DENVER — An amicus brief was filed earlier this month by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition (CFOIC) in the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case brought Sept. 28 by attorney Steve Zansberg for The Independent, a non-profit Colorado online newspaper.
The suit was filed over the paper’s inability to obtain judicial records that should be made public, Zansberg argues. Zansberg maintains that the failure of the Colorado judicial system to deliver the records as requested contradicts previous Supreme Court rulings and unanimous decisions by other courts across the nation who have ruled these types of judicial records can be accessed.
Those joining the CFOIC in filing the brief on behalf of The Independent are the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association, The Denver Post, The Gazette (Colorado Springs), The Durango Herald, the Fort Collins Coloradoan, The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction) and The Greeley Tribune.
Denver Post reporter David Migoya first wrote about the The Independent’s pursuit of records sealed in the case of Sir Mario Owens, now on death row. Owens was convicted of murdering the son of a Colorado lawmaker. Migoya’s articles spotlighted thousands of civil and criminal cases hidden from the eyes of the public, some of them felony cases kept secret even after the defendants were convicted and sentenced.
A SCOTUS conference was scheduled on the brief Nov. 9, but the justices instead requested a response from Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman on The Independent’s petition to the high court to hear the case. Coffman has until Dec. 3 to respond to the request. During the appeal of the case to the Colorado Supreme Court, Coffman argued The Independent had “no constitutional right” to gain access to the sealed records.
SCOTUS can accept the case or decline to review it. While attorneys agreed the request for Coffman’s response indicates interest in the case, they added that such interest is no guarantee the case will be heard.