Tag Archives: history

Colorado Public Records at Common Law

There is a strong history of Colorado allowing its citizens access to public records.  Since the beginning in this state, public policy of the state always prioritized a citizen’s right to know and a right of access to public records.

Public records are an important right for citizens .  Records can inform citizens when exercising the right to vote.  Records can serve as important documentation against corruption or abuse in the government.  Records can also give the government legitimacy.

The history of Colorado’s public records laws can be traced back to the common law in England.  Judges created rules when and how individuals were able to access records.  At first, public records were only available to interested parties, but that rule relaxed and individuals no longer needed to prove matters related to him as a prerequisite to a public records request. “These are public books which every body has a right to see.” Herbert v. Ashburner, 1 Wils. 297, 297 (1750).  However the right to public records was never absolute. The right to inspect public records did not extend to records considered quasi-public, such as the court rolls of an English manor.  Hereford v. Bridgewater,  Bunb. 269, 269-70  (1729); see Buck v. Collins, 51 Ga. 394, 396 (1875) 1  “But while the public interest thus provides a mode by which anyone may learn the truth upon inquiry, it is no part of the public scheme to make this exposure universal.  It provides that those who seek the information can get it, but it does not and ought not flaunt the information its records contain before the public gaze, and thus make a scandal of a public necessity.” Buck v. Collins, 51 Ga. 394, 396 (1875) (holding there is no right for a businessman to spend days or weeks in the clerks office inspecting public records, since the record keeper is charged with keeping the integrity of the records, thus his time would be spent as a sentinel and not performing the other duties of his job). 

 

Colorado Supreme Court Courtroom

— Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall, Flickr.

Continue reading Colorado Public Records at Common Law

References   [ + ]

1.   “But while the public interest thus provides a mode by which anyone may learn the truth upon inquiry, it is no part of the public scheme to make this exposure universal.  It provides that those who seek the information can get it, but it does not and ought not flaunt the information its records contain before the public gaze, and thus make a scandal of a public necessity.” Buck v. Collins, 51 Ga. 394, 396 (1875) (holding there is no right for a businessman to spend days or weeks in the clerks office inspecting public records, since the record keeper is charged with keeping the integrity of the records, thus his time would be spent as a sentinel and not performing the other duties of his job).