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.
An unarmed Black man is brutally murdered by police, who are utterly indifferent to his repeated pleas for restraint. First the people in that city, then across the nation (and, eventually, across the globe) take to the streets. They demand justice. They demand accountability. And they call upon the police, not only in that city but across the nation, to reform their practices, to eliminate racial profiling and overly aggressive militaristic responses, and to become more transparent — including by publicly releasing body-worn camera recordings of police-public confrontations.
COVID-19 touched nearly every aspect of our lives in 2020 so of course it affected government transparency and public access to courts in Colorado.
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.
All we want for Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa (besides world peace, an end to the pandemic and less partisan rancor) are better open-government laws for Coloradans.
When the Fort Collins City Council went into an executive session Oct. 20, the announced purpose was to discuss “broadband issues,” a topic not expressly authorized in the Colorado Open Meetings Law for closed-door deliberations.
This may come as a surprise to Coloradans who have been quoted hundreds or thousands of dollars by cities, state agencies, school districts and other government entities for “research and retrieval” in response to their public records requests: Not every state allows such charges.
The Colorado Supreme Court moved closer to possibly adopting a statewide standard for guiding judges’ decisions to seal or suppress court records in criminal cases.
Not only is a $50-per-record research fee not authorized in CORA, the building department’s public records policy makes no mention of providing a free hour to requesters. That is an “unequivocal violation of CORA,” said Steve Zansberg, a First Amendment lawyer and president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. The department’s justification for its research-and-retrieval fee is “simply lacking in any legal basis,” he added.
Is it legal for a Colorado school board to select finalists for a superintendent’s job while meeting behind closed doors?