To Chief Justice Boatright; Justices Marquez, Hood, Gabriel, Hart, Samour and Berkenkotter:
My name is Cory Gaines and I am a resident of Sterling Colorado. I am writing today having recently read the article “Lawmakers can allow school districts to raise property taxes without voter approval, Colorado Supreme Court Rules” in the May 24th edition of the Colorado Sun.
I am not a legal scholar. I am not a lawyer. I am not here to argue technical points. I write today as a citizen of this state, and I write to express my growing frustration with your decisions regarding the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). I write also to call you on the baffling resistance you and the judiciary have shown to calls for transparency. Both of these things have harmed the public’s perception of our courts. Both have, in my opinion, called into question your ability to function as our state Constitution dictates.
Coloradans have repeatedly, over the course of years and multiple elections, made clear their desire to be asked prior to having the state take more of their money. What they have received from their elected officials has not honored this wish. This would be a sad enough state of affairs, but when we turn to the courts for remedy, we find no assistance from you. You have instead aided our politicians. You have repeatedly given them ever more creative avenues to avoid asking our permission–inventing whole new categories of heretofore undifferentiated revenue generation schemes. You have functioned less as a body tasked with upholding the letter of the law and more as a rubber stamp for what our politicians ask. I salute your creativity, but as a citizen I cannot express my frustration at this strongly enough. The feeling is one of having clearly and repeatedly expressed yourself only to be ignored at every turn.
In defense of your decisions, I am sure you could give me reams of legalese which could just as well function as additional stanzas in Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. I find myself unimpressed at that. I am not impressed by how cleverly you can string together legal precedent and argument because a simple reading shows what I have already stated. TABOR requires permission. Period. End of story.
The lack of upholding what citizens want would be bad enough on its own, but you have also repeatedly worked to avoid public oversight. You have repeatedly worked to avoid having to be transparent, both in the past and currently. A quick search on the internet can find multiple past instances where our judiciary have exempted themselves from the same open records that the executive and legislative branches must follow. This applies to decisions you make, hearings you hold, discipline you mete out against fellow judges. It constitutes a record of multiple times where citizens of Colorado should have a right to see what is happening, but don’t because you prevent it.
As a more contemporary example, let me provide one from my own recent experience. Trying to get simple questions answered by staff at judiciary offices has proven to be an exercise in futility. After a different (and earlier article) I wrote to the commission of officials Justice Boatright had appointed to in turn hire an investigator; I wanted to hear more details on the commission’s process as they have been holding meetings in secret. The commissioners were responsive; my queries were quickly forwarded to the office of someone in the judicial branch.
There they sat. They withered and died from lack of response. I am not alone as I know another individual who was pursuing the same question and found my emails as part of his CORA requests. Do not misunderstand me. There may be parts of the process that the public should not have access to. I understand and support that. What I do not understand, what I cannot support, is the complete lack of a response. Not deigning to answer repeated inquiries strikes me as a continuation of the exact same behavior that you are supposedly trying to fix!
If you–as was put forward by Justice Boatright–have a long way to go to regain public trust, I would say you have started poorly and that you are failing. If you are to function as our Constitution dictates, you need to stop inventing ways for politicians to circumvent our wishes, and you need make genuine moves to allow citizens oversight into the judiciary.
Until and unless that happens I will vote to not retain any current justices on our Supreme Court that show up on a ballot. I will also encourage others to do the same.
Thank you for your time and attention,
Cory Gaines, Sterling Colorado
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