Loopholes and Lawsuits

When it comes to disciplinary records, autopsy reports and the release of elected officials’ PII, what is the requesters right-to-know?

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Featured

New York 50-a repeal: Six months later, police find ways to shield disciplinary records

Six months ago, New York lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo repealed Section 50-a of the state Civil Rights Law, a once-obscure provision that had been used to shield police disciplinary records from public view for decades.

Since then, the USA TODAY Network New York has partnered with MuckRock, the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, and Syracuse University journalism students to file more than 600 records requests with more than 400 police agencies in hopes of creating a searchable, first-of-its-kind database with disciplinary records from across the state.

But in much of the state, police agencies have declined to provide the documents without a fight.

The state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) applies equally to all New York police departments, but only about 40 have actually provided records in response to requests for existing disciplinary records, roughly one-tenth of local law enforcement agencies.

Read More | Democrat & Chronicle

Legislation

[Kentucky] Rep. John Blanton prefiles controversial open records bill

The bill, RS BR 985, would prohibit the electronic publishing, posting, reposting or otherwise disclosing of any personal information of all current, former or retired law enforcement officials — including police officers, judges and prosecutors — and their immediate family through the Kentucky Open Records Act, Kentucky’s open records law.

Disclosing such information would be a Class A misdemeanor (subject to imprisonment for up to 12 months) unless the dissemination was performed intentionally, in which case it would be a Class D felony (subject to imprisonment for up to 5 years). Families of the official, or the official themselves, may file a class action lawsuit against the individual who shared the information if they believe it harmed them. Records custodians could also face prosecution and personal financial liability for disclosing this information.

Read More | Appalachian News-Express

Litigation

Nevada Supreme Court again orders autopsy records released

For the second time in two days, the Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday [Dec. 30] denied Clark County’s attempts to withhold unredacted child autopsies, requiring that the records be released to the Review-Journal.

The county had filed an emergency request late Tuesday, [Dec. 29] asking that the state high court revisit its initial ruling, which ordered that the records be released by District Judge Jim Crockett’s [Dec. 30] deadline. But on late Wednesday, [Dec. 30] the majority of a three-justice panel upheld the deadline, again ruling against the county.

Read More | The Las Vegas Review-Journal

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association seeks exemption from state Right to Know Law

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has filed a lawsuit in the Commonwealth Court asking to be excluded from being covered by the state’s Right to Know Law (RTKL).

In the suit filed on Dec. 18 against the state Office of Open Records (OOR) and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the PIAA asked a judge to declare the inclusion of PIAA within the definition “State-affiliated entity” of Section 102 of the RTKL as unenforceable and/or unconstitutional.

The filing states the PIAA has grounds that the provision is inherently contradictory as it defines a “State-affiliated entity” as “a Commonwealth authority or entity” but then expressly identifies PIAA as being covered by the definition when PIAA, the suit says, is not, nor has it ever been, either a commonwealth authority or entity.

Read More | The Daily Item News

State Supreme Court to hear case on anti-immigration activist’s papers housed at University of Michigan

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments [on Jan. 6] over whether sealed off records of an anti-immigration activist that are housed at the University of Michigan are considered public record.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on Jan. 6, 2021, regarding papers in the collection of the late John Tanton, who sought to end illegal immigration and set a ceiling on legal immigration. The university and complainant Hassan Ahmad will address whether the documents sought by Ahmad are within the definition of “public record” under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Read More | Mlive.com

Peer Resources

How to Make a Business Case for Public Records Management Software

Getting buy-in from all the necessary decision-makers can be daunting. How can you show all the benefits of an automated platform?

We put together a letter template that makes it easy for you to provide a formal request to your supervisor, along with a checklist of features that will help make your job simpler, more efficient, and more secure.

Read More | GovQA

The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

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