Supreme Court Update: Access to Public Records Seriously Curtailed

In it recent ruling in Plunderbund v. Department of Public Safety, the Ohio Supreme Court has seriously undermined the Ohio Public Documents Act.  The case arose due to statement in 2012 that Governor Kasich’s schedule could not be provided to the Democratic Party due to alleged threats he was receiving daily.  Plunderbund requested incident reports of the threats, but the Department of Public Safety refused to provide the documents.  They refused to indicate even the number of threats received.  Public Safety created a bizarre cloak and dagger scenario, which is undoubtedly fictional, about why the information cannot be revealed.

Plunderbund filed for a writ of mandamus pursuant to the public documents act and requested that the Court review the documents that Public Safety was hiding to determine if there was any legitimate reason to conceal them.  The attorneys general handling the case stated to the Court that they never saw the documents.  So two state attorney presented evidence to the Supreme Court without ever checking to determine if the evidence was even truthful.  The Court refused to look at the documents to determine whether Public Safety was lying about the content of the documents.

Although it is not illogical that the Supreme Court would find certain security documents to be confidential, the fact that they refused to review what Public Safety was hiding sets a precedent that is very damaging to the state.  This opens the door to allowing any agency to hide any document as a security document because the Courts will not determine the credibility of government witnesses and will except their testimony without reviewing the actually documents.

 

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