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Ohio Supreme Court Affirms Denial of Cincinnati Enquirer's FOI Request

The Cincinnati Enquirer's request for access to certain records of the Cincinnati Police Department pursuant to R.C. 149.43, the Public Records Act, has been denied on right to privacy grounds by the Ohio Supreme Court. Affirming an appellate court decision, the court found that files relating to "the names of two police officers shot, their personnel files, and an unredacted copy of (an) incident report" of a September 18, 2010 shootout at JD's Honky Tonk bar, were exempted from disclosure.

R.C. 149.43(A)(1)(v) excepts "records the release of which is prohibited by state or federal law" from the definition of "public record" for the purposes of Freedom of Information requests, citing State ex rel. Plain Dealer Publishing Co. v. Cleveland, 106 Ohio St.3d 70, 2005-Ohio-3807, 831 N.E. 2d 787. According to the court, "Officers have
a fundamental constitutional interest in preventing the release of private information when disclosure would create a substantial risk of serious bodily harm, and possibly even death, 'from a perceived likely threat,' so that any such disclosure by the state should be measured under strict scrutiny," Kallstrom v. Columbus, 136 F.3d 1055, 1064 (6th Cir. 1998).

In rejecting the Enquirer's action for a writ of mandamus to compel disclosure, the court also cited the case of State ex rel. Keller v. Cox, 85 Ohio St. 3d 279, 707 N.E. 2d 931 (1999). The court was not persuaded by the Enquirer's argument that "by redacting the officers' names... (the police chief) has blocked any meaningful review of... information relating to discipline and citizen complaints of the wounded officer. Rather, as the court of appeals noted, 'the parties' counsel agreed at oral argument that all the requested documents had been disclosed, except that the officers' identities had been redacted." See: The State Ex Rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Craig 132 Ohio St.3d 68, 969 N.E.2d 243 (Ohio 2012).

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Related legal case

The State Ex Rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Craig