Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Felony Conviction Prevents Public Records Request by Tennessee Prisoner; Reversed by Tenn. Supreme Court Ruling

Tennessee state prisoner Stewart Pait appealed the dismissal of his action to compel the City of Gatlinburg and its Police Chief (defendants) to produce records concerning his criminal conviction. Only certain documents were produced, because as a prisoner he was not considered a "citizen" for the purpose of making public records requests. His case was dismissed.

Pait's records request was related to his 1990 convictions for forgery and solicitation to commit first degree murder. The convictions resulted in his being rendered "infamous" and ineligible to vote. He filed an action to obtain records and documents pursuant to the state’s public records act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 10 7 505(a). The defendants argued that he was not a "citizen" under the terms of Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 10 7 503(a) and 10 7 505(a), and thus was not entitled to the documents. The court agreed and Pait appealed.
The Court of Appeals at Knoxville determined that three prior appellate court decisions supported the ruling, and affirmed the dismissal based on that precedent. See: Pait v. City of Gatlinburg, (Tenn. App. 1997); 1997 WL 672070.

The decision was overturned by the Tenn. Supreme Court based on its ruling in Cole v. Campbell, 968 S.W.2d 274 (Tenn. 1998), and remanded to the Court of Appeals. On remand the appellate court again affirmed the trial court’s order of dismissal, finding that the records requested by Pait were not in the possession of the defendants, and thus they “could not be ordered to produce material that they did not possess.” See: Pait v. City of Gatlinburg, (Tenn. App. 1999); 1999 WL 356304.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal cases

Pait v. City of Gatlinburg

Pait v. City of Gatlinburg