Open Records Act – Criminal Investigation Exception

Something Extra Publishing, etc. v. Huey Hoss Mack, et al., [Ms. 1190106, Sept. 24, 2021] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2021). The Court (Shaw, J.; Bolin, Bryan, Sellers, Mendheim, and Mitchell, JJ., concur; Shaw, J., concurs specially; Wise and Stewart, JJ., concur in the result in the result; Parker, C.J., dissents) affirms the Baldwin Circuit Court’s summary judgment dismissing independent newspaper Lagniappe’s claims related to its Open Records Act (ORA) request to Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack seeking “ [a]ll of the records related to the shooting of Jonathan Victor ..., including but not limited to dash cam, body cam, and third party video; the audio from any 911 calls or radio communications; photographs from the scene; autopsy records; and communications such as emails, text messages, and other forms of messaging.” Ms. *13. Noting that the ORA states that “‘[e]very citizen has a right to inspect and take a copy of any public writing of this state, except as otherwise expressly provided by statute,’” Ms. *9, quoting Ala. Code 1975, § 36-12-40, the Court holds

All materials requested by Lagniappe are related to the incident regarding Cpl. Hunady, which was the subject of a criminal investigation. The very wording of Lagniappe’s request, seeking all the “records related to the shooting,” seeks such investigative material. There is no need for affidavits or other evidence to establish what the Sheriffs possessed because all the records that were requested would be covered under § 12-21-3.1(b). Thus, the investigative-privilege exception applies.

Ms. *14.

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