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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "ESPN sues Notre Dame over police records"

Margaret Fosmoe has just posted to the South Bend Tribune a long story that begins:

SOUTH BEND — ESPN has filed a lawsuit against the University of Notre Dame claiming the university violated Indiana's public records law by refusing to release campus police records.

The suit alleges that Notre Dame officials violated Indiana's Access to Public Records Act by refusing to release Notre Dame Security Police records requested by ESPN. The case was filed Jan. 15 in St. Joseph Superior Court.

The suit was filed on behalf of ESPN Inc., the sports media company based in Bristol, Conn., and ESPN reporter Paula Lavigne, who requested the records.
Lavigne in September and November 2014 made formal requests to Notre Dame for police incident reports and logs related to student athletes, but was turned down both times.

As evidence in the lawsuit, ESPN submitted two written opinions by Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt.

ILB: Readers may recall this Dec. 19, 2014 post, quoting an earlier Fosmoe story on the public access counselor's opinion. A PAC opinion, as it turns out, was issued to ESPN on Oct. 31, 2014 and another on Jan. 5, 2015.

From Fosmoe's story today:

Early this month, Britt — an attorney appointed by Indiana's governor to advise on public access matters — issued an opinion stating Notre Dame has violated Indiana's public records law if it has withheld police records requested by ESPN about possible campus crimes.

That came several weeks after Britt initially put Notre Dame on notice about its handling of police records after complaints filed by ESPN and the South Bend Tribune. In the earlier opinion, Britt said he believes the Notre Dame Security Police fall under the jurisdiction of Indiana's public records law, and should comply fully with the law, just like other professional police departments in Indiana. Britt also said his opinion applies to police departments operating at other private universities in Indiana.

In his earlier opinion, Britt wrote that NDSP has the same requirements to maintain and release public records as all other police agencies in the state.
"The police force is established by the governing body of a private institution, but their powers come from the state of Indiana. I am not comfortable saying an organization can hide behind the cloak of secrecy when they have the power to arrest and create criminal records and exercise the state's police powers," Britt wrote at the time.

Three previous access counselors had issued opinions stating that professional police departments at Indiana private universities did not meet the definition of public agencies and thus were exempt from the state's public records law.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 21, 2015 03:10 PM
Posted to Indiana Government