Maryland

Maryland court rules police discipline files exempt from disclosure, but access varies widely by state

Jacob Donnelly | Freedom of Information | News | July 2, 2015
News
July 2, 2015

Police disciplinary files are exempt from the Maryland Public Information Act, the Maryland Court of Appeals said in a 5-2 ruling on Thursday.

The majority noted that the law exempts personnel information from disclosure and does not make a distinction based on whether a citizen’s complaint is “sustained” or “unsustained.” It said that mandatory disclosure of the findings could have a chilling effect on the disciplinary process.

F. Suggested resources on courts in the jurisdiction

Overview

Maryland

See Sections IV.C. & XIII.A – C, supra.

E. Tips on decorum in courts within the jurisdiction

Overview

Maryland

These rules vary by court and individual judge. When in doubt, ask the courtroom deputy for guidance.

C. Obtaining transcripts

Overview

Maryland

The Maryland District Courts tape record all proceedings. While transcripts are available only to litigants in certain civil cases on appeal, anyone may request a tape recording of a proceeding, at the cost of $15 per proceeding. For more information, see the District Courts website at http://mdcourts.gov/district/forms/acct/dca027br.html#recordings.

Oral Arguments before the Court of Appeals are webcast, and are available at: http://www.courts.state.md.us/coappeals/webcastarchive.html.

Other appellate records are available from the Clerks’ Offices. See http://www.courts.state.md.us/faq.html#transcripts.

B. Contact information for courts in the jurisdictions

Overview

Maryland

Contact information for the various courts is available at the Maryland Courts website: http://www.courts.state.md.us/contact.html.

A. Structure of the court system

Overview

Maryland

A comprehensive overview of the courts is available in The Bench-Bar-Media Advisory Group’s Journalist’s Guide to Maryland’s Legal System. You can also obtain information about the jurisdiction and location of the various courts from the Maryland Courts website: http://www.courts.state.md.us/.

XIII. Tips for covering courts in the jurisdiction

Overview

Maryland

The Bench-Bar-Media Advisory Group’s Journalist’s Guide to Maryland’s Legal System offers a wealth of practical advice for journalists covering the Maryland courts. It is available online at: http://www.courts.state.md.us/journalistguide2003.pdf.

C. Gag orders on participants

Overview

Maryland

In News American Division (Hearst Corp.) v. State, 294 Md. 30, 447 A.2d 1264 (1982), the Court of Appeals held that the press had standing to assert its First Amendment rights in opposition to a gag order on the parties. Since the gag order at issue had expired, however, the court did not consider whether the order entered in that case was appropriate. In State v. Cottman Transmission Systems, Inc., 75 Md. App. 647, 659-60, 542 A.2d 859, 864-65 (Ct. Spec. App. 1988), the court held that a gag order providing that “‘there is to be no communications with the press’” by the Attorney General, the plaintiff in the civil suit, was “too sweeping.” (citation omitted).

B. Gag orders on the press

Overview

Maryland

See Section VII.D., supra.

A. Media standing to challenge third-party gag orders

Overview

Maryland

In Maryland, the press has standing to intervene to oppose gag orders placed on trial participants. News Am. Div. (Hearst Corp.) v. State, 294 Md. 30, 447 A.2d 1264 (1982) (non-party newspaper had standing to claim its First Amendment rights had been violated by gag order prohibiting counsel, parties, witnesses and court personnel from making extrajudicial statements for dissemination by means of public communication relating to certain aspects of criminal case).