Newspaper considering appeal after judge rules police records should remain closed

MICHIGAN — Acounty circuit court yesterday denied the student newspaper at Michigan StateUniversity access to a campus police incident report about an assault that tookplace in February.

The StateNews filed a lawsuit May 19 demanding access to the report, whichcontained information about an assault in one of the campus residence hallsallegedly involving a handgun. The lawsuit came after the university denied twoseparate Freedom of Information Act requests the paper had filed.

The State News had asked the court foran expedited ruling because of the timeliness of the issue.

Editor inchief Nick Mrozowski said the judge denied the newspaper access to the reportbecause she ruled that those involved in the case were private individuals andthe information recorded was of a personal nature. The court did not issue awritten decision in the case.

”It’s obviously not how Iwould have liked for it to end in the court,” Mrozowski said. ”Imean, I don’t think that crime is a private thing. I think when there iscrime on campus, I don’t see how that’s not a public event andsomething that the public has more than just an interest in, but a stake in,because it’s something that affects them.”

But universityspokesman Terry Denbow said the ruling was a demonstration of the court’scommitment to protecting student’s privacy rights.

”Wethink that this was a validation of our position related to the principles thatguide the integrity of a police investigation and the principles of rights toprivacy,” Denbow said.

Herschel Fink, attorney for

The State News, said the newspaper willmost likely file an appeal, although the final decision has not beenmade.

”I’ve discussed it with the [chairperson] of thejournalism school, and we’re going to talk again on Monday, but herfeeling was that she wanted to appeal it, and I think we should,” Finksaid.

Marty Sturgeon, The StateNews general manager, said the newspapers’ board of directors willmeet June 23 to officially decide whether to appeal. The chair of the journalismschool, Jane Briggs-Bunting, is also the president of the board ofdirectors.

Fink said he thinks the newspaper got a ”baddraw” in the original case because the judge was a former prosecutor andpolice officer in Ingham County. According to a

State Newsarticle, the newspaper hadoriginally filed suit in nearby Oakland County, but a judge there ruled that thecase should be heard in Ingham County, where the university is located.

Fink said he expects the lower court’s decision to beoverturned on appeal.

”She [the judge] said the public has noright to see police incident reports about crime in their community, and I thinkfrankly that it’s an outrageously wrong reading of the law,” hesaid.