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Friday, August 14, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - Attorney General Zoeller urges Court to make police report records public

Here is a long list of earlier ILB posts on the ESPN lawsuit to obtain access to the reports of the Notre Dame police. Headings include:

The case is on appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals. This afternoon Attorney General Zoeller has posted a press release:
Attorney General urges Court to make police report records public: State files amicus brief in lawsuit between ESPN and Notre Dame Security Police

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office argues in a legal brief that police incident reports of the University of Notre Dame’s security police department are a public record that the public and news media ought to be able to obtain and inspect.

The Attorney General’s Office on Thursday filed an amicus brief, also called a friend of the court brief, in the lawsuit ESPN Inc. v. Notre Dame Security Police Department. The State of Indiana is not a party to the lawsuit pending in the Indiana Court of Appeals, but the Attorney General’s Office is authorized to file amicus briefs in Indiana court cases to convey state government’s legal positions for courts to consider.

ESPN on three occasions in 2014 had made requests of the Notre Dame Security Police Department for police documents, including incident reports and police logs. But NDSPD denied the sports channel’s requests, contending that since Notre Dame is a private university, its police force was exempt from the Indiana Access to Public Records Act (APRA). Indiana’s Public Access Counselor, Luke Britt, considered ESPN’s complaints and issued two non-binding advisory opinions last fall finding the incident reports and logs, if any, are indeed public records the police should disclose.

After the police department declined to provide the requested records, ESPN filed suit in St. Joseph County Superior Court, but Judge Steven Hostetler ruled in April that the Notre Dame police could legally withhold the records. ESPN appealed that ruling to the Indiana Court of Appeals. Because of state government’s interest in transparency, the Attorney General’s Office filed an amicus brief with the appeals court largely concurring with the Public Access Counselor in arguing that such police records are public and must be provided when requested. The records in dispute here are the same type of police documents about crimes reported that police departments elsewhere routinely provide every day.

“The State takes the legal position that transparency is needed in the exercise of police power in order to maintain the public's trust. Disclosing that a possible crime occurred and conveying basic pertinent information helps inform and protect the public and creates more transparency and accountability within the criminal justice system. The University of Notre Dame should be commended for providing police department protection for its students and visitors to complement state and local law enforcement,” said Attorney General Zoeller, whose office defends opinions of the Public Access Counselor favoring open access. * * *

As lawyer for state government, Attorney General Zoeller’s Office previously has advocated for access to government records. Last year the Attorney General’s Office filed an amicus brief in the Indiana Supreme Court contending that certificates of death registration at county health departments are not exempt from public disclosure.

Here is a copy of the amicus brief.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 14, 2015 03:39 PM
Posted to Indiana Government