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Inmate work records cannot be kept from newspaper because of prisoner suit

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  1. Freedom of Information
Inmate work records cannot be kept from newspaper because of prisoner suit02/26/96 KENTUCKY--A state court of appeals in late January…

Inmate work records cannot be kept from newspaper because of prisoner suit

02/26/96

KENTUCKY–A state court of appeals in late January upheld the Louisville Courier-Journal’s right of access to job assignment and disciplinary records of an inmate of the state Department of Corrections.

The decision by the Court of Appeals in Louisville stemmed from a request filed with the Kentucky State Reformatory in September 1993 by Courier Journal reporter Deborah Yetter. The request sought documents “relating to [Roger Gilliland’s] job assignment and any disciplinary write ups involving” them.

The Department of Corrections refused to provide the records on the ground that they were exempt from disclosure under the state’s Open Records Act as “materials pertaining to civil litigation.” The state was being sued in relation to Gilliland’s employment at the corrections facility.

In February 1994, the state’s Attorney General issued an opinion holding that the Department of Corrections improperly denied the newspaper’s request, since the cited Open Records Act exemption applied only to “parties” to the litigation. The Department of Corrections filed suit in March 1994 in the Franklin Circuit Court in Frankfort seeking a reversal of the Attorney General’s opinion.

The trial court upheld the Attorney General’s decision, and the Department of Corrections appealed.

Affirming the decision of the trial court, the Court of Appeals rejected the Corrections Department’s argument that “party” under the statutory exemption meant simply “person or group of persons.” The court held that “party” under the statute was a term of art, meaning a party to litigation. (Department of Corrections v. Courier-Journal and Louisville Times; Media Counsel: Jon L. Fleischaker)