Editorial: Open judicial branch records to the public

From the Reporter-Herald (Loveland):  Did you know the Colorado judicial branch was a finalist for a national award earlier this year?

Indeed, the judicial system was in the top three nationwide for the “Golden Padlock Award,” issued by the Missouri-based Investigative Reporters and Editors, noting the public agencies that offer the most unwarranted secrecy in the United States.

The reason behind the dubious honor: as reporters started to ask questions about the costs of the defense of the Aurora theater shooter, they were met with a stone wall about the costs of the attorneys, expert witnesses and the tests they conducted to provide the defense in the murder case.

Because of a pair of court rulings, the state’s judicial branch is not subject to the same rules as other agencies and legislative offices through the Colorado Open Records Act. The branch, which covers not only the courts but the public defender’s offices, has its own rules.

Earlier this month, the Colorado Supreme Court heard testimony about potential changes to their internal rules governing the release of records and information not just to the public, but to any interested individual.

Right now, the court is the generator of such rules, but action at the legislative level might be needed. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers has met to look at ways to close the loopholes the courts have found to enable the removal of judicial officers from open records requests. While an effort died in the General Assembly earlier this year, the questions that arose from the Aurora shooting trial this summer will generate another attempt.

Visit the Reporter-Herald for more.


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