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Georgia Judge Rules Against Media In Public Records Case

A Fulton County judge has ruled against a media company that sued the Georgia city of Sandy Springs for delivering what it argued were incomplete police reports in response to public records requests, the Associated Press reports. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams ruled Friday that Appen Media Group, which publishes community newspapers in Georgia, did not prove Sandy Springs violated the state’s Open Records Act. The company claimed city officials gave journalists police reports that contained limited details about what occurred during arrests and investigations, violating state law. Adams cited legal precedents that permitted police departments to withhold large portions of records that are part of a pending investigation or prosecution, Rough Draft Atlanta reported. However, Adams also wrote that Appen “may be correct in its assertion that Defendant’s practice violates the spirit of the Open Records Act.”

In response to requests for arrest reports and other documents, Sandy Springs officials provided journalists with “a one-line narrative that gives little to no detail about the incident,” the company said in its complaint. Appen said it sought more information to allow journalists to report on police activities and how tax dollars are spent. In an article about the lawsuit, Appen quoted an email from Sandy Springs City Attorney Dan Lee, who wrote that Georgia law does not require the city to turn over more information. “The City prides itself on transparency and has not encountered this complaint from any other outlet,” Lee wrote. Richard T. Griffits, a media ethicist for the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said the ruling could have a chilling effect on police transparency in Georgia. The ruling “doesn’t serve any purpose other than to shield these reports from the public and encourages police departments to play games with the Open Records Act,” Griffits wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.


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