New Richmond News wants public-records case back in state court

Posted in Public records law by foiguy on May 28, 2013

The New Richmond News wants its public-records lawsuit against the City of New Richmond returned to state court.

Attorneys for the newspaper filed a motion on May 17 to remand the case from federal court to St. Croix County Circuit Court, where the newspaper initiated the suit in March.

The city moved the proceedings to federal court in April.

At the heart of the case is a dispute about the interpretation and application of the Drivers Privacy Protection Act, or DPPA, a federal law regulating disclosure of information of motor vehicle records maintained by states.

In essence, the city contends that it is required under DPPA to redact personal information from public records, such as names of people identified in police reports, under certain conditions. The city says it is just following a 2012 ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But the New Richmond News asserts the city is misinterpreting DPPA and the 7th Circuit’s ruling. The newspaper cites a 2008 informal opinion from the Wisconsin attorney general, which found that DPPA “does not require redaction of the personal information from law enforcement records provided in response to [a] public records request.”

Newspapers across the state have reported similar problems.

As to the dispute over venue, a federal judge is likely to decide whether the case belongs in state or federal court. The city’s response brief is due by June 7, and the newspaper’s reply brief is due by June 17.

You can read the newspaper’s motion to remand and supporting brief below. It’s fairly technical, but there’s an interesting nugget. The brief cites a 7th Circuit ruling on a public-records lawsuit in Illinois. In that case, the Chicago Tribune sued the University of Illinois over the university’s interpretation of a different federal law, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. The newspaper filed the suit in federal court, but the 7th Circuit held that the case should have been adjudicated in Illinois state court.

Newspaper’s motion to remand and supporting brief

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