Colorado Sun v. Brubaker, 2023COA101

This case involved a request for records pursuant to the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA), §§ 24-70-201-230, from media organizations. The organizations sought records from the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) showing the number of child abuse reports received over a three-year period from certain Colorado residential childcare facilities. CDHS denied the request, citing C.R.S. § 19-1-307(1)(a) which prohibits the disclosure of child abuse reports, as well as “the name and address of any child, family or informant or any other identifying information contained in such reports.” CDHS asserted that disclosure of the information would reveal the address of children involved in child abuse reports, even in the aggregate, and this disclosure was prohibited by the statute. The district court agreed, finding that the legislature intended define confidential information is “any information which would identify the child, parents or informant,” and all other information is nonconfidential. ¶34.   

On appeal, a division of the Court of Appeals determined that the statute was ambiguous and looked to legislative history to determine the correct interpretation. In so doing, the division determined that the General Assembly intended to keep confidential only information that could reveal a person’s or family’s identity. ¶4. The division also looked to a rule of syntax indicating that the phrase “or any other” reflects on the more specified items rather than existing as an independent category. ¶¶27-28. Judge Pawar issued a dissent, asserting that the statute was not ambiguous and that all addresses are confidential, even in the aggregate. ¶¶48-49.

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