Update on our Open Records lawsuit against Governor Fallin…
1:10 PM EDT on March 19, 2014
Back in April, we filed a lawsuit against the Governor's office demanding they release all emails from the much publicized open records request that was issued by us and just about every other media outlet in the state.
Here are three reasons why we filed the lawsuit:
1) Activism. Someone has to do it, right? We just can't let the Governor trample over the will of the people and do whatever she wants. It doesn't matter if it's open records or open-toed shoes, the 4th estate has to hold this lady accountable. Since every other legitimate media outlet in Oklahoma (including The Oklahoman) didn't have the gonads to file a lawsuit, we figured it might as well be us. It's not like we have any bridges left to burn with her office.
2) Publicity. Shameless? Yes. Can you blame us? No. It's kind of funny to see the local media have to take us seriously.
3) The ACLU is representing us and basically doing all the work. Let's give credit where credit is due. The ACLU are the ones driving this Bricktown Water Taxi. We're just absent minded tourists that are along for the ride, taking pictures of brick buildings and thinking about going to Chelino's. Okay, we're not that bad. We've had meetings with our ACLU legal team and discussed strategy and stuff, but they're the legal experts in this thing.
Since we filed the lawsuit, there has not been a bunch of news to report. Until now. It looks like our day in court is quickly approaching. From The Associated Press:
Satirical website wants papers from Okla. governor
Published: Mar 17, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Attorneys for the satirical local news website The Lost Ogle asked an Oklahoma County judge on Monday to force Gov. Mary Fallin to turn over documents that her office claims are privileged.
In a motion for summary judgment, the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union asked District Judge Barbara Swinton to order disclosure and the right of inspection to about 100 pages of materials related to the governor's decisions on health care that she is withholding from the public.
Swinton's clerk tentatively scheduled a hearing on the motion for April 25.
The Lost Ogle joined with several news organizations, including The Associated Press, in a request for documents from the governor's office related to her decisions to reject a state health insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law. The ACLU of Oklahoma is representing The Lost Ogle's parent company, Oklahoma City-based Vandelay Entertainment, LLC.
I get this all the time: "Shouldn't that be Vandelay Industries?" Yes, but some other importer/exporter of fine latex goods took that LLC name, so I went with "Entertainment."
So, why is the Governor refusing to release records that, by law, she should have released?
Fallin's office released tens of thousands of pages of emails and other correspondence but withheld 31 documents consisting of 100 pages of materials that her General Counsel Steve Mullins determined to be part of "executive and deliberative process privileges."
"It is the position of this administration, as well as past administrations, that not every document is subject to Open Records law," Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said in a statement Monday. "We believe both federal and state law are clear on this issue and look forward to making that case as the issue works its way through the legal system."
I believe Alex Weintz is citing Article 4, Section 3.5 of the infamous "We Got A Lot Of Shit To Hide Act" of 1971. Seriously, if the Governor's power to pick and choose what records she wants to release is so "clear," why is it not written anywhere in our constitution? Please don't tell me it's "rooted" in some mystery law.
Fallin's attorneys have cited the doctrine of executive privilege is rooted in the separation of powers clause of the Oklahoma Constitution...
Dammit. I hope we have good response to that!
But the plaintiff's attorneys and media law experts have said there is no specific reference in the Open Records Act, the Oklahoma Constitution or existing Oklahoma appellate opinions to such privileges.
While executive privileges may be appropriate at the federal level for certain sensitive issues, ACLU attorney Brady Henderson argued in his motion that is hardly the case for the Oklahoma governor.
"This is not to say that the governor of Oklahoma does not deal with significant and sensitive matters, but there is an order of magnitude separating the governor's ability to call up a National Guard unit after a storm and the president's ability to engulf planet Earth in nuclear winter using the codebook in his coat pocket," Henderson wrote.
Henderson and Oklahoma experts on media law have voiced concern that the case has the potential to dramatically weaken the state's Open Records Act if a court were to side with Fallin.
Way to go TLO legal team!
So, what does all this mean? More than likely, Judge Swinton will make a decision on April 25th or shortly after regarding the release of the emails. Based on her decision, the losing party will likely appeal and the matter will be heard by the awesome, open-minded, loving, articulate, totally fair and impartial judges with the State Supreme Court. So basically, we're going to have to wait a little while longer to (hopefully) see what's in those mystery emails.
Anyway, you can view the entire motion for summary judgment below or download it here. It's cool. If you're a lawyer, legal expert or really like Law and Order, share your thoughts in the comments:
Thanks for reading!
Register or log in to continue.See all subscription options.
Stay in touch
Sign up for our free newsletter
More from The Lost Ogle
State settles one age discrimination claim against Shelley Zumwalt…
Hoot Industries: The Smartest Fun in Town
Edmond Staying Not Weird…
Rich old developers have scrapped plans for a $61 million sculpture park