2 newspapers appeal court decision allowing Louisiana State U. to withhold names of some presidential search applicants

LOUISIANA — Attorneys for two Louisiana newspapers have appealed to the state Supreme Court a lower court’s decision that said the state’s largest public university could withhold the names of most applicants during presidential searches.

Attorneys for The Advocate and The Times-Picayune said in a letter to the Louisiana Supreme Court Thursday the appellate court was mistaken in its Dec. 30 decision that said Louisiana State University officials were required to release only the names of the four finalists for university president, according to The Advocate. The four finalists included F. King Alexander, who ultimately accepted the job.

The attorneys argued the names of all 35 semifinalists are a matter of public record. According to The Advocate, the attorneys said the appellate court’s ruling “frustrated” the purpose of Louisiana’s open records law, which is to ensure all information of importance to the public is open for inspection. They argued LSU violated the state’s open records or open meetings laws by conducting the search in private.

The appellate court’s decision rested on who is considered an applicant in a presidential search. The court ruled only those who expressed desire in the position were considered applicants.

In 2013, District Court Judge Janice Clark ruled LSU would have to release the names of all presidential semifinalists and pay a $500-a-day fine for every day the university didn’t disclose the information requested by the papers.

The newspapers are only urging the Supreme Court to compel the university to release the names of the 35 semifinalists, according to The Advocate. They are not asking for LSU to pay the contempt fines set by the district court.