ACLU Victory In Open Records Act Litigation

Affiliate: ACLU of Kentucky
October 3, 2014 12:00 am

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Court of Appeals agrees that University Medical Center a public agency

October 3, 2014

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. Today the Kentucky Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court ruling finding that University Medical Center (UMC), the entity that manages the University of Louisville Hospital, is a public agency and thus subject to Kentucky’s Open Records Act. Today’s decision is the latest step in a long running dispute between UMC and various entities, including the ACLU of Ky., over whether UMC had to provide copies of various public records that had been sought pursuant to the Open Records Act.

In 2011, the ACLU of Ky. requested certain records from UMC regarding the then-pending merger between that entity and a Catholic healthcare provider. In refusing to provide the requested documents, UMC maintained that it was not a public agency and therefore not obliged to provide the materials. The ACLU of Ky. then sought an opinion from the office of Attorney General regarding the issue, and that office concluded that UMC was a public agency. To contest the Attorney General’s decision, UMC filed suit against the ACLU of Ky. and other entities, including the Courier-Journal that had requested public records from it. Although the trial court ultimately disagreed with the Attorney General’s reasoning, it nonetheless concluded that UMC is a public agency because the University of Louisville has de facto control over the appointment of members to UMC’s Board of Directors.

Today’s decision affirms that lower court ruling. In finding that UMC is a public agency, a unanimous decision by a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals observed that, “UofL’s President can ensure no unfavorable candidate [for UMC’s Board] is ever considered because he controls the Board’s agenda and handpicks the members of the Nominating Committee.”

Commenting on today’s decision, ACLU of Ky. Executive Director Michael Aldridge stated, “This is key victory for government transparency because it enables the public to ensure that UofL properly manages and operates a key community asset — the University of Louisville Hospital.”

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