There is new life for CFOIC’s proposal to set a uniform statewide standard for sealing criminal court files in Colorado.
In a year that featured plenty of freedom-of-information lowlights, Colorado lawmakers in 2017 provided a welcome ray of sunshine – a helpful new tool in the never-ending quest for government transparency. Senate Bill 17-040, which modernized the Colorado Open Records Act, was one of many topics featured on CFOIC’s blog and news feed in 2017.
In a terse letter, a committee of the Colorado Supreme Court has rejected CFOIC’s call for a uniform standard for sealing court files in criminal cases. More than a year ago, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition asked the state court system to adopt such a rule, noting that disputes over the closure of records in high-profile criminal cases often focus not just on whether records should be sealed, but on the appropriate legal standard to apply in making that determination.
Can documents provided in response to a public records request be clawed back and their use restricted if they may have been disclosed by mistake? That question is central to a court fight involving two Colorado liquor stores, Applejack Wine & Spirits in Wheat Ridge and Hazel’s Beverage World in Boulder.
Should state law be changed to limit public access to arrest records of people who never were charged with crimes or haven’t yet been charged? The Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice is exploring that idea, concerned that such records, if they turn up in background checks, can negatively affect peoples’ chances of getting employment or finding housing.
Happy birthday to us – and a shout-out to some of Colorado’s original freedom-of-information fighters. Thirty years ago, on Aug. 3, 1987, 24 representatives of various news and public-interest organizations gathered at the Denver Press Club to create a state Freedom of Information Council, the entity now known as the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
It’s been on the books since the state legislature adopted the Colorado Open Records Act nearly a half-century ago: Anyone who “willfully and knowingly” violates the statute is guilty of a misdemeanor and faces up to 90 days in jail and a $100 fine. But on Aug. 9, when Senate Bill 17-040 goes into effect, the criminal penalty in CORA will disappear.
The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition sent a letter to James Holmes, via his former attorney, asking him to authorize the public defender’s office to make its expenditure information public.
Ending what Sen. John Kefalas called “the most incredible journey,” Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill that modernizes the Colorado Open Records Act by clarifying the public’s right to copies of digital public records.
An 18-month push to update Colorado’s open-records law for the digital age culminated in the final passage of a bill that clarifies the public’s right to copies of electronic government records in useful file formats that permit analysis of information in those records.