The Colorado Supreme Court’s adoption Thursday of a statewide standard for sealing or 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.
When Rule 55.1 goes into effect May 10, 2021, criminal courts in Colorado will be required to publicly docket motions to limit access to court files and any hearings convened to consider such motions. Even more significant: A judge’s written order justifying the suppression of records will be made public.
“This does away with the past practice of judges denying public access with a single unintelligible sentence, such as ‘countervailing considerations,’ or, in some cases, no written explanation at all,” Zansberg said. “The public is entitled to have a judge explain, clearly and in detail, why its constitutional right to monitor the workings of the courts is being denied.”