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Tennessee State Senator Proposes Law To Prevent Outside Interference In Public Records Cases

Image Credit: Senator Todd Gardenhire / Facebook

The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

Proposed legislation would change the state law to limit who is allowed to intervene in lawsuits regarding public records.

Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga-District 10) filed Senate Bill 2105 (SB2105) following a lawsuit involving records that were related to the Covenant School shooting. The House bill (HB2419) is being carried by Representative Jody Barrett (R-Dickson-District 69).

In summary, the legislation reads: “Public Records – As introduced, clarifies that only a person who has requested to personally inspect a state, county, or municipal record and whose request has been denied has standing to file an action for judicial review of the denial and that intervention by a non-governmental third party in a public records lawsuit is not permitted. – Amends TCA Title 10, Chapter 7, Part 5 and Title 20.”

Last year, a lawsuit was brought against Metro Nashville by several groups after police refused to release records for the case. In October, a three-judge panel then allowed a group of Covenant School parents to intervene, saying they had the right as crime victims to push for an exception to the state’s Public Records Act.

Gardenhire sided with those requesting records and filed suit with them.

The bill would change the state law to where only those who requested public records can appeal a decision to deny them. Government agencies would be able to become involved in a public records lawsuit, but third parties would not be allowed to do so.

Gardenhire noted that the change would not be retroactive and would have no impact on the current Covenant case. However, he stated that he has been an advocate for public records for a long time and believes that it is necessary to have a solid law in place regarding those records.

“I don’t like abuse on either side of the issue,” Gardenhire said. “If open records can be responsibly done, I want to be the champion of that.”

A full evidentiary hearing is set for April 16 in the Covenant case.

According to Gardenhire, there is no desire to publish any details from the records; instead, he wants the information to be used to drive policy if it is needed and to help prevent events like the Covenant shooting in the future.

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