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The Tennessean v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 30, 2014

THE TENNESSEAN, ET AL.
v.
METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, ET AL.

Session Date June 09, 2014

Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 14156IV Russell T. Perkins, Chancellor

Robb S. Harvey and Lauran M. Sturm, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, The Tennessean, Associated Press, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Knoxville News Sentinel, Tennessean Coalition for Open Government, Inc., Tennessee Associated Press Broadcasters, WZTV Fox 17, WBIR-TV Channel Ten, WTVF-TV Channel Five, The Commercial Appeal, and WSMV-TV Channel Four.

Saul Solomon, Director of Law; James L. Charles, Associate Director, Lora Barkenbus Fox, Emily Herring Lamb, R. Alex Dickerson, Jennifer Cavanaugh, Assistant Metropolitan Attorneys, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, The Department of Law of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

Edward Yarbrough and J. Alex Little, Nashville, Tennessee, for the intervenor, Jane Doe.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Joseph F. Whalen, Acting Solicitor General; Janet M. Kleinfelter, Deputy Attorney General, for the intervenors-appellees, District Attorney General, Victor S. Johnson, III, and the State of Tennessee.

Douglas R. Pierce, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, Tennessee Association of Broadcasters.

Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P. J., M. S., joined.

OPINION

RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE

I. Factual & Procedural History

On August 9, 2013, four former members of the Vanderbilt University football team were indicted on five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery of a student at an on-campus dormitory. On October 13, a reporter for the Tennessean newspaper made a request of the Metropolitan Police Department under the Tennessee Public Records Act ("TPRA"), Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503 et seq., for "any records (as that term is broadly defined in the Act) regarding the alleged rape on the Vanderbilt campus and in which Vandenburg, Banks, Batey and McKenzie are charged" and "any records regarding the case recently concluded against Boyd by his plea bargain."[1] The request was denied and, after unsuccessfully seeking recourse through the Metropolitan Director of Law and Mayor, on February 4, 2014, the Tennessean and various other media outlets ("Petitioners") filed a Complaint and Petition for Access to Public Records in Davidson County Chancery Court naming the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County as Respondent; the State and District Attorneys General were permitted to intervene, as was the victim (Ms. Doe).[2]

The court held a show cause hearing in accordance with the TPRA and conducted an in camera inspection of the records in question[3]; in a Memorandum and Final Order entered March 12, the court ordered that Petitioners be granted access to (1) text messages and emails the police department received from third parties in the course of its investigation; (2) Vanderbilt access card information; (3) reports and emails provided to the Metropolitan police department by Vanderbilt; (4) pano scan data of the Vanderbilt premises.

The parties each raise issues ...


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