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Osage News Editorial Board v. Principal Chief of the Osage Nation Geoffrey Standing Bear

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  1. Local Legal Initiative

Case Number: CR-2021-0003

Court: Osage Nation Trial Court

Clients: Osage News Editorial Board

Claim of Records Access Filed: June 2, 2021

Background: In December 2020, Osage News, a news organization based in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, filed a records request with the Osage Nation’s executive branch pursuant to the Nation’s Open Records Act. Osage News sought the names of individuals Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear appointed to the Small Business CARES Act Assistance Committee. The Committee was tasked with allocating certain CARES Act relief funds among Osage majority owned businesses that were negatively impacted by COVID-19.

The attorney general for the Osage Nation denied the news outlet’s open records request, claiming the names of the committee members were private, or otherwise protected, and “there is no public interest served by releasing the names of the Committee members.” The attorney general also argued that releasing the names of Committee members would be outside the interest of the Open Records Act.

On behalf of Osage News, Reporters Committee attorneys filed a claim of records access pursuant to the Nation’s laws in the trial court of the Osage Nation. The claim requests that the Court grant an order to compel disclosure of the Committee members’ names.

Update: On Aug. 5, 2021, the trial court of the Osage Nation dismissed the Osage News’s claim. Reporters Committee attorneys filed an amended claim on behalf of the Osage News on Aug. 19. On Nov. 2, Reporters Committee attorneys filed a motion for default judgment against the Executive Branch. The trial court granted the motion on Nov. 3. However, the parties later entered a settlement agreement on Dec. 1, negating the need for further litigation. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the Executive Branch agreed to produce the requested records. On Dec. 7, the parties agreed to vacate the default judgment originally granted against the Executive Branch. The Executive Branch then provided a list of individuals appointed to the Small Business CARES Act Assistance Committee on Dec. 17.

Filings:

2021-06-02: Claim of records access

2021-08-05: Court order

2021-08-19: Amended claim of records access

2021-11-02: Motion for default judgment

2021-11-03: Court order

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