Scoop Media Group has filed suit in Chancery Court against Montgomery County, Tennessee, for denial of access to public records. In January, the local Court Clerk began redacting details from public arrest affidavits. The denials began after a phone call from the County’s Public Information Officer, Michelle Newell, who told Scoop that she did not agree with how Scoop published public records, and would be seeking legislation to prevent future publication, and would restrict access going forward.
In a lawsuit filed in Chancery Court on February 13th, Scoop Media Group petitions the court for access to public records and to obtain judicial review of the ongoing denial of access. Since June of 2019, Scoop Media Group has enjoyed the same access to public records as every other news organization or citizen, and as provided by the laws of the state of Tennessee. However, in January, the public information officer made the phone call below to the Scoop Media Offices, during which she states she is unhappy with the information being published by Scoop Media and will contact the County Court Clerk to have the information redacted so it isn’t available for publication, and will also seek legislation preventing such publication.
As shown in the attached exhibits to the lawsuit in the above document, the clerk is even redacting the names of people who file complaints, such as in thefts – which are in no way protected under any version of the law. In addition to redacting information, specific ‘breaking news’ affidavits have been given to other news organizations while requests from Scoop Media went unanswered until the county attorney was copied on the subsequent request for the same information.
Below is the phone call from Michelle Newell, Public Information Officer for Montgomery County, which set these actions in motion:
A Judge could hold the first hearing in the suit as soon as next week.