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Public Records Act

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CaseStephen Michael West, et al. v. Derrick D. Schofield, et al.

Issue:  Does the Public Records Act make the identities of executioners privileged from pre-trial discovery?

Facts:  Death Row Inmates filed a lawsuit alleging that Tennessee’s execution protocol is unconstitutional. Inmates served interrogatories on the State seeking the identities of the executioners, who had been named as John Doe defendants. The State objected on the bases that their identities were privileged and non-discoverable pursuant to the Public Records Act. T.C.A. § 10-7-504(h). The trial court ordered the State to disclose the identities under a strict protective order.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court affirmed, holding that the statute’s limitation on public disclosure does not create a privilege in litigation unless expressly provided.

Review Granted:  October 21, 2014.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court will affirm. There is simply no precedent for the State’s position that disclosure limits in the Public Records Act necessarily (or should) bar disclosure in litigation.