Public bodies are supposed to conduct public business in public. The Colorado Open Meetings Law (COML) allows “any person” to file a lawsuit when the government wrongfully blocks people from attending public meetings or otherwise fails to meet its obligations under the law. COML lawsuits promote government transparency and ensure that public servants are held accountable if they conduct public business in secret.

In April of 2023, Matt Roane filed a lawsuit against the Elizabeth School District alleging that the District violated the COML’s requirements for convening executive sessions. The District moved to dismiss Mr. Roane’s suit on standing grounds, arguing that because Mr. Roane had not explained how he was actually injured by the Board’s failure to comply with the COML, he should not be able to sue the District for violating the law. When the lower court denied the District’s motion to dismiss, the District filed a rare interlocutory appeal, asking the Colorado Court of Appeals to hold that Mr. Roane lacks standing to sue.

Because the Court of Appeals’ decision could have grave implications for journalists, advocates, watchdogs, public interest organizations, and other members of the public who attend public meetings, the ACLU of Colorado and Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition filed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Roane.

The District argued that a person must show a “legitimate nexus to the local jurisdiction and challenged conduct” in order to bring suit under the COML. That rule could prevent or deter large swaths of the public from attending public meetings and vindicating their right to observe the government conducting public business. There are many reasons a person might want to attend a public meeting even if they have no personal connection with the location or topic of the meeting. For example, reporters often publish stories about events outside their own city or county. Watchdogs might attend meetings in different locations on different topics to see if there are patterns in how the government fails to live up to its transparency obligations. Researchers might attend public meetings to study the manner in which public bodies across the state conduct their business. Students might attend public meetings to gain a better understanding of how public bodies operate generally. And, as our amicus brief explains, a person should be able to attend public meetings without disclosing to the government their reasons for attending. 

Our brief also explains that the District’s proposed rule is plainly inconsistent with the language, history, and context of the COML, which all clearly indicate that any person has standing to sue for violations. 

On May 23, 2024, the Colorado Court of Appeals held that Mr. Roane, like every other person in Colorado, has a legally protected interest in having public bodies comply with the requirements of the COML, and had standing to sue here. The Court made clear that a person suing under the COML need not identify a reason for seeking access to an open meeting or a connection with the entity holding the meeting. 


CFOIC/ACLU brief: Court of Appeals must not restrict legal standing to file open meetings lawsuits, Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, February 20, 2024

Court of Appeals: All Coloradans have legal standing to sue over open meetings law violations — no matter where they live, Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, May 23, 2024


Timothy R. Macdonald, Anna I. Kurtz, and Laura Moraff (ACLU-CO); Eric Maxfield (Eric Maxfield Law, LLC)

Date filed

February 16, 2024


Colorado Court of Appeals


On appeal

Case number