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Friday, October 18, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Still more on "Judge rules public can't access cause of death records"

Updating this ILB entry from April 23rd, that begins with this quote (from the now unavailable E C&P):

The Courier & Press and Pike County, Ind., resident Rita Ward are appealing a judge’s decision that the Vanderburgh County Health Department does not have to provide the public information about a person’s causes of death.

At issue is how conflicting state laws governing death records apply to local government.

Here is a story from the C&P, reported by Mark Wilson, as reprinted in the New Albany News & Tribune on Oct 17th, that reports:
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Attorney General’s Office has asked the Indiana Supreme Court to hear the appeal of a judge’s ruling that cause of death information is not public record.

“In short, our office advocates that local death certificates are a public record that the public should be able to obtain,” said Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the attorney general.

The legal brief filed by the Attorney General’s Office argues that the court decision goes against state policy on public records.

“The Access to Public Records Act requires courts to liberally construe its provisions to fully implement the State’s policy for open access to public records,” it said.

Also joining in petitioning the high court to hear the case and settle the issue are Indiana Coalition for Open Government and the Hoosier State Press Association, said Pat Shoulders, attorney for the newspaper. All three have filed formal “friend of the court” petitions asking the Indiana Supreme Court to consider the case brought by the Evansville Courier & Press.

“The Courier & Press is encouraged by the fact that the State of Indiana, through it’s Attorney General, the official charged with interpreting and enforcing state law, has filed a brief in support of the petition to transfer,” Shoulders said.

He noted Indiana Public Access Counselor Joseph Hoage ruled death certificates are public records.

In the lawsuit, originally filed in Vanderburgh Circuit Court in 2012, the newspaper and Pike County resident Rita Ward argued that death records are governed by conflicting state laws. * * *

The Court of Appeals of Indiana upheld the decision in August. The panel of three appeals judges ruled that state law says death certificates are public records but can be disclosed “only if” certain circumstances are present, such as whether the person seeking them has a direct interest in the death and whether it is needed to determine issues of property rights.

See this August 30th ILB entry and its links re the Court of Appeals ruling.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 18, 2013 01:33 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions | Ind. Trial Ct. Decisions | Indiana Government