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Justification Required for Denial Under Tennessee Public Records Act

Tennessee state prisoner J. Hickman appealed the Davidson County Chancery Court's dismissal of his pro se motion to obtain documents from the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (Board) pursuant to the state's Public Records Act (Act), Tenn. Code Ann. § 10 7 503(a). The appellate court reversed and remanded to determine the justification for denial of the requested records.

Hickman filed a motion for declaratory relief to enforce his right to obtain records and for determination of cost responsibility. The chancery court dismissed his motion, finding he had failed to meet mandatory injunction requirements in that he had not shown that the Board's alleged refusal to produce the documents would cause irreparable harm. Hickman then filed for summary judgment, arguing that no factual basis for dismissal existed, and that the denial of his records request was statutorily prohibited.

The Board opposed, claiming never to have received his request, but stating that the denial of the records was imminent because production would require research beyond statutory requirements under the Act. Hickman’s motion was denied and he appealed.
The Court of Appeals at Nashville held that the chancery court had erred by applying the standard requiring a showing of irreparable harm, because the Act only requires a showing of entitlement to production of the documents. The appellate court noted that compliance for records production and preparation for specific requests was mandated by the Act, and that prepayment is required by the person making the records request. See: Hickman v. Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole, Case No. M2001 02346 COA R3 CV (Tenn.Ct.App. 2003); 2003 WL 724474.

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Related legal case

Hickman v. Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole