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Letter to the Editor: Courts commit to open, public process

Posted: Friday, Apr 26th, 2013

Editorís note: Rudy Herndonís account of his experience in San Luis was related in his personal column, not a news article.

As Chief Judge of the 12th Judicial District, I was concerned, as many members of the public must have been, to read in Thursdayís paper that reporter Rudy Herndon had been excluded from the courtroom in San Luis during jury selection for a criminal jury trial. Actually, I was quite surprised by the article because I know how seriously all of the judges in the 12th Judicial District take the obligation to accommodate public attendance at criminal trials.

After I read the newspaper article, I looked into the matter and determined that Mr. Herndon had, indeed, been excluded from the courtroom, but not at the direction of the presiding judge. Rather, a substitute security officer misunderstood the judgeís order sequestering witnesses. A sequestration order prohibits witnesses who will testify during a criminal trial from being in the courtroom at any time other than during their own testimony. This order only applies to witnesses involved in the case and not to the general public. The security officer mistakenly thought the order applied to all members of the public.

In fact, the presiding judge was unaware of what had occurred until he read Mr. Herndonís article. As a result of this incident, I have asked our district administrator to meet with the security officers at each of our courthouses to review the publicís right to attend all court proceedings unless expressly closed by the presiding judge.

The courts in the 12th Judicial District, like those throughout the state of Colorado and the United States, are committed to providing open and public hearings and trials. We know that open processes increase the publicís overall confidence in the judicial system. We not only welcome, but truly encourage, our fellow citizens to come to any of our courtrooms and observe the work we do.

Pattie P. Swift, Chief Judge,

12th Judicial District

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