Attorneys representing the judges of the Fourth Judicial (Morehouse, Ouachita Parishes) District Court stipulated in court this morning that documents in possession of the court are indeed public records, as defined by Louisiana’s Public Records law, LA RS 44. However, Monroe Attorney Jon Guice, said that as the documents in question may involve sensitive personnel issues, they are not subject to disclosure.
At issue is whether 4th JD Court Clerk Allyson Campbell destroyed or otherwise mishandled public records, and whether there was a coverup to conceal the facts. When Ouachita Citizen Reporter Johnny Gunter filed a public records request for documents that might shed light on Campbell’s involvement , he was rebuffed.
One of Gunter’s specific requests was for:
Any sworn/notarized or unsworn document filed by Monroe attorney Cody Rials at the request of Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wendell Manning concerning missing files or the destruction of court records by Ms. Campbell.
The court retaliated against Hannah by suing the newspaper, claiming a privacy exception.
See here the documents.
This morning’s arguments centered on whether Campbell is a public figure as defined by law, and to how much privacy she was entitled.
In fact, Campbell is a contributor to The (Monroe, LA) News Star, and writes a weekly gossip column for that newspaper.
The Citizen’s New Orleans Attorney, Scott Sternberg, argued that in cases of possible public malfeasance, privacy expectations of an employee should be subordinate to the public’s right to know how its government operates.
Presiding at the hearing was Retired New Iberia Judge Anne Simon.
4th JD Chief Judge Stephen Winters was in the courtroom, as the plaintiff of record against the Citizen.
Simon said she would rule shortly in the case.