Georgia court opens student judiciary records
GEORGIA — In early November, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that individual student judiciary records are open to the public.
The decision was a victory for the campus newspaper at the University of Georgia at Athens and a defeat for an anonymous student known as John Doe in court records.
In state Superior Court in Athens in May, Judge Lawton Stephens dissolved a temporary restraining order barring release of the records, saying that student judiciary records are not “educational records” protected under the Buckley Amendment. The records are a matter of legitimate public interest and inquiry, and nothing in the files constitutes an invasion of Doe’s personal privacy, the judge said.
Doe was one of two students who burned the dormitory room door of an openly homosexual student in the fall of 1990. The campus newspaper, the Red & Black, requested the 1991 records in Doe’s case from the student judiciary committee based on a March Georgia Supreme Court decision that proceedings of the Students Organization Court are subject to the state’s Open Records Act.
When the university informed Doe of the pending request, he filed suit in Superior Court in Athens in April. On appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court, Doe argued that the trial court erred in dissolving the temporary restraining order without first granting an evidentiary hearing. The Red & Black argued that the trial court properly consolidated the temporary restraining order hearing with a decision on the merits.
Doe has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.
(John Doe v. The Red & Black Publishing Co.; Media Counsel: Carolyn Gorwitz, Atlanta)