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Frontier Media Group, Inc. v. Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority

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  1. Freedom of Information

Case Number: CV-2024-551

Court: Oklahoma County District Court

Clients: Frontier Media Group, Brianna Bailey

Lawsuit Filed: March 4, 2024

Background: In the spring of 2023, Brianna Bailey, managing editor of The Frontier, submitted two separate public records requests to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority seeking access to records related to health care services at the Oklahoma County Detention Center. The requests specifically sought communications between jail employees and staff of the jail’s health care provider, Turn Key Health Clinics, as well as information related to the authority’s contract with Turn Key.

Ever since the OCCJA took over control of the county jail, the rate of inmate deaths at the facility has risen dramatically. A Multi County Grand Jury report issued in 2023 concluded that “inadequate staffing, funding, surveillance, and training, coupled with poor law enforcement protocols, led to the significant loss of life within the jail.”

The OCCJA denied both of Bailey’s requests in their entirety, claiming that the records were exempt from disclosure because they are considered records of a law enforcement agency.

After Denver Nicks, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney for Oklahoma, followed up twice with the authority’s legal counsel on behalf of The Frontier, expressing the strong public interest in releasing the records, an assistant district attorney responded in an email: “Please proceed as you feel necessary.”

On behalf of The Frontier, Nicks filed this lawsuit against the OCCJA, alleging that the authority violated the Oklahoma Open Records Act by unlawfully withholding records responsive to Bailey’s requests. The lawsuit argues that the public records exemption cited by the OCCJA does not apply because the authority does not perform law enforcement functions, nor do the records at issue pertain to any arguable law enforcement function. The lawsuit also argues that the public interest in disclosure of the records outweighs the OCCJA’s stated justification for denial.

Quote: “Considering the cloud of suspicion OCCJA has been under, and the profound concern for the health and welfare of OCDC inmates registered in the Multiple County Grand Jury report, and the cloud of suspicion OCCJA operated under for years,” Nicks argues in the lawsuit on behalf of Bailey and the Frontier Media Group, “the public interest in release of records that pertain narrowly and specifically to matters related to inmate health vastly outweighs any interest OCCJA may have in keeping them secret.”


2024-03-04: Petition for relief for violations of the Oklahoma Open Records Act

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