A judge’s decision to restrict access to records in the case of a cardiologist accused of sexually assaulting and drugging victims does not comply with a 2021 Colorado rule meant to shine a light on why courts sometimes keep documents from the public in criminal proceedings, news organizations argue in new filings.
Court rulings top CFOIC’s 2021 list of Colorado transparency highlights and lowlights, with the most impactful paving the way for a state law change that lets governments publicly name just one finalist for chief executive positions like university president, city manager and school superintendent.
The rule has been in effect since May 10, so it was surprising to see a judge issue a one-word order temporarily sealing all documents in a felony menacing case against Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Mark Thompson. “GRANTED” is all Judge Paul Dunkelman wrote. His order did not contain any of the specific findings required by Rule 55.1, nor did it set a date certain for terminating the order.
The 130-page arrest affidavit for Barry Morphew, who is accused of murdering his wife Suzanne Morphew in 2020, will remain sealed for now.
Several Colorado news organizations have asked a Chaffee County District Court judge to reconsider his June 4 order sealing the 130-page arrest warrant affidavit for Barry Morphew, who is accused of murdering his wife, Suzanne Morphew, in 2020.
The indisputably terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year 2020 ended with at least one bright spot in Colorado: On Dec. 17, the state Supreme Court formally adopted a new Rule of Criminal Procedure (Colo.R.Cr.P. 55.1) that sets both procedural and substantive standards for when a trial judge may “suppress” judicial records on file in criminal cases.
The Colorado Supreme Court’s adoption of a statewide standard for sealing and suppressing court records in criminal cases “is an extremely positive development that increases transparency and builds public trust in our judicial branch,” said Steve Zansberg, a First Amendment attorney and president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.