The Colorado Independent: Colorado’s judicial branch has spent a year stonewalling The Independent’s quest for court records, and I’m proud that we have stepped up our fight.
As Alex Burness reported Friday, our lawyers have petitioned the United States Supreme Court to strike down a state court ruling denying The Independent access to records in a death penalty case. That unprecedented decision shrouds Colorado courts in secrecy and makes us the only state without a presumptive First Amendment right for the press and public to scrutinize our justice system.
The ruling must be reversed “because it is so clearly and dangerously wrong,” our lawyers wrote in a 112-page petition that gives this court-record geek more than a few goosebumps.
In the coming weeks, national news organizations and prominent legal scholars will be filing friend-of-the-court briefs in support of our records battle. They will argue that the Colorado Supreme Court ruling in June breached The Independent’s – and, therefore, the public’s – First Amendment right to gather information and have an informed review about the fairness of our state courts. They’ll warn about the dangers of leaving judicial power unchecked. They’ll spell out the chilling effect the ruling will have on journalists. And they’ll say that, without the ability to review court decisions, voters cannot make informed choices about whether to retain or defrock judges.
They will argue the principle that is at stake here, the critical legal underpinnings guaranteed a free people in a free society. That is what this case is about. But I don’t want to lose sight of how and why our fight for these records began, or of the untold number of Coloradans entwined one way or another in a justice system that sometimes loses sight of justice.
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