A fascinating public records lawsuit with big potential for shaping the way public records law is interpreted is underway in Louisiana. On one side of the fight is Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. On the other, an Indianapolis-based public records researcher named Scarlett Martin. At the heart of the dispute is whether Martin was entitled to sue Landry’s office for failure to comply with the Louisiana Public Records Law. Landry’s office has asserted that Martin is not entitled to file suit because she isn’t from Louisiana. Martin’s counsel contends that there is no such carve out specified in the law. The matter is now under consideration by a District Court judge in Baton Rouge. At stake in the immediate case is whether Landry’s office, which ultimately turned over the records that Martin requested, should be required to pay Martin’s attorney fees and penalties related to an inordinate delay in delivering the requested records. Big picture, the case gets at who has the right to request state records: Louisiana citizens (as Landry’s office contends) or any “person” as is memorialized in the Louisiana State Constitution.
Researchers should be aware that while it is unusual for state open records laws to specify that only state citizens can request records, it isn’t unheard of. Virginia, for instance, is a state that requires requesters to be state residents.
More on the Landry/Martin dispute in the Baton Rouge Advocate here.