Appeals Court Rules for Reporter in Public Records Case

The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled today that the state does not have the right to withhold ordinary public records just because they are part of a criminal investigation, the Johnson City Press reports. The ruling overturns a lower court decision and clarifies when the criminal investigation exception should apply. The case involved a lawsuit brought by WTVF-TV reporter Phil Williams, who was investigating reports of an affair between two state officials that may have involved the use of public funds. Williams requested expense reports and phone logs, but the state refused to turn them over, saying they were part of a criminal investigation. Before Williams’ case could go to court, the investigation ended and the state did turn over the records. The trial and appellate courts heard the case anyway, saying it involved a question of important public policy.

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