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 Denver Post
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.
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.
Incidents in Colorado and elsewhere show the limitations of HB 19-1119 as a tool of transparency, accountability and for building trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. More could be done to ensure the public knows when officers are accused of misconduct or of using excessive force, how those allegations are investigated and whether and how discipline is imposed.
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.
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.
For the third consecutive year, Colorado lawmakers have rejected proposed legislation to address the trend among law enforcement agencies to fully encrypt their radio traffic.
On Thursday, Mar. 19, acclaimed Boulder-based journalist and author Jon Krakauer will headline the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition’s 2020 Sunshine Week panel about reporting on campus sexual assault and abuse.