New Chief Justice Directive Addresses Continued Use of Virtual Proceedings in Colorado Trial Courts

On June 21, Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright signed Chief Justice Directive 23-03, to increase access to Colorado’s trial courts through the continued use of virtual proceedings and remote participation. The directive follows the May enactment of CJD 23-02, which provides Colorado’s trial courts with uniform guidance for livestreaming criminal proceedings. 

According to the announcement from the judicial department, the new directive provides Colorado trial court judges with a framework to understand which proceedings should be conducted in person and which ones may allow for virtual appearances. The judicial department noted the CJD preserves the authority of the judicial officer to determine on a case-by-case basis when good cause exists to depart from the directive’s guidance and allow for more flexibility. 

“The adoption of this policy solidifies a dramatic shift in the manner in which courts have conducted business for hundreds of years by authorizing the use of virtual proceedings which benefit the majority of those involved in court proceedings,” Boatright said in a press release. “I am confident this CJD provides the necessary and timely guidance to judicial officers to allow for the continuation of virtual proceedings. I believe it increases statewide consistency in operations, while allowing the judicial districts and trial court judicial officers to maintain discretion over decorum in their courtrooms.”  

The judicial department said the pandemic caused Colorado’s courts to pivot quickly operationally, leading to the adoption of virtual appearances and live-streamed proceedings. The department explained its ability to respond quickly to the pandemic was due to the authority the 22 judicial district chief judges have to adopt local operational policies. The justice department noted chief judges may also adopt local policies to address the continued use of virtual proceedings in their jurisdictions as demand, resources and needs dictate.  

“I would like to thank the Virtual Proceedings Committee for navigating these uncharted waters in an incredibly short amount of time in such a comprehensive and thoughtful manner,” said Boatright in the announcement. “We heard from more than one hundred people when we published the initial draft of the CJD, and most favored the continued use of virtual appearances. Technology such as live streaming allowing for virtual appearances will continue to evolve, and we must evolve with it. I believe this directive strikes the right balance at this time.”

CJD 23-03 is effective Aug. 1 and may be viewed here. CJD 23-02 is already in effect and can be viewed here.

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