Chief justice says ruling guts access to police records
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that a sheriff’s office did not have to turn over records about a fatal shooting by a deputy.
The ruling broadly interpreted an exemption for investigative records and prompted a sharply worded dissent by the chief justice.
Justices on Friday upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of the Baldwin County sheriff’s office denying records about the 2017 shooting to a weekly news outlet.
Justices ruled the records fall under an exemption for investigative records.
Chief Justice Tom Parker issued a strongly worded dissent. He says the ruling “spells the end of public access to law enforcement records” that might be connected to an investigation.
Alabama Broadcasters Association Attorney Dennis Bailey released the following statement in the wake of the ruling:
“The Court’s decision in Something Extra Publishing v. Mack, et al. has put photographs, videos, documents, 911 calls, autopsy records, and correspondence related to any criminal investigation behind a shroud of secrecy based on an expansive reading of the investigative privilege statute. The opinion appears to say these records are to be hidden from the public regardless of the source or whether the investigation is concluded.
We echo and lament the words of Chief Justice Tom Parker’s well-reasoned dissent:
‘With one sweeping stroke, today’s decision spells the end of public access to law-enforcement records that are connected in any way to an investigation…After today, as to law enforcement agencies at least, the statute might as well be titled the Closed Records Act.’ ”
Read the full Alabama Supreme Court ruling and the dissent from Chief Justice Tom Parker in a PDF below.
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9/24/2021 11:47:07 AM (GMT -5:00)