Governments Now Suing Those Who Request Public Records

Wiki
image_pdfimage_print
People who make Freedom of Information Act requests to school districts, municipalities, and state agencies now are being sued by those agencies for making requests in cases where the information could embarrass the agency or if it is claimed to be legally sensitive. The lawsuits generally ask judges to rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged. They name the requesters as defendants but do not seek damage awards. However, requesters then must pursue the issue in court, at their own expense, which can be considerable. -GEG

An Oregon parent wanted details about school employees getting paid to stay home. A retired educator sought data about student performance in Louisiana. And college journalists in Kentucky requested documents about the investigations of employees accused of sexual misconduct.

Instead, they got something else: sued by the agencies they had asked for public records.

Government bodies are increasingly turning the tables on citizens who seek public records that might be embarrassing or legally sensitive. Instead of granting or denying their requests, a growing number of school districts, municipalities and state agencies have filed lawsuits against people making the requests – taxpayers, government watchdogs and journalists who must then pursue the records in court at their own expense.

The lawsuits generally ask judges to rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged. They name the requesters as defendants but do not seek damage awards. Still, the recent trend has alarmed freedom-of-information advocates, who say it’s becoming a new way for governments to hide information, delay disclosure and intimidate critics.

“This practice essentially says to a records requester, ‘File a request at your peril,’ ” said University of Kansas journalism professor Jonathan Peters, who wrote about the issue for the Columbia Journalism Review in 2015, before several more cases were filed. “These lawsuits are an absurd practice and noxious to open government.”

Government officials who have employed the tactic insist they are acting in good faith. They say it’s best to have courts determine whether records should be released when legal obligations are unclear – for instance, when the documents may be shielded by an exemption or privacy laws.

At least two recent cases have succeeded in blocking information while many others have only delayed the release.

State freedom-of-information laws generally allow requesters who believe they are wrongly denied records to file lawsuits seeking to force their release. If they succeed, government agencies can be ordered to pay their legal fees and court costs.

Suing the requesters flips the script: Even if agencies are ultimately required to make the records public, they typically will not have to pay the other side’s legal bills.

“You can lose even when you win,” said Mike Deshotels, an education watchdog who was sued by the Louisiana Department of Education after filing requests for school district enrollment data last year. “I’m stuck with my legal fees just for defending my right to try to get these records.”

The lawsuit argued that the data could not be released under state and federal privacy laws and initially asked the court to order Deshotels and another citizen requester to pay the department’s legal fees and court costs. The department released the data months later after a judge ruled it should be made public.

Deshotels, a 72-year-old retired teachers union official who authors the Louisiana Educator blog, had spent $3,000 fighting the lawsuit by then. He said the data ultimately helped show a widening achievement gap among the state’s poorest students, undercutting claims of progress by education reformers.

The lawsuits have been denounced by some courts and policymakers. A New Jersey judge in 2015 said they were the “antithesis” of open-records policies and dismissed a case filed by a township against a person who requested police department surveillance video footage.

In Michigan, the state House voted 108-0 earlier this year in favor of a bill that would make it illegal for agencies to sue public records requesters. The proposal came in response to a county’s lawsuit against a local newspaper that had sought the personnel files of two employees running for sheriff. A judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying the county had to approve or deny the request.

The documents, ultimately released days before the election, showed that one of the candidates had been disciplined for carrying on an affair while on-duty in 2011. That candidate lost.

The Michigan bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Klint Kesto, called the tactic “a backdoor channel to delay and put pressure on the requester” that circumvents the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

“Government shouldn’t file a lawsuit and go on offense. Either approve the request or deny it,” he said. “This shouldn’t be happening anywhere in the country.”

As his bill remains pending in a state Senate committee, Michigan State University filed a lawsuit May 1 against ESPN after the network requested police reports related to a sexual assault investigation involving football players. That and a number of other cases are currently unfolding.

In April, the Portland, Oregon, school district filed a lawsuit against parent Kim Sordyl, who is seeking records about employees on leave for alleged misconduct after the disclosure that one psychologist had been off for three years. Sordyl said she believes the information will expose costly missteps by district human resources officials and lawyers, and the district attorney has already ordered the records to be released.

“They are going to great lengths to protect themselves and their own mismanagement. This is retaliation,” said Sordyl, who has hired an attorney. “Most people would give up.”

Read full article here…

Related Post

Visit our Classified ads.

Check out our Classified ads at the bottom of this page.

Recent stories & commentary

Globalism

San Francisco Will Allow Non-Citizens to Vote in Education Elections

July 17, 2018 Daily Caller 0

Non-citizens can vote in San Francisco’s Board of Education elections after the city’s Department of Elections ruled to do away with citizenship requirements.  Non-citizens seeking to vote in San Francisco’s Board of Education elections must be at least 18 years old and residents of the city, and must also be parents, caregivers or legal guardians of children under 19 years old who reside in the city.  School boards determine property tax rates.  Illegal immigrants can obtain driver’s licenses, state-paid medical insurance, receive in-state college tuition, and may practice law in California. […]

Kakistocracy

DOJ and IG Horowitz Ignored Evidence that 30,000 Clinton Emails Were Sent to a ‘Foreign Entity’

July 16, 2018 ZeroHedge 0

During the Strzok hearing, it was revealed that former Inspector General Chuck McCullough discovered that nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 emails on her homebrew server went to a foreign entity that isn’t Russia.  Strzok ignored the revelation from McCullogh’s office.  Four separate attempts were also made to notify DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to brief him on the massive security breach, however Horowitz “never returned the call.” […]

Politics

Baltimore Stopped Proactive Policing Following Freddie Gray’s Death.  A Wave of Killings Followed.

July 16, 2018 USA Today 0

There is more crime, especially murders, and people are getting away with those murders.  Drug dealers now rule the streets.  In 2014 there were 211 homicides, which rose in 2015 to 344 homicides, in 2016 there were 318, and last year there were 342 killings, which may suggest a correlation between the decrease in proactive policing and an an increase in homicides. […]

Uncategorized

Criminal Illegal Alien Deported 11 Times Attacked a Woman with a Chainsaw

July 15, 2018 Daily Wire 0

Alejandro Alvarez Villegas, who had been deported 11 times from the US, attacked his wife with a chainsaw in front of their three children.  Villegas’ wife is suffering from serious injuries to her chest, and their children have been placed in protective custody.  Villegas has a criminal history in the US that includes possession of a controlled substance and drunk driving. […]

Kakistocracy

Rod Rosenstein Indicts 12 Russian Nationals for Hacking, Uses Thin Accusations to Pollute Upcoming Trump-Putin Summit

July 15, 2018 ZeroHedge 3

Rosenstein’s indictment confirms that there were no Americans involved in either the hacking or the dissemination of the Democrats’ emails.  The DNC has refused to allow an inspection of its servers.  The timing of the announcement has led critics to believe that the deep state is trying to sabotage President Trump’s upcoming meeting with Russian President Putin. […]

Globalism

Media Black Out: Illegal Aliens Accused of Killing Grandmother and Beheading 13-Year Old Child in Alabama, and Linked to Sinaloa Drug Cartel

July 15, 2018 Daily Wire 0

According to reports, an illegal alien, Israel Gonzalez Palomino, believed to be tied to the Sinaloa drug cartel gang, is accused of murdering a grandmother in front of her 13-year-old grandchild, who was then taken into the woods and her head was sawed off with a knife by the man’s cohort, Yoni Martinez Aguilar, 26, who was the live-in boyfriend of the grandmother, and also an illegal alien. […]

Freedom

UK: Nigel Farage Gives Update on Trump Dropping Bomb on Watered-Down Brexit Plan

July 13, 2018 Fox News 2

Nigel Farage, former head of the pro-Brexit UK Independent Party, said that Trump dropped a bombshell by criticizing UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s soft Brexit plan, stating that “this was not the Brexit that the people voted for.”  Theresa May’s plan would make the UK subject to European court, lack of control over their own borders and it would make a trade deal between the UK and US virtually impossible.  May faces being removed from office. […]

Classifieds

For classified advertising rates and terms, click here. The appearance of ads on this site does not signify endorsement by the publisher. We do not attempt to verify the accuracy of statements made therein or vouch for the integrity of advertisers. However, we will investigate complaints from readers and remove any message we find to be misleading or that promotes anything fraudulent, illegal, or unethical.

2
Leave a Reply

avatar
2 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
1 Comment authors
Fire Storm California – Geoterrorism – No Justice … JUSTUS!!! | OUR GREATER DESTINYEd LaPinskas Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Ed LaPinskas
Guest
Ed LaPinskas

And President Trump needs to have this trickery stopped.

trackback
Fire Storm California – Geoterrorism – No Justice … JUSTUS!!! | OUR GREATER DESTINY

[…] Controllers suppress the truth with censorship, unjustified strikes against truth speakers on YouTube, restricted search engine capability, and now https://needtoknow.news/2017/10/governments-now-suing-request-public-records/ […]