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State Carries Burden of Justifying Nondisclosure of Documents Requested by Tenn. Felons

Tennessee state prisoner Jerry Cammuse appealed a court ruling denying his 1997 pro se request for documents pursuant to the state’s Public Records Act (PRA), Tenn. Code Ann. § 10 7 503(a). The trial court ruled that his request was statutorily barred due to his multiple felony convictions. The appellate court reversed the ruling and remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine the merits of nondisclosure.

Cammuse was convicted of 23 counts of sexual misconduct, including the aggravated rape of his children. The Davidson County Police Department, District Attorney's Office and Department of Human Services denied his public records requests, asserting he was not a "citizen" under the provisions of the PRA. They moved for dismissal under Rule 12.03 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, which the trial court granted. Cammuse appealed.

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee, citing Cole v. Campbell, 968 S.W.2d 274 (Tenn. 1998), held that Cammuse’s convictions did not statutorily prevent his records request, and that the burden of proof for justifying nondisclosure rested with the defendants. The case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. See: Cammuse v. Davidson County District Attorney, (Tenn. App. 1999); 1999 WL 159691.

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Related legal case

Cammuse v. Davidson County District Attorney