Colorado Rights Blog


  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

ACLU, Americans United Challenge Lawsuit Attempting to Circumvent Colorado Supreme Court School Voucher Ruling


DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, and the law firm Arnold & Porter — who successfully challenged a Douglas County school voucher program before the Colorado Supreme Court last year — filed motions yesterday challenging the validity of a new lawsuit that asks a federal district court to issue an unprecedented order that would require the Douglas County School District to divert taxpayer funds to religious schools.

Last June, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the Douglas County School District’s so-called “Choice Scholarship Pilot Program” violated the Colorado Constitution because it improperly diverted public funds to private, religious schools.  Following the decision, the district and the Institute for Justice, representing parents who want to use taxpayer funds to send their children to religious schools, both petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a ruling, based on arguments that the Colorado Supreme Court rejected, that the state constitution’s ban on public funding of religious schools somehow violates the First Amendment right to religious freedom.

Early in 2016, it became clear that the Supreme Court would not act on the petitions before late 2016. The district then concocted and rushed through a nearly-identical modified version of the program that simply excluded religious schools, which appeared to be an invitation for the Institute of Justice to file its new lawsuit seeking the ruling that both parties had hoped to obtain from the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The jurisdiction of federal courts is limited to actual disputes between opposing parties, which are called ‘cases or controversies,’” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director.  “Here, the plaintiffs, represented by the Institute for Justice, and the nominal defendant, the school district, want the same result.  They both want an order compelling taxpayers to fund religious schools, a result the Colorado Supreme Court rejected.”

“Rather than accept that decision or wait to see if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the arguments the Colorado Supreme Court rejected, the school district and the Institute for Justice are staging a fictitious dispute in the hope of obtaining an order that would, in essence, overrule the Colorado Supreme Court. This is what the courts call a collusive lawsuit, and it should be dismissed,” added Silverstein.

The ACLU of Colorado, Americans United, the ACLU, and Arnold & Porter, representing a group of Douglas County taxpayers, yesterday filed a request to intervene in the suit and a motion to dismiss the case.  Additionally, they filed a motion in a Colorado trial court asking the court to enforce an injunction affirmed by the Colorado Supreme Court prohibiting the voucher program from going forward.

“In addition to being collusive, the voucher advocates’ new lawsuit has no legal foundation,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, associate legal director for Americans United.  “The federal courts have uniformly rejected arguments that religious schools have a right to public funding.”

The district’s original “Choice Scholarship Pilot Program” provided 500 students with vouchers worth about $4,600, which could be spent at district-approved “Private School Partners,” a collection of private schools. According to the Colorado Supreme Court, 16 of the 23 approved “Private School Partners” were religious. In striking down the program, the court held that it violated the state constitution’s “unequivocal language forbidding the State from using public money to fund religious schools.”

“This attempt to end-run the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision is legal gamesmanship of the worst kind and should be rejected by the federal courts,” said Heather L. Weaver, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

“The district and the Institute for Justice have been working together, unsuccessfully, for years to try to achieve their mutual goal — a voucher program that includes religious schools,” said Matthew Douglas of Arnold & Porter, lead counsel for the taxpayers.  “This case is nothing more than an attempt to shop for a new forum in which to try to achieve that same goal, but this time there is one significant difference: the district and the Institute for Justice are pretending to be adverse to each other in this new case.”

The attorneys representing Douglas County taxpayers in opposition to the voucher program include Douglas, Timothy Macdonald and Michelle Albert of Arnold & Porter; Silverstein and Sara Neel of the ACLU of Colorado; Richard Katskee and Luchenitser of Americans United; and Daniel Mach and Weaver of the ACLU.


Motion to Intervene:

Motion to Dismiss:

Motion to Enforce Preliminary Injunction:

Read: ACLU, Americans United Applaud Colorado Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Voucher Program Funding Religious Schools

Visit the ACLU of Colorado Case Page:

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