College Paper Can Pursue Police Records, Court Says

     LANSING, Mich. (CN) – A college newspaper can proceed with attempts to obtain police report about an assault at Michigan State University, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled.

     State News sought a police report from the university relating to a case in which three assailants invaded a dorm room and poured gasoline on a student. They pointed a gun at him and threatened to light him on fire.
     The university refused the newspaper’s request for the police report, citing the privacy and law-enforcement exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act.
     The appellate court reversed the lower court’s dismissal of State News’ complaint, and ordered the circuit court to consider information from later criminal proceedings that “may well strengthen or weaken the arguments of the parties.” The court noted that “the passage of time and the course of events may have rendered some, if not all, of this information matters of public knowledge and therefore not of a personal nature.”
     Justice Young disagreed, finding that such information would have no effect on the exemptions.
     “The appropriate time to measure whether a public record is exempt under a particular FOIA exemption is when the public body asserts the exemption,” Young wrote.
     The court said there is nothing preventing the newspaper from submitting another FOIA request.

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