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Judge Atkins' order

In a terse, two-paragraph opinion issued on February 16, Christian Circuit Court Judge John L. Atkins granted a motion for summary judgment filed by WPSD Local 6 in an open records case challenging Murray State University partial denial of public records requests submitted by WPSD in 2022.…

News Director Perry Boxx requested records relating to interference by MSU President Robert "Bob" Jackson, and other administrators, in investigative reporting into state lawmakers and other public figures and institutions conducted by the university's award-winning public radio news station, WKMS. 

The news station obtained emails, contracts, reports, and other documentation through multiple open records requests -- some after Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron determined that MSU violated the open records law in responding to Boxx's request.  

The subsequent lawsuit stemmed from WPSD's position that the university improperly withheld additional documents and categorically redacted documents that were disclosed.

In his opinion, Judge Atkins affirmed WPSD's argument that MSU "misused or misapplied the attorney-client privilege, the personal privacy privilege, [and] the preliminary records exemption," concluding that its "near categorical redaction scheme [was] at odds with existing law.'"

The court order immediate disclosure of the documents, with only specified redactions, and directed attorneys for WPSD to submit a motion for attorney's fees, costs, and statutory penalties within ten days. 

WPSD counsel Rick Adams noted that the court understood "the original sin here was Murray State's initial production, which was over-redacted. It was categorically redacted without any explanation for those redactions." 

Murray State University released a statement in which it expressed "respect [for] the court's decision."

In a statement about the favorable resolution of the open records case, news director Perry Boxx observed: 

"Judge Atkins issued a clear and unmistakable order that MSU used 'a near categorical redaction scheme,' his words, at odds with the law to withhold information the people had a right to know. This victory for open government is good news at a time when the legislature continues to try to chop away at open records law. Open government laws are the fruit of the First Amendment. They are the legal mechanisms by which journalists fulfill their role in helping perfect and preserve democracy. We thank Judge Atkins and our attorneys, Michael Abate and Rick Adams. Thanks also to Amye Bensenhaver at the Kentucky Open Government Coalition. Lastly, I am grateful to work for a journalism organization like The Paxton Media Group, which was willing to stand up for what is right. We look forward to reviewing all the documents in question."

Thanks to WPSD and Perry Boxx for "going the distance" in the fight for open government and in a case that raised critical issues about journalistic freedom in a university setting. 

And thanks for the "shout out." Happy to assist.


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