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Hester v. Shelby County

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  1. Court Access

Case Number: 2:21-cv-02030-JTF-atc

Court: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee

Client: The Daily Memphian

Motion Filed: Jan. 5, 2024

Background: In 2021, Elvis Hester filed a federal lawsuit alleging that sheriff’s deputies at the Shelby County Jail in Memphis, Tennessee, had violated his civil rights by retaliating against him after he filed a grievance against a correctional officer. In support of his amended complaint, Hester filed videos as three exhibits, which were submitted to the clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on a thumb drive. Those exhibits were never ordered sealed by the court. The case closed in March 2023 after the parties reached a settlement.

In September 2023, The Daily Memphian contacted the court to ask for copies of the video exhibits. Court officials instructed the newspaper to file a motion with the court seeking access to the requested exhibits.

On behalf of The Daily Memphian, Paul McAdoo, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney for Tennessee, filed its motion to obtain copies of the video exhibits on Jan. 5, 2024, arguing that the records are not sealed and, thus, are open to the public.

Update: On Feb. 2, 2024, District Judge John Fowlkes, Jr. granted The Daily Memphian’s motion to access the records. After the videos were obtained on Feb. 29, 2024, The Daily Memphian published a story reporting that the videos show physical altercations between inmates at the Shelby County Jail and corrections officers. The Daily Memphian also published a sidebar about how the newsroom obtained the videos with the help of McAdoo’s free legal support.


2024-01-05: Motion requesting copies of filed videos

2024-01-05: Memorandum of law in support of motion requesting copies of videos

2024-02-02: Order granting motion to access filed videos

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