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. 

Statement of Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director

Statement of Mark Silverstein,
ACLU Legal Director


December 22, 1998

Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, along with the ACLU's national office and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, filed suit in Boulder District Court to challenge the constitutionality of the Parental Notification Act, which Colorado voters adopted through the initiative process on November 3.

In a nutshell, this law stops a pregnant teenager from obtaining an abortion unless her doctor provides notice to her parents and then waits 48 hours. With this unconstitutional law, the government sticks its nose where it doesn't belong. In doing that, it hurts minors.

Most teenagers who become pregnant discuss their options with a parent as well as their doctor. That is how it should be. But many families do not function as we would like. They are dysfunctional. Not all parents are loving and supportive. Not all parents have their children's best interests at heart.

Passing a law can not magically turn a dysfunctional and threatening family into a refuge to which teenagers can turn in their time of need. The kind of family communication we all believe is desirable cannot be achieved by government fiat.

This law is unwise, unnecessary, and unfair. It is also unconstitutional. That's why the ACLU, which represents Dr. Warren Hern, the Boulder Abortion Clinic, and their patients, has joined with Planned Parenthood's attorneys to file this lawsuit. We are filing this lawsuit to keep abortions safe and accessible for young women who need them. We are filing this suit to protect young women's constitutional right to reproductive choice.

Why does this law violate the Constitution? First, this law forbids doctors to provide emergency medical care that is necessary to preserve young women's health. For more than 25 years, the Supreme Court has said, time after time, that any government regulation of abortion must provide exceptions when continuing a pregnancy will harm a woman's health. There is no such "health exception" in this Colorado law. There is no exception that permits a doctor to proceed with an abortion even when it is necessary to prevent immediate, serious, and even irreparable harm to a minor's health. The law requires doctors to delay at least 48 hours even when that delay can cause kidney failure, coma, infection, or other serious harm. That is unconstitutional.

Second, this law provides no effective alternative procedure for a pregnant teenager in dire straits who feels that she cannot, or will not, involve her parents. The Constitution requires such an alternative procedure. Laws that mandate parental involvement have been upheld only when they provide what the Supreme Court calls a "judicial bypass." That means that a teenager must be given the chance to show a judge, in a quick and confidential proceeding, that she is mature enough to make the abortion decision herself, in consultation with her doctor, or that an abortion is in her best interest. If she persuades the judge, she must be permitted to obtain an abortion without involving her parents. The Colorado law does not contain the "judicial bypass" that the Constitution requires.

Third, the Colorado law defines "abortion" so broadly that it interferes with teenagers' access to at least some forms of birth control. For example, in a case of a broken condom or otherwise unprotected sexual relations, teenagers can reduce the risk of pregnancy if they obtain emergency contraception within 72 hours. Because Colorado's broadly-worded law applies to this form of contraception, doctors cannot issue a prescription until they first provide notice to the teenagers' parents and then wait 48 hours. This delay makes the prescription ineffective and futile. No court has ever permitted this kind of government interference with teenagers' access to birth control.

Our lawsuit asks the court to declare that the law is unconstitutional and to order that it cannot be enforced. We have also asked the court to issue a preliminary ruling before the law goes into effect.

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