Clark County should pay the Review-Journal $167,000 in legal fees after shedding a lawsuit over the discharge of kid autopsies.
The newspaper had requested for roughly $210,000 as reimbursement for legal fees, however District Judge David Jones didn’t clarify why he lowered the quantity by $43,000 in his ruling Tuesday. The county had already spent near $80,000 in taxpayers’ money on its outdoors counsel in the four-year combat.
Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook mentioned the ruling helps promote open authorities.
“Clark County owes taxpayers an apology,” he mentioned Wednesday. “The county willfully violated the law and embarked on years of legally baseless appeals, forcing the Review-Journal to incur significant legal costs. Transparency is the law.”
Review-Journal legal professional Maggie McLetchie mentioned the award of fees is vital to ensure authorities doesn’t improperly withhold public data in the long run.
“The Review-Journal fought hard to vindicate its rights under the public records act in court and finally obtained records that advance an important investigation after many years of delay by the Coroner’s office,” she mentioned. “To further access, the Nevada Public Records mandates that a prevailing requester is entitled to their fees and costs in the legal proceeding.”
The newspaper sought the data as a part of an investigation into the county’s little one safety division. But it took two Nevada Supreme Court orders for Clark County to launch the 653 unredacted little one autopsies to the Review-Journal on New Year’s Eve 2020. The launch got here a day after the deadline set by District Judge Jim Crockett.
In July 2017, the Review-Journal filed a lawsuit towards the coroner’s office in search of the discharge of the autopsies. The county for years had taken the position that autopsy experiences have been confidential regardless that the paperwork usually are not particularly exempted in the Nevada Public Records Act.
In February 2020, the Nevada Supreme Court dominated that autopsies are public document, however despatched the case again to Crockett to find out whether or not any personal medical info in the data wanted to be redacted.
Late final year, Crockett provided to personally overview the autopsies to see if there have been legitimate privateness considerations — till he found that the coroner’s office hadn’t bothered to redact a lot of the autopsies. At that time, Crockett, who retired final year, blasted the county for dragging its heels and set the tip of December deadline.
“Why the coroner’s office does not link arms with the Review-Journal and provide records freely and voluntarily is unimaginable,” he mentioned on the time. “Everything demonstrates the coroner’s office is bound and determined to circumvent and avoid the Nevada Public Records Act by stonewalling and obfuscating.”
Clark County commissioners, besides Commissioner Tick Segerblom, voted in December to approve extra funding for the hassle. Clark County didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Contact Arthur Kane at [email protected] Follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative crew, specializing in reporting that holds leaders and companies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.