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New Chief Justice Directive addresses continued use and importance of virtual proceedings in Colorado's trial courts

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

DENVER – Following the May enactment of Chief Justice Directive (CJD) 23-02, which provides Colorado’s trial courts with uniform guidance for livestreaming criminal proceedings, Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright today signed CJD 23-03, Virtual Proceedings Policy, to increase access to Colorado’s trial courts through the continued use of virtual proceedings and remote participation.

The CJD provides Colorado trial court judges with a framework for understanding which proceedings shall be conducted in-person and which ones may allow for virtual appearances. The CJD also 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,” Chief Justice Boatright said. “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 pandemic caused Colorado’s courts to pivot quickly operationally, leading to the adoption of virtual appearances and live-streamed proceedings. The Judicial Department’s ability to respond quickly to the pandemic rested in the fact that each of the 22 Judicial Districts’ Chief Judges have the authority to adopt local operational policies. With their inherent authority, Chief Judges may also adopt local polices to address the continued use of virtual proceedings in their jurisdictions as resources, needs and demands dictate. 

The Chief Justice lauded the members of the Virtual Proceedings Committee for their careful consideration of the matter in light of every case type and the perspectives offered by interested third-parties and members of the public.

“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,” Chief Justice Boatright added. “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.”

Chief Justice Directive 23-03, Virtual Proceedings Policy, is effective Aug. 1, 2023, and may be viewed here.

Chief Justice Directive 23-02, Live Streaming Coverage of Criminal Court Proceedings in the Trial Courts, is already effective, and may be viewed here.

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