WINNER: Partne Daugherty wins FOI points.

  • WINNER: Partne Daugherty wins FOI points.

This case would be interesting in its own right.

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A Jacksonville woman, Partne Daugherty, successfully appealed two key parts of a lower court ruling that rejected her complaint that Jacksonville officials had violated the Freedom of Information Act in response to her request for records related to her stop for speeding.

In short, the Arkansas Supreme Court said governments can’t refuse to comply because a valid request is deemed unreasonable or overbroad. And it gave a public-friendly interpretation for the first time to rules on the cost of reproducing electronic records.

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The case is also interesting because Daugherty has an interesting background, including a deep interest in activities of police. Her knowledge of the FOI, police recordkeeping practice and computer techniques produced the video of Little Rock police actions in the arrest of Surgeon General Joe Thompson at his home. Those tapes showed police had misrepresented his behavior the night he was arrested at his home for initially refusing to comply with an officer’s demand that he identify himself. Thompson cited the evidence compiled by Daugherty when he commented on an agreement that resulted in a decision to drop charges against him.

In the case before the Arkansas Supreme Court, Daugherty had been stopped for speeding in 2010. She asked in a series of FOI requests for audio and video recordings of not just actions by officers the day she was stopped, but for three weeks before that. The city said that request was too burdensome. The city repeated that argument on a second request, but said reproduction of the items she’d requested would cost almost $2,500 and she should put down that amount as a deposit if she wanted them. She erred in stating the dates at one point and, when she amended it, was told earlier records had been purged.

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Some great law here for public access:

The Court overruled the circuit court finding that Daugherty’s request was overly broad. “Nothing in the FOIA allows a public agency to decline to reply to a request on this basis,” the Supreme Court said. It reiterated that a long string of rulings hold that the law is to be broadly and liberally construed.