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Private university's crime log will remain secret

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   GEORGIA   ·   Freedom of Information   ·   June 9, 2005

Private university’s crime log will remain secret

  • A private university in Georgia can continue to hide its police activities from the public after the state’s highest court declined to review an intermediate appellate court decision that the open records law does not cover the school’s campus police.

June 9, 2005  ·   The Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear a case concerning whether the records of a private university’s police force should be public, letting stand an intermediate appellate court ruling allowing the information to be secret.

The high court’s refusal, coupled with the General Assembly’s failure to pass a bill that would have opened records concerning private universities’ “investigation of criminal conduct and crimes,” makes it unlikely such information will be unveiled any time soon.

The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in February that the open records law does not require disclosure of documents from private entities, even those “granted the authority to perform public functions,” such as Mercer University’s private police force.

Barrett & Farahany, a law firm representing a student who was allegedly raped at Mercer University, sued in 2003 for access to crime logs that it hoped to use in related litigation. State trial court Judge Levis A. McConnell Jr. ruled in January 2004 that because the private police force performs a public function, the records should be open.

Writing the Georgia Court of Appeals’s reversal in February, Judge Edward H. Johnson said that the open records law did not compel private entities to disclose their documents, even when they correspond to the delegation of public functions to private entities as in the case of the Mercer University police force.

After the intermediate appellate court ruling, state Sen. David Adelman (D-Decatur) introduced the bill seeking to change the court decision, but it failed to pass before the General Assembly’s 40-day annual session ended March 31.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, that state’s highest appellate court, will hear a similar case this fall involving access to the records of Harvard University’s private police force.

(Barrett & Farahany LLP v. The Corporation of Mercer University; Amanda Farahany, Barrett & Farahany, Atlanta)RL

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