A number of Alabama statutes provide for fines for the unauthorized or prohibited disclosure of records that are made confidential by law. Some of these statutes purport to extract a fine from any person, arguably including reporters, who discloses the confidential record in question. See, e.g., Ala. Code § 12-15-100 ("Whoever, except for the purposes permitted and in the manner provided by this section, discloses or makes use of or knowingly permits the use of information concerning a child before the [juvenile] court directly or indirectly derived from the records of the court or acquired in the course of official duties, upon conviction thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."). If the reporter has not obtained the records "wrongfully," the reporter's disclosure of the records should be protected from penalty by federal constitutional law. See Fla. Star v. B.J.F., 491 U.S. 524 (1989) (media not liable for disclosure of rape victim's name in violation of state law). To obtain the protection of Florida Star, the reporter must not knowingly solicit confidential records.
In civil actions brought to enforce the Act, the court may impose on negligent violators a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 for the first violation. In addition, for each additional violation that the violator commits within a 12-month period from the date the first fine was imposed, a court may impose an additional civil penalty or criminal fine not to exceed $2,500 per violation. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-74(a).
The district court has no authority to assess fines in an action brought by a private individual. See K.S.A. 45-222. In an action brought by the attorney general in district court, the court may assess civil penalties of up to $500. K.S.A. 45-223. The attorney general also has authority to assess civil penalties in connection with consent orders under K.S.A. 45-251.
The Law does not preclude fines: “Nothing in this act shall prohibit a court from imposing penalties and costs in accordance with applicable rules of court.” 65 Pa. C.S.A. § 67.1304(c). Bad faith may constitute grounds for an award of attorneys’ fees under 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.1304(a) or for the imposition of civil penalties under 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.1305. Uniontown Newspapers, Inc. v. Pa. Dep’t of Corr., 151 A.3d 1196 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016). However, evidence of bad faith is required. Barkeyville Borough v. Stearns, 35 A.3d 91 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016).
The Act does not contemplate the award of damages for an officer's non-compliance with the Act. Moore , 897 S.W.2d at 501 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1995, no writ). However, Sections 552.351-.353 set forth fines and other penalties that can be assessed under the Act. An officer for public information who, with criminal negligence, "fails or refuses to give access to, or to permit or provide copying of, public information" may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, or both. Tex. Gov't Code § 552.353(a), (e). Anyone who distributes information deemed confidential under the Act faces a similar criminal sentence and fine. Tex. Gov't Code § 552.352. Section 552.351 provides that any person who "willfully destroys, mutilates, removes without permission as provided [in the Act], or alters public information" may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to three months in jail and a $4,000 fine, or both.
An authority or legal custodian who arbitrarily and capriciously denies or delays the response or charges excessive fees may be required to forfeit not more than $1,000, in an action brought by the attorney general or a district attorney. Wis. Stat. § 19.37(4)