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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "The judiciary is subject to the APRA (Access to Public Records Act) as if were any other public agency"

That is a quote from PAC advisory opinion 16-FC-101, issued June 13, 2016, where the complainant asked for "a court calendar and Chronological Case Summary files for cases set the same day as your case." However, the request was directed to the county clerk, rather than the trial judge. From the opinion:

The records you requested are administrative court records and are likely not in the custody of the Clerk’s Office. Your request would need to be addressed directly to Madison Circuit Court 4 for the records you seek. It is unclear based on the information provided whether the Clerk acknowledged your request within seven (7) days and denied it based upon Indiana Code § 5-14-3-9.1 The CCS entry denying your request is the only such documentation provided to this office.

Your request was conspicuously marked as a request for public records and not as a pleading or a discovery request under the trial rules or a motion to produce documentation. Therefore, I am curious as to why it was treated as a discovery device under the Trial Rules.

This office has stated on several occasions the Public Access Counselor will not interfere with the judiciary’s sovereign jurisdiction to adjudicate discovery requests under the trial rules. Indeed, the discovery process would be frustrated if an executive branch official were to preempt the court’s authority by issuing an opinion on production of documents.

However, your request was for administrative public records and not evidentiary documents from a litigant or third-party. The judiciary is subject to the APRA as if it were any other public agency. See Indiana Code § 5-14-3-2(n)(2)(c). The fact litigation is occurring should not preclude you from requesting documents under the APRA. It is my opinion you have standing to request these records in a manner in which any other citizen may do so. Therefore, your request falls outside trial procedure or litigation and should be fulfilled. It is my hope the Court takes this opinion into advisement and reconsiders its position.

For more, see this story in Indiana Economic Digest.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 5, 2016 10:27 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts | Indiana Government