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In re People

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

June 17, 2019

In Re The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner In the Interest of T.T. Respondent

          Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21 Arapahoe County District Court Case No. 14MH13 Honorable Theresa M. Slade, Judge

          Attorney for Respondent: James C. Recht Castle Rock, Colorado

          Attorneys for Christopher Ryan, State Court Administrator; Shana Kloek, Clerk of the Arapahoe County Court; and the Honorable Theresa Slade: Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General Emily B. Buckley, Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado

          OPINION

          MÁRQUEZ JUSTICE

         ¶1 Under section 27-65-107(7), C.R.S. (2018), when a person is released from short-term treatment for a mental health condition, the clerk of the district court shall seal the record in the case and omit the name of the person from the court's "index of cases." The key question in this original proceeding is whether "Eclipse," the user interface of the judicial branch's computerized case management system, is an "index of cases" as contemplated by section 27-65-107(7).

         ¶2 This case comes before us in a rather complicated procedural posture. T.T. seeks to ensure that his name is not linked to the record of his earlier short-term commitment for treatment of a mental health condition. In a published, split decision issued in 2017, the court of appeals held that Eclipse is an "index of cases" for purposes of section 27-65-107(7) and directed the district court to order that T.T.'s name be omitted from the Eclipse system and any lists generated from the system's data. People in the Interest of T.T., 2017 COA 132, ¶¶ 23, 26, 410 P.3d 792, 797-98. T.T. later attempted to enforce the court of appeals' decision by petitioning the district court for an order certifying that it had complied with the court of appeals' directive. The district court declined to issue such an order and instead invited T.T. to set the issue for a hearing at which testimony could be taken about the feasibility of compliance with the court of appeals' mandate. T.T. instead filed a motion to enforce the mandate with the court of appeals, which denied relief for lack of jurisdiction. T.T. then sought C.A.R. 21 relief in this court, asking us to direct the district court to comply with the court of appeals' mandate.

         ¶3 We issued a rule to show cause but decline to grant T.T.'s requested relief. As discussed in this opinion, the reference to "index of cases" in section 27-65-107(7) contemplates a list of matters before the court that can be used to locate the actual court records for those matters. But the Eclipse user interface itself contains no data, and neither Eclipse nor its underlying database, ICON, functions as an "index" or list of cases. Thus, contrary to the court of appeals' ruling, section 27-65-107(7) does not require the court clerk to remove T.T.'s name from the ICON/Eclipse case management system. Moreover, to remove an individual's name from this case management system would thwart the court's statutory obligations to link the record of a short-term mental health case with subsequent cases involving that individual and to share certain information with the federal government. Because the district court's compliance with the court of appeals' mandate is neither warranted nor feasible, we discharge the rule to show cause, and disapprove of the court of appeals' opinion in T.T.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶4 In January 2014, T.T. was placed in involuntary short-term mental health treatment. His case was sealed at filing and, under sections 3.07 and 4.60(b)(5) of Chief Justice Directive (CJD) 05-01, was accessible only to judges, court staff, and other authorized department staff unless otherwise directed by court order. T.T. was released seven days later.

         ¶5 A little over two years after his release, T.T. visited the Arapahoe County Justice Center and asked the clerk if his name had been omitted from the index. Although it is unclear from the record and previous rulings in this case exactly what information was conveyed to T.T., it appears that, at a minimum, someone in the clerk's office confirmed that the case existed.[1] T.T. was upset that his name was still linked to his mental health case and requested that the clerk remove it from the court's index of cases. When the clerk declined to do so, T.T. filed a motion with the district court seeking an order requiring the clerk to remove his name.

         ¶6 T.T. argued that Eclipse is an "index of cases" for purposes of section 27-65-107(7) and therefore, once T.T.'s mental health case was closed, the clerk was required to seal the record in the case and remove T.T.'s name from Eclipse. The district court denied the motion. T.T. appealed, and the court of appeals ordered a limited remand directing the district court to conduct a hearing and enter findings of fact and conclusions of law. On remand, the county attorney argued that the "index of cases" contemplated by section 27-65-107(7) is the list of open and closed cases that can be generated using Eclipse, but not Eclipse itself. Following remand, the district court issued an order granting T.T.'s motion in part and denying it in part.

         ¶7 First, the district court observed that mental health cases are sealed at filing, and that such files are accessible only to judges and authorized staff unless the court orders otherwise. In this case, the file was also accessible by T.T.'s appointed counsel and the county attorney. The district court explained that the court clerk had properly sealed and closed T.T.'s case, that the file was physically removed from the mental health case file room and taken to a locked storage facility, and that it is not accessible to anyone except certain supervisors without a court order. The court acknowledged that there exists an "index" of names and case numbers that is used only to search the locked storage facility. But it noted that section 4.60 of CJD 05-01 specifically states that mental health cases are not accessible to the public unless the court orders otherwise.

         ¶8 Next, the district court found that Eclipse is not an "index of cases" for purposes of section 27-65-107(7), but rather a "searchable database" that can be used to generate open and closed case reports, daily dockets, and other reports. The court rejected T.T.'s argument that the statute required his name to be "deleted" from any database altogether. It reasoned that section 27-65-107(7) does not require the clerk to omit the respondent's name from "all court record[s]," but only from the "index of cases." The court concluded that the "index" meant any list of cases generated by the Eclipse system. It also noted that if Eclipse were deemed the "index of cases," removing T.T.'s name from the system would prevent compliance with section 27-65-107(7)'s requirement that the respondent's short-term treatment record be re-opened and made part of the record in a subsequent long-term care and treatment case. Thus, the district court granted the motion in part and ordered that T.T.'s name be omitted from any list generated or produced by Eclipse (even for purposes of storage), but denied the motion to the extent T.T. requested his name be removed from Eclipse. T.T. appealed.

         ¶9 In a published, split opinion, the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Eclipse system is the "index of cases" contemplated by section 27-65-107(7). T.T., ¶¶ 23, 26, 410 P.3d at 797. The division majority rejected the county attorney's argument that omitting T.T.'s name from Eclipse would "obliterate" the record in the case and make it impossible to re-index T.T.'s name as required by statute should T.T. become subject to an order of long-term care. Id. at ΒΆ 25, 410 P.3d at 797. The majority reasoned that mental health cases could be managed without including the names of those committed, noting that the names of sexual assault victims are omitted from records in ...


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