Bodelson v. Denver Publishing Co.

5 P.3d 373 (2000)

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Bodelson v. Denver Publishing Co.

Colorado Court of Appeals
5 P.3d 373 (2000)

LJ

Facts

On April 20, 1999, 12 students and one teacher were victims of homicide at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The two shooters also died during the incident. The event was nationally covered by the media, and over 70,000 people, including the president of the United States, attended a memorial service. In light of the media coverage and because the autopsy reports were subject to disclosure under Colorado’s open-records law, Nancy Bodelson (defendant), the county coroner, filed a petition to restrict public inspection and disclosure of the victims’ autopsy reports. Bodelson asserted that the disclosure of the reports would substantially injure the public interest and would provide no public benefit. The Denver Post Corporation and the Rocky Mountain News (collectively, the news outlets) (plaintiffs) intervened in the action and opposed the petition. At trial, the deceased’s family members testified that the release of the reports would cause them harm and further exacerbate the tragedy. The trial court denied the news outlets’ request to conduct an in camera review of the reports and granted Bodelson’s request to restrict public access. The news outlets appealed, disagreeing with the trial court’s determination that the release of the reports would cause harm to the public. In contrast, the news outlets took the position that the release of the reports would serve the public interest by allowing the public to assess the first responders’ actions. Additionally, the news outlets asserted that Bodelson had failed to demonstrate that the disclosure of the records to the public would impede a pending criminal investigation.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Marquez, J.)

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