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Critic Clinton and Google Whistleblower say wife’s death was NOT an accident



Google Whistleblower and Clinton Critic Suggests Wife’s Death Was NOT an Accident

Google whistleblower and leading Clinton opponent Dr. Robert Epstein said the fatal crash of his wife’s car was no accident.

Misti Dawn Vaughn’s Ford Ranger spent the last month out of control on a slippery highway in California, and turned into a tractor trailer lane. She died several days later from her extensive injuries.

An official police report found that no factor in the fatal accident was drugs or alcohol.

Dr. Epstein suggested in a Sunday night tweet that his woman’s death was not accidental and that Vaughn’s car could have been abused.

“I told a group of State AGs last year about #Google’s power to run elections and one of them said,” I think in a few months ‘ time you will die in an accident, “Epstein said.

“My beautiful wife #Misti died a violent death a few months later. It’s thinking, “he said. reports: Epstein has shown through his comprehensive studies how Big Tech manipulation can change millions of votes during elections.

During the 2016 presidential election, Epstein surmounted that the search engine supported Hillary Clinton’s 2-3 million votes.

Epstein has repeatedly wiped out the idea that big technology platforms are only’ private enterprises’ and can therefore do what they want.

“Who on Earth gives these private firms the power to decide what everybody in the world would see or not?”Can’t have this power, period,” asked Epstein, adding.

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Denver weather: Mild and dry weekend



Denver weather: Mild and dry weekend

Denver will experience another mild day Friday before the weather begins to change.

According to the National Weather Service in Boulder, Denver will reach 78 degrees under mostly cloudy skies on Friday. Winds will build to 15 mph gusts as a storm system tracks across the west. Scattered showers and some high-altitude snow should impact northern Colorado overnight, leading to a possible few inches of accumulation by morning. Friday night in Denver will be mostly cloudy, with a low of 52 degrees.

Saturday will be mostly sunny, with a high of 73 degrees. Winds will gust near 25 mph, creating elevated fire danger for much of the plains. It will be a dry day with a low of 43 degrees.

Sunday should be clear and sunny. The high is forecast at 66 degrees with a low of 40.

Monday will also be sunny with a high of 70 degrees.

A strong storm system that could bring significant precipitation and winter weather impacts next week may begin to affect the area on Monday night.

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Elon Musk says Tesla will move HQ from California to Texas



Elon Musk says Tesla will move HQ from California to Texas

Tesla will relocate its headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Austin, Texas, though the electric car maker will keep expanding its manufacturing capacity in the Golden State, CEO Elon Musk said Thursday.

Musk, who last year said he was moving to Texas from California, gave no timeline for the move when he addressed shareholders at Tesla’s annual meeting.

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Musk clashed with San Francisco Bay Area health authorities trying to enforce shelter-in-place orders. At the time, he threatened to relocate Tesla’s operations to Texas or Nevada.

On Thursday, however, Musk cited the cost of housing in the Bay Area that has made it tough for many people to become homeowners, translating into long commutes.

“We’re taking it as far as possible, but there’s a limit how big you can scale it in the Bay Area,” he said Thursday. “Just to be clear, though, we will be continuing to expand our activities in California. This is not a matter of leaving California.”

Musk stressed he plans to expand the company’s factory in Fremont, California, where Tesla’s Models S, X, Y and 3 vehicles are built, in hopes of increasing its output by 50%.

The announcement drew cheers and applause from the small audience at Tesla’s manufacturing plant in Austin, where Musk delivered his remarks, which were webcast live.

While applauding Tesla’s announcement that it will expand production in Fremont, Bay Area business leaders bemoaned the headquarters move as the latest sign of the region’s ongoing issues.

“Mr. Musk’s announcement highlights yet again the urgency for California to address our housing affordability crisis and the many other challenges that make it so difficult for companies to grow here,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the business advocacy group Bay Area Council.

Last year, tech giant Oracle Corp. decided to move its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Austin, saying the move would give its employees more flexibility about where and how they work. One of Silicon Valley’s founding companies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, has also said it will move to the Houston area.

At Thursday’s meeting Musk also touted the company’s record vehicle deliveries this year, while noting that global supply-chain disruptions that have led to a shortage of computer chips remain a challenge.

“It looks like we have a good chance of maintaining that into the future,” he said. “Basically, if we get the chips, we can do it.”

As a result, production of Tesla’s angular Cybertruck pickup isn’t likely to begin before the end of 2022, Musk said, estimating that the company would reach “volume” production on the vehicle in 2023.

“We should be through our severest supply chain shortages in ’23,” he said. “I’m optimistic that will be the case.”

Tesla said last week that it delivered 241,300 electric vehicles in the third quarter even as it wrestled with the shortage of computer chips that has hit the entire auto industry.

The company’s sales from July through September beat Wall Street estimates of 227,000 sales worldwide, according to data provider FactSet.

Third-quarter sales rose 72% over the 140,000 deliveries Tesla made for the same period a year ago.

So far this year, Tesla has sold around 627,300 vehicles. That puts it on pace to soundly beat last year’s total of 499,550.

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U.S. employers add a weak 194,000 jobs as COVID-19 delta variant maintains hold



U.S. employers add a weak 194,000 jobs as COVID-19 delta variant maintains hold

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added just 194,000 jobs in September, a second straight tepid gain and evidence that the pandemic still has a grip on the economy with many companies struggling to fill millions of open jobs.

Friday’s report from the Labor Department also showed that the unemployment rate fell sharply to 4.8% from 5.2% in August.

The economy is showing some signs of emerging from the drag of the delta variant of the coronavirus, with confirmed new COVID-19 infections declining, restaurant traffic picking up slightly and consumers eager to spend.

But new infections remained high as September began, and employers are still struggling to find workers because many people who lost jobs in the pandemic have yet to start looking again. Supply chain bottlenecks have also worsened, slowing factories, restraining homebuilders and emptying some store shelves.

Many economists still think that most of the roughly 3 million people who lost jobs and stopped looking for work since the pandemic struck will resume their searches as COVID wanes. It took years after the 2008-2009 recession, they note, for the proportion of people working or seeking work to return to pre-recession levels. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed unless they’re actively looking for jobs.

Some of the factors that have kept many jobless people on the sidelines may be starting to ease. According to a survey by the Census Bureau, for example, the number of people who aren’t working because they must stay home to care for a child declined by half in September compared with June. That figure had barely dropped last fall, when many schools remained closed and conducted virtual learning. The new census figures suggest that more parents, particularly mothers, might have rejoined the workforce last month as the school year began and their children returned to school.

In addition, an August survey by the job listings website Indeed found that the proportion of unemployed Americans who said they’d like to find a job once the school year began had more than doubled from just two months earlier.

Yet there are also signs that it might be too soon to expect a flood of parents to have rejoined the labor market. Lael Brainard, a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, noted in a recent speech that COVID-19 outbreaks in late September caused 2,000 schools to close for an average of six days in 39 states.

Several enhanced unemployment benefits ended in early September, including a $300-a-week federal supplement as well as programs that, for the first time, covered gig workers and people who were jobless for six months or more. So far, the ending of those programs appears to have had only a small effect on the number of people seeking work.

Governors in about 25 states ended the $300 benefit before the nationwide expiration in September. Research by economists at Goldman Sachs found that unemployed people who were looking for work were much more likely to take jobs when their benefits ended. But the early cut-offs did not cause people on the sidelines to start searching again, Goldman concluded.

Another reason workers are scarce is a surge in retirements among older, more affluent workers whose home equity and stock portfolios have surged since the pandemic struck and who have managed to build up savings. Goldman Sachs estimates that about 1.5 million people have retired who wouldn’t have before the pandemic upended the economy. Many of these people will likely stay retired, economists expect.

In the meantime, fear of COVID continues to keep some would-be job seekers on the sidelines, notably those who previously worked in public-facing service jobs at restaurants, bars, hotels and retailers.

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What to expect as U.S. weighs COVID shots for younger kids



What to expect as U.S. weighs COVID shots for younger kids

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to allow COVID-19 vaccinations in children ages 5 to 11 — using kid-sized doses.

Until now, only people 12 and older could be vaccinated in the U.S., with shots made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. That’s been a huge frustration for many pediatricians and parents, especially as the extra-contagious delta variant has raged through poorly vaccinated communities — and the schools in them.

On Thursday, the companies formally applied for emergency use of a lower dose for 5- to 11-year-olds. Here’s what to expect:

Q: Why do younger kids need a vaccine?

A: The virus generally causes more serious disease in older adults than in children. But it can sometimes be severe in youngsters, too. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, COVID-19 has killed at least 520 children in the U.S.

The delta variant also caused a jump in child infections, making it more difficult to keep schools fully open and students in class. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found nearly a quarter of parents with kids in class this fall say they’ve already had to quarantine a child because of possible virus exposure.

Q: How soon could vaccinations begin for kids under 12?

A: First under consideration are shots for 5- to 11-year-olds. Advisers to the FDA are expected to publicly deliberate Pfizer’s evidence on Oct. 26, setting the stage for the agency to declare if the shots are safe and effective for the roughly 28 million youngsters in that age group.

If it does, there’s another step: Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will decide whether to recommend kids actually get the vaccinations. The CDC makes the final call.

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Unlock the secrets of wine with these Colorado classes, tastings and experiences



Unlock the secrets of wine with these Colorado classes, tastings and experiences

Dry, off-dry or medium-sweet? Apple/pear, citrus or tropical? Baked bread? Bitter? Acidic? Oaky?

I stared, perplexed, at these and other wine descriptions printed on the piece of paper in front of me at The Little Nell’s Wine Bar on a sunny afternoon this summer. I sniffed, sipped and swallowed the splash of mystery white wine in my glass for a second time, then peered at the page-long list of adjectives again, trying my best to determine what, exactly, I was smelling and tasting.

Eventually, I had to write down my guess (chardonnay) before moving on to the other three unknown wines in my queue. All told, I correctly identified two of the four wine styles on the same test taken by would-be sommeliers hoping to prove their deductive tasting abilities and become certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers, the global group that sets widely accepted standards for wine professionals.

The Aspen hotel’s new blind tasting experience, led by one of its staffers, was a fun, laid-back way to learn about wine without even realizing it. Wine can be pretentious and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. And with Colorado’s wine industry growing each year, it’s a good time to demystify this tasty, wildly diverse beverage made from fermented grapes and get up to speed on all of its nuances, from ground to glass.

From formal courses to casual tastings you can book with friends, here are some of the best ways to learn about wine in Colorado.

Try a sensory tasting

Kellen Brewer, wine manager of Carboy Winery, pours wine for guests while holding a private wine session at the winery on Oct. 3 in Denver. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

If you’ve ever wondered how wine experts can somehow magically detect notes of “freshly cut grass” or “toasted bread” from a glass of wine, when all you can taste and smell is, well, wine, you’re not alone. This is a super tricky skill to learn, one that takes sommeliers years and years of practice to master. But you have to start somewhere, and Carboy Winery’s sensory tastings can help.

Offered at their Denver and Littleton locations, the tastings are led by wine club manager and corporate trainer, Kellen Brewer, who walks participants through how to identify different smells and flavors in wines. To do this, he uses a special kit that’s full of little vials of smells like vanilla, lemon, smoke and caramel.

“Most sommeliers will tell you the best way to learn how to identify certain smells is to go down the produce aisle at the grocery store and just smell things,” said Kevin Webber, Carboy’s CEO. “This kit just makes that easier.

More info: ​​ or 720-617-9410

1633698850 578 Unlock the secrets of wine with these Colorado classes tastings
Kellen Brewer, wine manager of Carboy Winery, center, talks about wine with guests Anneliese Ornelis and her husband Jason, right, while holding a private wine session at the winery on Oct. 3 in Denver. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Blend your own wine

While wandering up and down the vast wine aisles at the liquor store, maybe you’ve noticed labels that say something like “red blend.” In fact, many popular types of wine are actually an amalgamation of different grape varietals, expertly selected by the winemaker to achieve the desired flavors and aromas. You can re-create this step — and learn something about your own palate in the process — by blending your own wine.

At The Hillside Vineyard in Fort Collins, a winemaker will help you choose between five different wines to make your own blend (then help you bottle and label it to take home!). Breckenridge’s Continental Divide Winery offers a similar two-hour blending experience with four pure red wine varietals; participants make their own custom blend, then bottle, cork and label it to take home. But be forewarned: You might enjoy your session so much that you decide to quit your job and take up winemaking full time, like Continental Divide founders Jeffrey and Ana Maltzman did.

“My introduction to winemaking began 25 years ago when my wife and I did a blending experience at a winery in Napa,” said Jeffrey Maltzman. “That experience truly changed our lives. We had so much fun that we began making wine ourselves.”

More info: or 970-520-2617; or 970-771-3443

Go back to school

1633698850 660 Unlock the secrets of wine with these Colorado classes tastings
Bottles of wine for sale at Carboy Winery on Oct. 3 in Denver. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Of course, one of the best ways to learn about wine is to go back to school. If you’re really serious about understanding wine, head to Grand Junction, where Western Colorado Community College (a division of Colorado Mesa University) offers a viticulture and enology associate degree program, the first of its kind in Colorado.

Led by Jenne Baldwin-Eaton, an award-winning Colorado winemaker with more than 20 years of experience, the program includes hands-on and classroom-based courses in sensory analysis, winemaking, lab analysis, viticulture, fermentation and wine marketing, among others. On top of the associate degree, the college also offers technical certificates that take just one or two semesters to complete; Baldwin-Eaton also teaches seminars at festivals and through the university’s continuing education program.

For something a little more casual, Denver’s Noble Riot offers an array of hour-long “Wine School” classes at its RiNo wine bar. Noble Riot’s classes promise to cut through any “high brow nonsense” associated with wine, according to co-owner and sommelier Scott Mattson. Popular offerings include “Wine 101,” a monthly session that covers how wine is made, how to taste wine for structure and acidity, how to detect secondary flavors and more.

Other courses are more specific, going in-depth on certain wine styles (like natural wine) or specific wine regions (like Italy’s Valle d’Aosta).

“Our team felt like Denver needed a place where people from all backgrounds could come in and get fired up about wine,” said Mattson. “The goal with our education program is to offer great content taught in a non-pretentious, relatable way, creating a comfortable space for our guests to discover and fall in love with all kinds of wine.”

More info: or 970-255-2600; or 303-993-5330

1633698850 498 Unlock the secrets of wine with these Colorado classes tastings
A view of Carboy’s new Palisade winery and vineyard located at Mt. Garfield Estate. The tasting room will debut in the fall. (Provided by Carboy Winery)

Visit a winery

On a recent visit to Grand Junction, Two Rivers Winery and Chateau owner Bob Witham shared some easy-to-remember tips and tricks for figuring out which types of acid are present in a particular wine. Though he doesn’t offer formal classes or lessons to individual wine-drinkers, Witham and the team at his tasting room are more than happy to casually share insights while you sip on a glass or try some of their offerings, as are nearly all winery owners and staffers across the state.

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Colorado weather: First significant snow of the season possible next week



Colorado weather: First significant snow of the season possible next week

After a stretch of insignificant weather over the last few weeks, there are a few storms on the horizon that could bring thunderstorms and snow to the area. One of which could bring the season’s first significant snowfall to the Colorado Rockies and possibly even to Denver and the Front Range.

‘Tis the season that we start to watch big areas of low pressure swing down from the cold north that bring mountainous locations cold, wind and snow. Even lower elevations of the urban corridor will likely see very changeable weather move through by this time next week.

The average first date of snow in Denver occurs on Oct. 18 but the last few years have given us snow prior to that date and given the current forecast, we could once again have snow earlier than average along the Front Range.

Our first storm begins to move across Colorado this weekend. Snow levels will remain relatively high but as a cold front traverses the state Saturday, snow levels may drop to 9,000 feet which means that places like Conifer and Idaho Springs could have their first dusting of the season this weekend.

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Denver election 2021: A look at the dueling ballot measures over the future of Park Hill golf course



Denver election 2021: A look at the dueling ballot measures over the future of Park Hill golf course

Two measures on Denver’s Nov. 2 ballot — Initiated Ordinances 301 and 302 — will shape the fate of one specific property: the former Park Hill Golf Club. 

The competing measures also stand to shape the future of the city’s Northeast Park Hill neighborhood, one of the few areas of east Denver where people of color outnumber white people and where city statistics show residents are especially vulnerable to be pushed out of their homes by economic pressure.

Development firm Westside Investment Partners bought the 155-acre green space along Colorado Boulevard between east 35th and 40th avenues for $24 million in 2019. With it came a city-owned conservation easement that since 1997 has banned any development that doesn’t support golf or other recreational activities. 

Westside has been upfront about its aims to change that easement and redevelop at least a chunk of property, with company principal Andrew Klein mentioning two years ago “affordable and diverse housing” and the need for more community-serving businesses. 

A grassroots movement to keep commercial development off the land was already well underway before Westside was in the picture, and the two sides are vying for support from the Mile High electorate with two measures that are nearly identical save for one thing.

Ordinance 301 would mandate that a citywide vote be held before any new residential or commercial construction is allowed in a park or on a piece of land covered by a city-owned conservation easement. Any full or partial removal of an easement would also have to go to voters.

Ordinance 302, which was filed months after 301, would do the same thing but would create a carveout that excludes the Park Hill golf course land and its city-owned easement. 

For members of the Save Open Space Denver group and others backing 301, the choice comes down to more grass versus concrete. 

“We believe that open space is a precious and very finite resource,” said Tony Pigford, who worked to get 301 on the ballot. “With the climate crisis on everybody’s doorstep, I think forward-thinking cities develop open space as a last resort not the first.”

Pigford and his fellow conservation proponents take a broad view of the intent of the conservation easement. He envisions the property becoming a community gathering place with athletic fields, space to host arts festivals and gardening classes, and maybe even building an outdoor amphitheater. 

Keeping the property free of dense development is a matter of environmental justice for Pigford. Communities of color, like Northeast Park Hill, are disproportionately affected by the urban heat island effect, he said. Urban neighborhoods can be up to 7 degrees warmer during the day than surrounding areas with more trees and vegetation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency

Westside and supporters of 302 see more strict language in the 1997 easement agreement, specifically sections that outline the property must remain a “regulation-length, 18-hole daily fee public golf course” with any additional uses only allowed if they don’t interfere. 

The easement is not up for voters to decide on Nov. 2. It will remain in place. 

Westside executive Kenneth Ho sees the difference between 301 and 302 as 301 undermining the ability of the people who live within a mile of the golf course to make decisions that impact their future. His company is also redeveloping the former Loretto Heights college campus in southwest Denver, relying on plans developed after a series of meetings with neighbors. 

“Should local land use issues be voted on by the entire city?” Ho said. “We think that answer is no, that is not how we typically do things in Denver, which is why if you want to protect local choice and local voices you should vote yes on 302.”

Ho emphasized the Westside is already committed to preserving at least 60 acres of the land as a park.

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It’s the last weekend for prime leaf-peeping, and it’s “resplendent” in SW Colorado



It’s the last weekend for prime leaf-peeping, and it’s “resplendent” in SW Colorado

The climax of the fall color change in Colorado’s high country seems likely to begin this weekend or early next week, observers in the southern part of the state are predicting. And in some areas, it has already arrived.

Leaf-peeping season in Colorado begins in early September, moving from north to south and from high to lower elevations. Some of the best viewing this week has been in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, where the impact of elevation has played out vividly between Silverton and Durango. Silverton, at 9,300 feet, was peaking last weekend. But in Durango, 40 miles to the south at 6,500 feet, trees just started to turn this week.

Alicia Laws, events coordinator for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, noticed the difference after riding the train up from Durango last weekend. After spending the night in Silverton, she was treated to an amazing sight at sunrise.

“I don’t even know if I could describe it,” Laws said. “The clouds were laying low, the sun was on Silverton Mountain — always the last hill to change — and it was almost like camo with oranges and yellows and a little bit of red. Because it was so warm this summer, the reds were really spectacular this year. Here in Durango, I woke up (Tuesday) morning and I noticed there were yellow trees — like overnight, we’re in fall colors. I think we still have a few more weeks in Durango, but as far as Silverton, it’s ending.”

A similar scenario played out a little farther north in Telluride and Ouray.

“We are creeping to peak right now,” Jon Miller, shop manager at Jagged Edge Mountain Gear in Telluride, said on Tuesday. “This next week or so is going to be really, really good. There’s still a lot of green out there, so it’s going to be good for a bit. Peak, I think, is going to be early next week.”

Telluride sits at an elevation of 8,750 feet. In Ouray, 10 miles to the northeast and nearly 1,000 feet lower, the leaves were just starting to turn this week according to Arianna Whitmire, a server at the Full Tilt Saloon.

“I’d say like a quarter, maybe,” Whitmire said. “We have some yellows, a lot of green still, some reds thrown in. I think next week might be a good time for a peak, I would guess.”

In the Wolf Creek Pass area 60 miles to the southeast of Ouray, the colors are spectacular.

“It’s resplendent,” said Becki Helmstetler, who works in the ticket office at the Wolf Creek ski area at an elevation of 10,300 feet. “It’s in all of its glory. It’s beautiful.”

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Restaurant chain cites homelessness for downtown closure



Restaurant chain cites homelessness for downtown closure

Despite its name, Teriyaki Madness was tired of the chaos surrounding its location near Union Station.

The Denver-based fast-casual Asian chain, which serves rice bowls with proteins and vegetables, closed its only corporate-owned store at 1920 17th St. in downtown Denver in June. It opened in 2019.

“Things like protests and lack of office traffic really caused a lot of business disruption,” said CEO Michael Haith. “The homeless issue down in that area was unsafe. We had a terrible time operating the restaurant, and we didn’t see any end in sight. I will not mince words.”

Teriyaki Madness’ 2,400-square-foot restaurant was also a training space for employees, an education center for national franchisees and a research-and-development facility to test out new menu items.

Haith said the company negotiated a deal with the landlord to get out of the lease, which still had years left.

“I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of effort to control or protect the businesses down there,” Haith said of the effect of homelessness on his business. “As a corporate location, our main goal wasn’t necessarily profitability. It was a pilot shop, it was a training shop, it was an exposure-to-market shop, and we just decided to focus our efforts elsewhere.”

The CEO said that Teriyaki Madness is in negotiations to build another corporate location in Denver, although he declined to disclose where. For now, the company is training franchisees and staff out of its Wheat Ridge location.

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Your honor, you’re muted: Colorado eyes the future of virtual court



Your honor, you’re muted: Colorado eyes the future of virtual court

To go to court in Colorado these days, you might need to drive to the courthouse, park, pass through security — belts and watches off, please — don a mask (or maybe not) and put your seat in a seat. Or you might just curl up on your couch, power up a laptop and log in to a video chat for virtual court.

It all depends on which judge is hearing your case and what exactly you need to get done.

Colorado’s initially ubiquitous use of virtual courts during the pandemic has faded into a patchwork of judge-by-judge decisions about when proceedings go forward in-person or online, even as many in the justice system call for some virtual options to be preserved post-COVID.

The mishmash of procedures across the state follows the court system’s radical transformation since the pandemic began in March 2020, with the public health crisis forcing an unprecedented shift toward remote hearings and virtual appearances — leading to increased transparency and participation in the court system, along with some new difficulties.

The Colorado Supreme Court has yet to put out any detailed statewide guidance for how virtual courts should be used long-term, but Chief Justice Brian Boatright recently formed a working group of eight chief judges to examine how online courts work (and when they don’t) as a precursor to potential long-term strategies, said Weld County Chief Judge James Hartmann, who co-chairs the chief judge’s council.

“In what types of proceedings is Webex working well, and where are court users experiencing challenges?” he said of the Colorado court system’s online video platform. “Once we get that information in place, then we can take the next view as to, where do we go from here as far as long-term planning.”

Rachel Ellis, The Denver Post

Judge Diego Hunt, top left, conducts a virtual criminal motions hearing in First Judicial District Court in Golden on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020.

The committee, which includes chief judges from rural and urban judicial districts, will ask for input from attorneys, court staff and other stakeholders in the justice system before presenting their findings to Boatright, Hartmann said. He estimated that process may take 30 to 60 days.

“We want to be able to use Webex when Webex is an effective way of conducting court proceedings,” Hartmann said. “We certainly don’t want to trade convenience for someone’s due process rights. But that balance will be there — we definitely can strike the balance, we just don’t know where the needle is going to fall yet.”

Earlier this year, Boatright gave chief judges the authority to make policies on virtual appearances for each of Colorado’s 22 judicial districts, continuing the court system’s pandemic-long approach of letting local jurisdictions make their own rules within a broad framework. A Denver Post review of those policies shows many chief judges further delegated decision-making to individual judges.

Whether a court hearing is held online or in-person is left up to each judge’s discretion in eight judicial districts, with two of those districts encouraging online appearances and three emphasizing in-person proceedings, the review found.

“We don’t have a set protocol, we just play it by ear,” said Joanne Montero, clerk of the courts in the 3rd Judicial District, which covers Huerfano and Las Animas counties. “We recently had an outbreak of COVID in the jail, so we moved cases to Webex for that reason.”

Another six judicial districts are operating fully online or with a presumption that hearings will occur remotely. Three districts are the opposite of that — hearings are presumed to proceed in person unless there’s an exception — and in two districts, chief judges have issued specific policies on how and when virtual courts should be used. Three districts have no policies posted online and did not return requests for comment from The Post.

“I think we would all like a little bit more guidance from chief judges and statewide,” Denver Assistant District Attorney Zach McCabe said. “It’s just easier for everyone to operate if we all know the rules.”

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser speaks ...

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser argues before the U.S. Supreme Court via teleconference in Colorado Department of State v. Baca on May 13, 2020. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the attorneys and justices debated via teleconference, and audio of the arguments was streamed live to the public online.

Wider shift to virtual court

The massive shift from in-person courts to virtual courts during the pandemic happened nationwide, said David Slayton, vice president of court consulting services at the National Center for State Courts.

“We found we really could do any type of proceeding in any type of case remotely,” he said. “I’m not making an argument that it’s always the best way, but it can be done, and we did it.”

Colorado’s courts went from spending about $61,000 on 250 licenses for Webex in the 2020 financial year to spending $338,000 on 4,000 licenses in the 2022 financial year, according to data provided by the judicial branch.

“The most surprising thing we learned is we saw an increased level of access to justice,” Slayton said.

When courts moved online in Arizona, eviction cases in one county shifted from seeing a 40% no-show rate — 40% of people were evicted without ever being heard in court — to a 13% no-show rate, according to a 90-page report submitted to the Arizona Supreme Court in June. Across the country, virtual jury calls have seen a 60% to 90% response rate, when in-person jury calls typically peak around 40%, Slayton said.

“It shows there are barriers to access to justice that exist outside the pandemic, like transportation, child care, the ability to get off work,” Slayton said.

Anecdotally, Colorado saw a similar increase in participation with virtual courts, particularly when links to online courtrooms were easily available to defendants, those in the justice system told The Post, though they had not reviewed hard data.

During the height of the pandemic in Mesa County, defendants in misdemeanor and traffic cases received a reminder text on the morning of their court date that included a link to the correct virtual courtroom, said Steve Chin, manager of criminal justice services.

“So they could just click that link,” he said.

State courts in Alaska, Massachusetts, Florida, Idaho, Indiana and Iowa have all issued some statewide rules on what proceedings can and can’t be done virtually, according to the National Center for State Courts. In the summer of 2020, the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators, which represent state courts in all 50 states, declared that courts should adopt “remote-first or remote-friendly” approaches.

“We can’t turn our back on all the advances we saw during the pandemic,” Slayton said.

1633695967 421 Your honor youre muted Colorado eyes the future of virtual

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Michael Martinez, Chief Judge of the 2nd Judicial District, presides over a hearing where a defendant appeared remotely but an attorney was present in-person at the Denver City and County Building in Denver on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.

Many in Colorado’s justice system would like to see some sort of hybrid virtual-and-in-person future for courts.

“Particularly for short appearances, it makes a ton of sense to continue allowing virtual appearances,” said Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty. “It would save time and money to allow individuals the option to appear virtually.”

“It is a huge time and cost saver for many types of proceedings — short hearings, status conferences, trial readiness conferences — it works extremely well for those types of proceedings,” said Hartmann, the Weld County chief judge.

Still, virtual courts can make it difficult for attorneys to speak privately with their clients, and it all but ends the informal hallway negotiations between prosecutors and defense attorneys that are key to resolving many low-level cases, transforming what might be a five-minute conversation into long email exchanges or back-and-forth phone calls.

“The attorney-client relationship gets a little abbreviated, and diminished when you’re not able to stand next to your client in the courtroom and be there and be the client’s voice,” said Maureen Cain, director of legislative policy and external communications at the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office.

She added that public defenders also need their clients to fill out and sign paperwork, which can be difficult when they’re not in the same room, particularly if the clients don’t have a stable living situation and mailing address.

Prosecutors also have seen cases stretch on for longer during the pandemic, Dougherty and McCabe said, in part because defendants didn’t face hard deadlines to enter plea agreements when jury trials stalled due to COVID-19 restrictions, and in part because of virtual appearances.

“People are less likely to trust a defense attorney they’ve never met in person and less inclined to plead guilty from their living room couch,” Dougherty said.

1633695967 862 Your honor youre muted Colorado eyes the future of virtual

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Covers are placed on courtroom microphones at the Denver City and County Building on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.

Greater public transparency

But accessing the justice system from one’s own home isn’t limited to defendants. Members of the public and victims of crime can also tune in from afar, greatly increasing the court’s transparency, said Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

“It’s made it easier for the public to watch the criminal justice system in progress, and I think that has been a good thing,” Roberts said. “It’s also made it easier for reporters to cover the process in certain cases.”

Additionally, some victims prefer to watch proceedings from home, prosecutors said, rather than sitting feet away from the person accused of killing their loved one or traveling a long way for a short hearing.

Currently, online streaming of in-person proceedings purely for public access is unpredictable across Colorado’s courtrooms.

In September, the judge in the high-profile Letecia Stauch murder case in El Paso County allowed only pre-approved family members of victim Gannon Stauch to watch a key hearing online — everyone else had to show up in person.

A La Plata county sentencing hearing for Mark Redwine, convicted of murdering his son Dylan, scheduled for Friday was open online for anyone to watch and even rebroadcast, but for the preliminary hearing in the Barry Morphew murder case in Chaffee County, virtual viewing of the courtroom was barred altogether.

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