Monday, November 26, 2012

Illinois' anti-eavesdropping law can't be used against those who record police, high court says

The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand an appellate-court ruling in Illinois that "The state's anti-eavesdropping law violates free-speech rights when used against people who tape law enforcement officers," the Chicago Tribune reports. "Opponents of the law say the right to record police is vital to guard against abuses." (Read more)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Judge rules U of L's hospital is public and subject to Open Records Act; it may appeal

The University of Louisville's hospital is a public entity, a Jefferson Circuit Court judge has ruled in a lawsuit filed to get access to the university's deals with other health providers.

Judge Martin McDonald ruled yesterday in favor of The Courier-Journal, WHAS-TV and the American Civil Liberties Union, noting that the university makes or approves all appointments to the hospital's board of directors. The university had argued that the board, and thus the hospital, was not a public agency under the state Open Records Act.

The hospital said it might appeal the ruling. McDonald gave it 30 days to give him the records being sought, along with arguments about why they should be exempt" under exceptions to the law, reports The C-J's Andrew Wolfson. "He gave the news organizations at the ACLU 20 days to respond to any claimed exemptions." The hospital has said revealing contracts would put it at a competitive disadvantage.

The suit began after the university refused to let the plaintiffs see records related to its proposed merger with Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare and Lexington-based St. Joseph Health Care System. Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed the merger on grounds that a public hospital should not be bound by a religious organization's health-care policies. This month the hospital announced a new deal with KentuckyOne Health, which includes the Catholic system, but said reproductive services would not be affected. (Read more)

Federal judge keeps ban on contacting jurors but will contact them on behalf of Herald-Leader

U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove is allowing the Lexington Herald-Leader to contact certain jurors in the groundbreaking case of kidnapping and assault of a gay man in Harlan County, but he  declined to strike down a Kentucky federal-court rule against contacting jurors in criminal trials.

"Jason and Anthony Jenkins were charged with attacking the victim, Kevin Pennington, in April 2011 because of his sexual orientation," a hate crime, Bill Estep of the Herald-Leader recounts. "The Jenkins cousins were the first people in the nation tried under a section of the federal hate-crime law that makes it illegal to injure someone because of the victim's real or perceived sexual orientation."

The jury convicted the cousins on kidnapping and conspiracy charges Oct. 24 but acquitted them of the hate-crime charge. "That was a setback for the government in its first attempt to win a conviction at trial under the gay-bias section of the hate-crime law," Estep notes. "The Herald-Leader refrained from contacting jurors for comment on their reasoning in the decision because of a court rule."

The newspaper asked Van Tatenhove to strike down the rule as an unconstitutional infringement of its First Amendment right to gather news. The judge declined, but noting that the rule allows journalists to contact jurors with a judge's permission, said he would ask the jurors if they are willing to be interviewed and provide the names to the paper. (Read more)
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