Knox County sheriff to appeal judge’s decision in public records case

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office has filed notice to appeal its loss in a public records case in which the judge found it violated the law in denying access to records requested by a University of Tennessee professor.

Chancellor John Weaver in April ordered the sheriff’s office to comply with provisions of the public records act governing responses to public records requests and to implement a system to allow public inspection of arrest records.

Weaver in December also awarded $78,007 in attorney’s fees to the professor who had to bring the lawsuit to force the sheriff’s office to turn over records.

Knox County Law Director David Buuck’s office has filed a notice to appeal a loss in a public records case.

Professor’s requests began in 2017

Meghan Conley began asking to inspect public records from the sheriff’s office in 2017, but was stymied by responses from the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office claimed that in many instances it simply did not have to look for the records because Conley’s requests were not specific enough.  As she revised her requests, the sheriff’s office maintained, that because she asked for “any and all” or “all” records related to a particular subject, they did not have to fulfill the request because it would have required the sheriff’s office to sort through its entire universe of records to pull out the ones that would meet the specifications of her request.

The sheriff’s office denied other requests as well. For instance, it came to light during the court proceedings that a request for emails was denied because Conley did not ask for archived emails, and only used the word email.

Chancellor Weaver disagreed with the sheriff’s interpretation of the public records law and ordered the office to change its practices.

Amanda Lynn Morse, the Knox County deputy law director who handled most of the arguments for the sheriff, filed notice of appeal with the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Division, on Dec. 23. Morse works for David L. Buuck, the Knox County Law Director, which is an elected position in Knox County.

The briefs outlining the arguments in the appeal have not yet been filed.

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