Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition president Steve Zansberg and Denver Post investigative reporter David Migoya are co-recipients of this year’s First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Colorado Pro Chapter for work that prompted a new statewide standard for sealing and suppressing criminal court records.
The Colorado Independent
The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition presented its highest honor, the Jean Otto Friend of Freedom Award, to the founders of the Colorado News Collaborative, an innovative local media resource hub that is helping to strengthen local journalism statewide.
Calling Colorado’s open-government statutes “seriously flawed” regarding the appointment of chief executives, a Colorado Court of Appeals panel decided 2-1 that a district court judge erred in ruling that the University of Colorado regents should have publicly disclosed the names and applications of all six candidates interviewed for the president’s job that went to Mark Kennedy in 2019.
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.
Journalists know they may find themselves in harm’s way when they cover volatile events such as the demonstrations we have seen in Denver over the past several days. But it is inexcusable – and a violation of the journalists’ constitutional rights – for law enforcement officers to single them out for attack simply for doing their jobs in chronicling these events.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Colorado Supreme Court will wait until September to convene a public hearing on a long-awaited standard for guiding judges’ decisions to seal or suppress judicial records in criminal cases. In the meantime, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and other groups have submitted written comments on the proposal.
In a case similar to the Boulder Daily Camera’s lawsuit against the University of Colorado regents, an El Paso County District Court judge will soon decide whether Colorado’s open government laws require a school board to name more than one finalist when choosing a new superintendent.
State lawmakers voted down a bill to allow civil lawsuits in state courts against Colorado governments for violations of rights enumerated in the Colorado Constitution, including free speech and a free press.
The ruling in the Boulder Daily Camera’s lawsuit over the University of Colorado’s presidential search will hinge on whether words such as “list” and “group” in Colorado’s sunshine laws mean that the CU Board of Regents should have announced more than one finalist – or whether such words can be interpreted as either singular or plural, a judge indicated.