DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that authorities violated the constitutional privacy rights of illegal immigrants when they seized their tax records in an identify-theft investigation, a decision that infuriated illegal-immigration foes.
In a 4-3 decision, the court upheld a March ruling by a Weld County district judge, who held that tax returns are confidential and that prosecutors had no right to search one of the defendants’ tax filings.
Weld County authorities are believed to be the first to use tax records to prosecute suspected illegal aliens. More than 70 people were charged with criminal impersonation and theft as part of “Operation Numbers Game,” although many already had pleaded guilty and were deported before the court ruling.
Critics of illegal immigration called the case another example of courts conferring constitutional rights on noncitizens.
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, blasted the state high court, which he described as “the most liberal” in Colorado history. Only one of the seven justices is viewed as a conservative.
“This state supreme court is by far the most willing to [make findings] based on the strength of the political argument … and it’s been that way for years,” Mr. Tancredo said. “The fact that there were two dissenters is amazing and indicates how strong the DA’s case was.”
He noted that conservatives have launched a movement, Clear the Bench Colorado, to oust four of the seven justices in November by urging a “no” vote on their retention. Decisions such as Monday’s ruling are likely to help the campaign’s cause, he said.