From the Knoxville News Sentinel‘s Tom Humphrey:
NASHVILLE – More than 1,200 people contacted the Office of Open Records Counsel during the past year, and most of them were government officials, according to a recent report.
The annual report shows 1,213 inquiries, all but about 100 dealing with access to public records and the remainder with interpretation of the state’s open meetings law. A majority of the inquiries, 628, came from government officials, while average citizens contacted the office 492 times.
Frank Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and a member of an advisory council that works with the office, said the figures are significant because they show the office is working as envisioned when created in 2008.
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From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:
A public records mediation office in Tennessee has ruled that statements made by juveniles who are neither victims nor being charged with an offense are part of the public record and must be released upon request, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
After the ruling, the sheriff of Knox County provided to the News Sentinel the statements given by two juveniles who witness the December accidental shooting death of the son of the county law director. The statements indicate that Trent Lockett III, 20, “engag(ed) his younger brother in a quick-draw scenario,” the newspaper reported — but had left round in the chamber of a 7.62mm pistol he’d handed to the 11-year-old youngster.
From the News-Sentinel‘s Jamie Satterfield:
Earlier today, Judge Richard Baumgartner heard arguments related to defense attorneys’ complaints about comments on media Web sites’ stories on the case, addressing question such as: Does the First Amendment apply to anonymous posters on commercial media Web sites? Do the journalistic principles employed by professional journalists apply to bloggers? Does a judge have the right to dictate a news organization’s Web policies?
The suspects are black; the victims are white.
Defense attorneys contend the media has failed to properly police comments posted on stories about the case on their Web sites, allowing the publication via the Internet of hate-filled, racially-charged commentary that could be poisoning the minds of potential jurors.
They argue it threatens their clients’ Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial and are asking the judge to require the media to either stop the posts or strip posters of anonymity.
“That is classic (unconstitutional) prior restraint,” the News Sentinel‘s attorney, Richard L. Hollow argued this morning.