Colorado Supreme Court will consider rules on suppressed Colorado court cases – and how to handle them in the future

The Denver Post: Whether or not the public could see just why Robert Padilla was sentenced to prison for life nearly two decades ago — and why thousands of others were convicted of various crimes — will be discussed this week by a committee of the Colorado Supreme Court tasked with taking on the issue of secreted court cases.

Padilla is one of thousands of criminal and civil cases The Denver Post last year revealed had been hidden from the public over the past 19 years, nearly all because of judges’ orders to close off access to them through an unrestricted procedure known as suppression.

The court’s Rules of Criminal Procedure committee on March 15 is expected to discuss new rules regarding existing suppressed cases as well as restrictions on how the process should be used in the future. That is a major change from the court’s previous resistance to making court records more accessible to the public and media.

“The circumstances giving rise to such restrictive orders and the capacity for them to continue in effect in perpetuity, without challenge or even awareness of their existence, remains a concern,” Colorado Chief Justice Nathan Coats wrote in a March 1 memo to committee chairman, Colorado Court of Appeals Judge John Dailey, asking for its help. “An integral piece of the ongoing attempt by the judiciary of this state (is) to facilitate public access to court records as widely and expeditiously as can be managed.”

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