Editorial: Open records stifled

From The Pueblo Chieftain:  A bill to force the State Public Defender’s Office to comply with the Colorado Open Records Act was summarily killed last week by Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee.

The committee voted along party lines — seven Democrats over six Republicans — to reject House Bill 1101. The bill would have clarified that the public defender and alternative defense counsel are, indeed, state agencies that the Open Records Act was intended to cover.

It’s a travesty against the public’s right to know just how state-funded lawyers spend taxpayers’ money while defending indigent criminal suspects.

For instance, District Attorneys Jeff Chostner of Pueblo and George Brauchler of Arapahoe County, among many others, think the public has a right to know how much the public defender is spending to keep Aurora theater shooter James Holmes from the death penalty.

You’d think state legislators, regardless of party, would support transparency in government. In this case, not so. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee indicated that the Legislature ought to wait for the judicial branch of government, which includes the public defender system, to complete public access rules for the entire Judicial Department.

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