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Thursday, November 17, 2016
Ind. Decisions - More on: Supreme Court decides the Notre Dame police force is not subject to the public records act
Updating this ILB post on yesterday's Supreme Court decision in ESPN v. Notre Dame Police Dept., here are several news reports:
- "Notre Dame wins public records lawsuit filed by ESPN: Private university police force not a public agency," a story by Margaret Fosmoe of the South Bend Tribune:
The University of Notre Dame's campus police department is not a "public agency" under Indiana law, and therefore has no obligation to provide information about investigations requested by sports media company ESPN, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled in a widely watched case. * * *
The decision means Notre Dame and other private colleges in Indiana with professional police forces have no obligation to provide details of campus police reports and investigations. City, county and other professional police forces must make such information available to the public under Indiana's Access to Public Records law.
- "Court: Private university's police not subject to state public records law," a story by Madeline Buckley of the Indianapolis Star. Some quotes:
ESPN sued Notre Dame in January 2015, after the university denied ESPN reporter Paula Lavigne's requests for university police records. Lavigne was investigating criminal accusations against male athletes at prominent universities. Notre Dame was the only private university among 10 schools from which Lavigne had requested information.
Though federal law orders colleges and universities to make reports of certain crimes public, it has been unclear until now whether universities that maintain private police forces are subject to state laws that govern what type of information police departments across Indiana must disclose to the public.
Attorneys for ESPN have argued that because Notre Dame maintains a police force that executes a power of the state — such as investigating serious crimes and making arrests — the campus police records should be subject to the same public records laws other police departments in the state are governed by.
But Notre Dame has maintained that because it is a private university, its police force is not a public agency under Indiana law.
"We're disappointed with the result, but we fully understand the reasoning behind the ruling," said Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association. "(The Supreme Court) did not want to try to legislate policy."
In the decision, written by Justice Mark Massa, the court found that the public records law stipulates that it applies only to entities that are "of any level of government."
"Private educational institutions have been granted statutory authority to appoint police officers to protect their campuses," the decision reads. "These police officers are vested with general police powers, including the power to arrest. However, they are also uniquely entrusted to enforce the rules and regulations of their appointing educational institution."
Key noted that the decision is not a statement on whether freeing campus police forces from the purview of state public records laws is good public policy. Rather, he said, the ruling stuck to what is in the current law.