petition, but when the case was before the Colorado Supreme Court Coffman’s office argued, in a sweeping dismissal of The Independent‘s position, that “there is no constitutional right of access” to the sealed court documents the newsroom seeks.

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