The Local Legal Initiative provides local news organizations with direct legal services to pursue enterprise and investigative stories in their communities.
In Colorado journalists face a number of legal issues, including high fees for obtaining public records and the misuse of exceptions and exclusions in the public records law to deny requests.
Unlike many jurisdictions, Colorado does not have an administrative appeals process or ombudsperson office, meaning requesters interested in challenging a denial must do so in court. To bring such lawsuits more frequently, news organizations in the state need additional resources.
Since launching in Colorado, the Reporters Committee has already made significant impact in the state. Joined by a coalition of nine local news organizations, the Reporters Committee supported The Denver Gazette in its successful fight against an unconstitutional prior restraint that barred the newspaper from reporting on records a court staffer inadvertently disclosed about a criminal case involving a police officer charged in connection with the 2019 death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain.
Rachael Johnson, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney for Colorado, also assisted local news outlets in their efforts to obtain government records, including the recording and meeting minutes of an unlawful executive session related to the censure of a city council member.
And on behalf of the editor of Colorado’s Crested Butte News, she appealed a district court decision holding that a library could shield the names of people who seek to ban books from a public library.