ESPN lawsuit against Notre Dame similar to Ohio fight over college police records

From The Observer ESPN filed a lawsuit against Notre Dame earlier this month claiming the University’s refusal to release campus police records violates Indiana’s public records law, according to a report Wednesday in the South Bend Tribune.

The case, filed Jan. 15 in St. Joseph Superior Court, alleges that Notre Dame officials violated Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act when they refused to release Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) records requested by ESPN reporter Paula Lavigne, the Tribune reported.

In September and November 2014, Lavigne formally requested police incident reports and logs related to Notre Dame student athletes but was turned down both times, according to the Tribune. She filed  complaints with Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt in October and December, according to documents available on the Public Access Counselor website. Britt is an attorney appointed by the governor to advise on public access matters.

“As we have previously said, our practices are in full accord with the Access to Public Records Act and consistent with multiple advisory opinions that have addressed this matter over the past 12 years,” University spokesman Dennis Brown said in an email Wednesday afternoon. “We are confident that our position will be affirmed in court.”

ESPN submitted two written opinions by Britt as evidence in the lawsuit, the Tribune reported. Britt’s recent written opinions departed from that of previous public access counselors, who had written that professional police departments at Indiana private universities did not meet the definition of public agencies and so were exempt from the state’s public records law. Britt’s opinion is not compulsory and does not carry the force of law, but the superior court decision will.

Britt’s Oct. 31 opinion put Notre Dame on notice that his office considers NDSP a public law enforcement agency after ESPN and the South Bend Tribune filed complaints against the department.

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