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In re People in Interest of C.J.T.

2023 CO 60. Subject Matter Jurisdiction After Termination—Ability of Non-Party to Obtain Confidential Document in Case.

December 4, 2023

In this C.A.R. 21 proceeding arising out of an underlying child welfare case, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and the Washington County Department of Human Services (DHS), contended that the district court had no jurisdiction to grant a non-party, the Office of the Child Protection Ombudsman (Ombudsman), access to an unredacted workplace investigative report (report) commissioned by the BOCC. The report concerned allegations of workplace misconduct by DHS’s former director and, in small part, referenced the parties involved in the underlying child welfare case.

After rejecting the Ombudsman’s and the district court’s contention that the issues raised in this case were moot, the Supreme Court concluded that (1) the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to order the BOCC to release the report to the Ombudsman because the court’s jurisdiction terminated before it issued its orders and the court did not retain ongoing jurisdiction to issue such orders; (2) the statute outlining the duties and authority of the Ombudsman does not authorize the Ombudsman to file a motion seeking information in a case in which it is not a party but rather, to obtain such information, the Ombudsman must comply with the Colorado Open Records Act, CRS §§ 24-72-200.1 to -206; and (3) in any event, the Ombudsman had no right to obtain the full, unredacted report, most of which addressed matters beyond the scope of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

Accordingly, the Court made its rule to show cause absolute.

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

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