Monday, June 6, 2011

Newspapers push fight against state cabinet

The state's two largest newspapers wasted no time in pushing their case for a judicial order forcing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to provide records about the deaths or abuse of children under the cabinet's supervision.

The Courier-Journal and the Herald-Leader filed a motion in Franklin Circuit Court asking Judge Phillip Shepherd to order the cabinet to release the records after U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves on June 1 denied the cabinet's motion to move the issue to federal court.

The motion filed by the newspapers asks Judge Shepherd to order the records to be made public, records similar to those the judge declared were public records in May 2010. They also ask that the court nullify emergency orders the cabinet issued to try to circumvent the judge's ruling. Rather than appealing Judge Shepherd's decision ordering the release of some records, the cabinet wrote orders to limit what records it will release concerning the death or abuse of a child under the cabinet's protection.

In December Courier-Journal reporter Deborah Yetter filed an open records request for records related to the deaths of two children under the cabinet's supervision. The cabinet told Yetter it needed 30 days to determine whether the records she sought existed even though the state's Open Records Act gives an agency three days to make that determination. In January, Herald-Leader reporter Bill Estep made a request for records relating to the death of any child under the cabinet's supervision that had died during Fiscal Year 2010, and the cabinet denied Estep's request as being burdensome.

At that point the newspapers filed suit again. The cabinet responded by trying to move the case to federal court, a move that failed.

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